This week, Facebook is introducing Facebook Shops.
This is a major announcement in light of the struggles that many businesses are facing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Even when, depending on the nation, shops are allowed to re-open, they are likely to be facing restrictions on how to operate.
This might mean the inability of having the same foot traffic as before COVID-19.
For some shops, retail before COVID-19 was already challenging.
On top of this, some customers may be reluctant to go back to a somewhat crowded environment and stay away from physical shops as much as possible.
The transition to online shopping, already underway, is likely to accelerate.
Facebook has historically been a place for, amongst other things, buying and selling.
Maybe in an informal way when posting a picture of a chair with the words 'for sale' in the post description.
More recently, using Marketplace to get rid of that coffee table that does not suit your style any longer.
Similarly, Instagram has been used by brands to showcase their latest range and use the power of influencers to sell products.
With Facebook Shops, a business can set up a single shop on both Facebook and Instagram.
The process appears to be relatively easy and straightforward.
The owner can select what product of their catalog to display.
The look and feel of the shop can be customized in line with their brand imagery.
Below is an introductory message when seeing a Shop for the first time.
Below is the shop itself.
When the user selects a product the option to go the company’s website is available as well as the ability to complete the purchase.
Users can find the shop via the business' Facebook page or Instagram profile.
Crucially, discovery by Facebook and Instagram users is facilitated by ads on both platforms.
Users can be then directed to the business' own website or complete the transaction within the social platform if the business has enabled checkout in the US.
From a users' privacy perspective, Facebook says that activity related to Shops will not be shared with friends unless the user chooses to.
Shops will have access to users' activity on their shop at an aggregated level
Facebook has also announced the addition of a number of partners to its Shop ecosystem.
The likes of Shopify and Woo Commerce will be more easily integrated into the whole shopping experience for brands that use such platforms to host their retail presence.
Another important innovation is the ability for the users to communicate with the business using the full suite of Facebook messaging platforms: Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct.
Also, the user will be able to purchase from within the messaging app.
An intriguing upcoming feature is the ability for shop owners to tag products from their catalogs prior to live streaming. Watchers will be able to buy the product in real-time as the shop owners 'sells' the product on the live stream.
Finally, Facebook has also announced the testing of loyalty programs linked to Facebook Shops.
This announcement by Facebook has certainly the potential to disrupt the online shopping world.
With over 2 billion daily users of Facebook's suite of platforms and the power of word of mouth from family and friends, this might turn out to be a crucial moment in (digital) history.
Personally I think that the ability for customers and shops to communicate (and purchase/sell) across messaging platforms is a game-changer.
A risk for larger retail companies is losing website traffic.
If users start seeing Facebook and Instagram as their primary online shopping destination, retailers will suffer.
If a company struggles to convince shoppers to go to their primary online presence, they become hostage to Facebook.
As usual, becoming too dependent on somebody else’s platform is very risky and seldom a good strategy.
Have a great week!