Facebook is launching Shops, a service that will allow businesses to display and sell products on the social network’s platforms, chief executive Mark Zuckerberg says.
He described it as the “biggest step” the California-based internet giant has taken yet “to enable commerce across our family of apps”.
Merchants can establish a shop accessible on Facebook and photo-sharing app Instagram.
“Facebook Shops allows a small business to easily set up a shop inside our apps and it’ll be a very fast experience for people to discover their products and to be able to buy things directly,” Zuckerberg told CBS News.
He said the world’s largest social network would be working more closely on product integrations with Shopify and seven other online commerce platforms going forward.
He was joined by Shopify chief executive Tobias Lutke in a live video announcing the partnerships on Tuesday.
“Small businesses need a way to find new buyers,” Mr Lutke said.
The move to build up e-commerce offerings follows Facebook’s launch last year of limited shopping options on Instagram and messaging service WhatsApp.
Company leaders wager that making the platforms more business-friendly will generate fresh ad revenue, even as user growth slows.
“COVID has not just been a health emergency, it’s been a real economic crisis that is putting a lot of strain on small businesses and what we’re seeing are a lot of small businesses are moving more of their business online,” Zuckerberg told CBS.
“And we want to make it easier for them to do that too.”
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A checkout feature will enable in-app purchases, while a messaging feature will eventually allow customers to chat with businesses through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct.
Customers in the US will be able to check out within Facebook but this feature is yet to be rolled out in Australia and New Zealand.
“Over the past three months businesses of all sizes have been forced to change their business models and adapt to selling online,” Facebook Australia and New Zealand managing director Will Easton told Inside Retail.
“We’ve accelerated our development of new products, giving businesses better means of connecting with consumers, and helping businesses who don’t have an online presence to drive sales online.”
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WHAT ELSE WILL SHOPS DO?
CBS News host Norah O’Donnell asked whether her friends on Facebook or Instagram would be able to know or see if she had made any purchases via Shops.
“We’re not going to tell anyone what you’re buying or your shopping history across our services without your permission, and that’s not really a big part of this experience,” Zuckerberg said.
“This is really more about people being able to connect with the small businesses that they care about.”
Facebook is also working on ways to sell products hawked during live video broadcasts, a popular form of content at the social network.
“People have been using live video on our apps to showcase products for years, from shoe stores announcing new sneakers to beauty influencers trying on different lipsticks,” Facebook said.
“Now, we’re making it easier to shop for products in real time.”
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Additionally, Facebook is working on free tools including augmented reality to let shoppers see how they will look in outfits, cosmetics or other items for sale, according to Zuckerberg.
“I hope that we can at least help build some of the infrastructure that businesses need not only in this moment but going forward as well,” he said.
“Because even when this period and the lockdowns pass … we’re going to continue living more of our lives, and doing business, online.”
Shops will roll out in coming months to some 160 million businesses that already use the social network.