It's been a while since we've had an update on the status of Facebook Shops, which it first announced would be 'coming soon' back in May. But today, Facebook has unloaded a bunch of new updates for its eCommerce tools, which will provide businesses with more ways to connect with customers, and sell direct on both Facebook and Instagram.
Here's what's been announced:
First off, Facebook's rolling out a new 'Shop' tab in Facebook: "a new place to discover businesses and shop for products in the Facebook app".
As you can see here, the new, dedicated Shopping tab will be available in the options menu, and will showcase a range of businesses that are selling products direct on the platform.
As per Facebook:
"Facebook Shop makes it easy for people to find products from businesses they love, discover new ones and make purchases, all in one place."
It's difficult to say how much usage the features listed in this section of the app see, as opposed to giving them more prominent News Feed space, or their own lower function bar tab. But no doubt Facebook will look to also promote its new shopping options within user feeds, and via new ad listings.
Either way, it's a significant step for Facebook's eCommerce push, providing a virtual catalog of sorts to help users browse and purchase from shop-enabled Pages directly in the app.
In addition to this, Facebook's also Checkout on Instagram to all US businesses and creators.
Instagram has had shopping tags available for some time, but it hasn't been able to facilitate in-stream purchases for everyone. Until now.
Though there are some limitations:
"To use checkout, businesses must have Shops and use Facebook Commerce Manager or our partners Shopify and BigCommerce. We’ll support more platform partners soon."
Businesses need to provide a range of info for Commerce Manager access, and you also need to upload your inventory list (here's a full overview of the process). But once you've gone through the set-up, you'll be able to sell direct on Instagram, which could open up new opportunities to connect with the app's billion-plus users.
As an additional incentive, and in light of the impacts of COVID-19, Facebook is also waiving selling fees for businesses through the end of the year. At some stage, however, Facebook will take a cut of each sale made through its eCommerce listings.
Facebook's also adding some new customization options for its Shop displays, including new design layouts for featuring single products or groups of products within your Shop.
The options are available in the 'Customize Your Shop' tool within Commerce Manager, which will also now display real-time previews of your collections as you put them together.
This is a key component of Facebook's new eCommerce push, making the tools as easy as possible to use in order to ensure that all sellers can create attractive, engaging shop displays. As you can see here, the design interface keeps things simple, which should enable even non tech-savvy business owners to create Facebook and Instagram shops.
Facebook's also added a new message option to its shop displays in order to connect prospective customers with sellers direct.
The messaging option will soon facilitate DMs via Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram Direct - though, theoretically, all of those messaging options will soon be connected into one platform soon either way.
"Customers can view products right within the chat, making it easy to share products with friends and family to get feedback before making a purchase. We’re testing this feature on Messenger and Instagram Direct now, and will start testing it on WhatsApp soon."
This will combine Facebook's dominant presence in messaging with its eCommerce capacity, which could make it an even more compelling offering for businesses, given that most people already regularly message through these apps already.
And lastly, Facebook is also now testing shopping options within Facebook and Instagram Live, adding another promotional option to consider.
"With Live Shopping, we’re making it easier for people to shop in real time. We’ve been testing this feature on both Facebook and Instagram, and now Facebook Live Shopping includes new features to help businesses easily set up a live experience featuring products from their Shop and sell directly from the video. Instagram Live Shopping is now available to all businesses and creators using checkout in the US."
Video, as you may have heard, is the most engaging content type on all social platforms, and live video, in particular, drives even higher levels of engagement. And during the COVID-19 lockdowns, that's risen even further - viewership of Facebook Live streams has risen by 50% since January as people look for alternate means to stay connected, and entertained, while they're stuck at home.
Selling your products via streams could be a highly valuable consideration.
These are some significant update for Facebook's eCommerce push, which, really, is the next major stage for The Social Network as it looks to build upon its empire, and become an even more essential part of our day-to-day lives.
The global lockdowns have helped set the stage for this push, with more people looking to shop online. Indeed, Facebook says that an estimated 85% of people worldwide are now engaging in online purchases, and Facebook's looking to use that impetus to expand its presence in India and Asia, and even, ideally, facilitate an entire commerce eco-system within its own network, which would include digital payments via its own currency.
That next level, where Facebook manages every element independently, is still a way off, but these new tools take it a step closer to enabling full, in-stream purchasing within Facebook, and shifting user behavior towards buying on platform.
And with more users than any other social network, that could present significant new opportunities for brands.