Sci-tech

Facebook and Instagram roll out Shops, turning business profiles into storefronts

Facebook and Instagram roll out Shops, turning business profiles into storefronts”

The largest social media network in the world, with the Facebook app, Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp platforms in its arsenal, is now looking seriously at the world of online shopping.

Facebook has enabled businesses to sell products on the platform and Instagram in the past, but Shops allows them to customize a storefront that reflects their brand.

Users can message businesses via Facebook's messaging apps - WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct - to ask questions or get support. In mid-2019, Deutsche Bank analysts estimated e-commerce on Instagram alone would be netting a cool $10 billion in revenue a year for the company by 2021.

"Shopify powers more than one million businesses that are transforming the direct-to-consumer landscape and changing the way we shop".

This week, Facebook released a study that claimed one-third of small businesses have closed during the pandemic. These stores will appear on business pages and through targeted ads. Importantly, most actual purchases won't be happening on Facebook.

The real significance of Tuesday's announcement, though, may be Zuckerberg's personal involvement in the effort. Is the beginning of Facebook vs Amazon in the online shopping space?

Instagram Shop enables users to discover and buy products in the app's Explore tab, see collections in the @shop account it debuted last May, browse selection from brands and creators and filter their searches by category.

Zuckerberg has been heavily involved in Shops, spending significant time and attention on the product - usually a sign that a feature is here for the long haul.

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"We're starting to roll out Facebook Shops today, and it will be more widely available in the coming months", says the social network.

Facebook is also rolling out a tool to connect loyalty programs and a shopping feature showing product tags underneath live videos, allowing viewers to make purchases while watching.

With lockdowns forcing hundreds of millions of people to stay home, adding deeper shopping functionality to Facebook gives it an opportunity to benefit from the vast increase in online shopping suddenly occurring. At this time, the photo sharing platform now allows users to browse products, but will lead them to the merchant's official website if they wish to make a purchase.

Most shoppers will have to leave the Facebook Shop and go to the business' website to complete purchases.

With Shops, which are free to create, retailers can import existing product catalogs from Shopify Inc. or BigCommerce Inc.to expedite the process and eliminate barriers.

"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", Mr Zuckerberg said.

Facebook's push into commerce could help boost its advertising business.

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