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Facebook to launch Shops as businesses look online for salvation

By Huw Hughes

May 20, 2020

Facebook has announced it will be launching a new shopping feature allowing businesses of all sizes to set up a free online store on Facebook and Instagram.

Facebook Shops allows businesses to set up customised online stores which can be found by people through the business’ Facebook Page or Instagram profile and targeted ads.

Shoppers can then browse items and purchase them either through the company’s website or directly through the app.

They will also be able to contact the company through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct - all of which are owned by Facebook. In the future, it’ll be possible to view shops and make purchases directly from those chats, Facebook said.

It comes as retailers around the world struggle to cope with the impact of Covid-19 and more look to launch online channels against a backdrop of physical retail devastated by international lockdowns.

“Right now many small businesses are struggling, and with stores closing, more are looking to bring their business online,” the company said in a statement. “Our goal is to make shopping seamless and empower anyone from a small business owner to a global brand to use our apps to connect with customers.”

Facebook makes latest e-commerce move

It's the latest step in Facebook’s plan to become a leading e-commerce player. The company already has a popular and free-of-charge Marketplace, and in recent years has progressively introduced features to make it easier to make purchases from its apps.

In March of last year, Instagram launched its ‘checkout’ feature, allowing users to make purchases directly within the app, while more recently in November Facebook launched a new payment method, called Facebook Pay, across its platforms.

One feature of Facebook Shop, called Live Shopping, allows businesses to tag products from their catalog before using live videos, so viewers can easily tap to learn more and purchase during the stream.

Additionally, a loyalty scheme will allow shoppers to earn and keep track of points and rewards. “We’re also testing ways to make it easier to earn rewards with businesses you love by enabling you to connect your loyalty programmes, like the points programme at your local cafe, to your Facebook account,” the company said. “You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards. And we’re exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty programme on Facebook Shops.”

Photo credit: Facebook