Facebook and Instagram are making their biggest push yet into online shopping with Facebook Shops, which allows businesses to turn their Facebook and Instagram pages into online storefronts for their fans and followers.
Facebook, as with pretty much all its recent product updates, is billing the feature as one that will further help small businesses affected by the economic fallout of COVID-19. But the update, which is starting to roll out now, is also the company’s biggest move into e-commerce yet.
With Shops, business owners can create a dedicated “shop” section of their Facebook or Instagram page and build out a catalog of their products for users to browse and buy. Importantly, most actual purchases won’t be happening on Facebook. Product listings will direct to a business’ existing website — unless it’s one of a handful of companies using Facebook or Instagram’s in-app checkout feature.
Instead, Facebook Shops will draw business’ social media fans to their products and help lure new ones (companies, naturally, can buy targeted Facebook ads for specific product listings as well). And shop owners can chat with potential customers on Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram Direct.
Instagram, which has already been home to many of Facebook’s experiments with shopping, will push Facebook’s new commerce features even more aggressively. The company plans to give shopping its own section of the app, which will replace the current “activity” tab, in an update expected “later this year.”
The company also plans to combine live video with shopping — a feature that’s coming to Instagram and Facebook “in the coming months” — which will essentially enable an influencer-lead version of QVC. Brands and influencers will be able to tag specific products before they begin a live stream and viewers will see prominent links to buy the items pinned to the bottom of the video. The move could also give Instagram’s biggest stars another reason to stick around, rather than depart for competitors like YouTube which offer influencers more ways to monetize their content.
Finally, Facebook says it’s testing ways to give businesses the ability to incorporate their loyalty programs into facebook Shops, with features that allow shop owners and users to track and manage points and other rewards as purchases are made.
Update 5/19 1:55pm ET: The post originally stated that Facebook doesn’t yet have its own in-app checkout feature. Facebook does offer checkout to businesses. We regret the error.