The debut of Facebook Shops represents the platform’s latest effort to promote commerce on its Facebook and Instagram networks. Despite Facebook’s 3-billion-user reach and Instagram’s role as a discovery and inspiration portal, neither network has become a large-scale locale for shopping.
This time, however, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is more directly involved in the effort. “The vast majority of our advertisers are small businesses, and it also makes up the biggest part of our revenue,” he said in a video announcement on May 19. “We’re uniquely positioned to be a champion for small businesses, and what helps them grow and what keeps them healthy.” Zuckerberg added that more than 160 million small businesses across the world use the platform’s services across Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, “and the vast majority use them for free.”
Users can find Facebook Shops on a business’ Facebook page or Instagram profile, or discover them through stories or advertisements. Shoppers can be redirected to the retailer’s own site for checkout, or complete their purchase within the app if the business has enabled checkout functionality in the U.S. The platform debuted the Checkout on Instagram feature in March 2019.
Facebook Shops currently allows customers to message retailers through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct for queries and customer support. The platform plans to add the ability to make purchases within chats in the future, though no date has been specified.
Facebook also has begun testing ways for retailers to tag products from their own catalogs prior to launching a live video. Tagged items will be shown at the bottom of the video; viewers can tap the items to learn more and make purchases. The platform plans a broader rollout of this capability during the coming months.
Additionally, Facebook is testing ways to make retailers’ loyalty programs accessible to members via Facebook Shops. Small businesses could also benefit from Facebook’s promise to work more closely with major e-Commerce solution providers including Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube and Feedonomics.
On Instagram, already a gateway for product discovery and social commerce, Facebook plans to debut Instagram Shop this summer in the U.S. Users will be able to browse selections from favorite brands and creators, and to filter results by categories. Facebook plans to add a new shop tab in the Instagram navigation bar later in 2020, providing a one-tap route to Instagram Shop.