Facebook and Instagram: Starting today, you’ll be able to browse and buy products directly from a business’ Facebook Page or Instagram profile.
Both Facebook and Instagram already supported a degree of e-commerce — for example, Facebook has its Marketplace and will likely make a bigger push through its Libra cryptocurrency initiative, while Instagram allows users to buy products featured in posts and ads. But the company’s new tools go further, enabling businesses to create a full-fledged Facebook Shop.
After all, the pandemic has probably made consumers even more likely to treat Facebook and Instagram profiles as the go-to source of information on local restaurants and stores — if your favorite store has changed their hours, or switched to online delivery/curbside pickup, they’ve almost certainly posted about it on Facebook or Instagram. So why not allow visitors to make purchases without having to leave the Facebook and Instagram apps?
It’s also worth remembering that the pandemic’s economic fallout is already hurting and killing off many small businesses — businesses that post and advertise on Facebook. So the company has a stake in helping those businesses survive in any way it can.
In a Facebook Live session today, CEO Mark Zuckerberg described this as a way to help businesses suffering in the wake of COVID-19, though he acknowledged it will not “undo all the economic damage.”
He also suggested that this will remain useful after the pandemic: “I do think we’re going to continue living more of our lives online and doing more business online.”
Image Credits: Facebook
Meanwhile, Instagram’s vice president of product Vishal Shah told me this is a big, global test of the feature, with nearly 1 million businesses already signed up.
Those businesses will be able to create a Facebook Shop for free — they just upload their catalog, choose the products they want to feature, then customize it with a cover image and accent colors. Visitors can then browse, save and order products.
Facebook’s vice president of ads Dan Levy said that while the company will charge “small fees” on each purchase, the real monetization will come from driving more advertising. (Shops can also be featured in ads and stories.)
Levy described this as a “build and render anywhere” solution, with Shah adding that “the shop itself will be very consistent, whether it’s on Facebook or Instagram.” What will differ is how consumers discover the shops, whether it’s via the Facebook Marketplace or a product tagged in a photo on Instagram.
The company also plans to launch this summer another experience called Instagram Shop, allowing users to browse products directly from Instagram Explore and eventually to jump into a shopping experience from the app’s main navigation tab. There will also be ways for merchants to feature and link in their live videos products from their Facebook Stores, and for consumers to connect loyalty programs to their Facebook accounts.
As part of this announcement, Facebook said it’s partnering with Shopify, BigCommerce, Woo, Channel Advisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube and Feedonomics.
Merchants will be able to use these third-party platforms to manage their Facebook Shops, as well as the ads tied to those Shops. For example, Shopify said, “Facebook Shops allows Shopify merchants to get control over customization and merchandising for their storefronts inside Facebook and Instagram, while managing their products, inventory, orders, and fulfillment directly from within Shopify.”