If there was ever a good time to help small businesses sell online, it’s now, and that’s why we’re a bit excited about Mark Zuckerberg’s announcement earlier this month, Facebook Shops (not the most imaginative of names, but who cares if it works!) Bought forward to “inspire people to shop and make buying and selling online easier” (Facebook, June 2020), Facebook Shops is a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can simply create an online store on Facebook and Instagram for free*. Customer services is made seamless through Messenger, Whatsapp or Instagram Direct, and even more exciting, is the promise of real-time shopping via Facebook live and Instagram Live.

You might be thinking “I already have a Facebook Shop” and you would be right, this isn’t the first time that shopping from the Facebook or Instagram page has been made available. If you already have a Facebook catalogue of products, then this will still form the backbone of Shops, but with a better user-experience and eventually with checkout capabilities. Available only in the US at the moment, customers can make their purchase from within Facebook or Instagram. Seamless!

The Good News – Simple integration and Live capabilities coming:

The process to set up Shops is simple and a great way of testing the e-commerce waters if you do not already have online retail capabilities. It links to other e-commerce platforms like Shopify and is highly customisable to incorporate your brand identity and any selection of products from your catalogue.

Going Live has been rising in popularity while we have been spending more time at home and even though we are heading back out into the community again, Live doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. “The number of US users watching live video on Facebook has increased 50% since January” (Bloomberg, June 2020). Leveraging this further by selling in the style of a home shopping channel, from your Facebook or Instagram page is pretty phenomenal. Imagine the results for a skincare brand, for example. Imagine a Facebook Live showing off the latest new moisturiser with an influencer or brand ambassador, but with a “Buy Now” button/link so the viewer can buy in real-time. Once Facebook checkout is in place, the viewer won’t even have to go to your website. Instant satisfaction guaranteed.

The integration of Shops with Messenger, Whatsapp and Instagram Direct will provide easy, seamless customer service for the retailer and consumer alike. Enquiries and complaints should be simple to manage, and all from your mobile phone too.

The Bad News – Free means free, right?

It might be slow to roll out over here. The US is receiving the new capabilities first and then slowly but surely the rest of the world will follow. Let’s hope they’re releasing the functionality to countries in alphabetical order! You may have seen the word “Free” above, but it appears our definition of free is slightly different to Facebook’s. According to their site any product sold using Facebook Checkout or Instagram Checkout a fee will apply of  5% per shipment or a flat fee of $0.40 (US Dollar) for shipments of $8.00 or less. Facebook will of course be making its money on ads, which smart brands will utilise to drive existing or new customers to their Shop.

There will also be a stringent process in place to have a new shop approved. They will be looking at what inventory you have available to sell (no made to order products will be accepted, which has already annoyed many crafters and makers), the normal restrictions apply which unfortunately means you can’t sell alcohol (sorry to the many wine brands we work with), the customer service you offer has to meet Facebook’s standards and they will be looking at your delivery times and refund policy. We were also surprised to read that there will be no sales of digital goods, your inventory has to be made up of physical products. It seems a missed opportunity not to jump on the many digital downloads available, particularly by the service-based industries.

NEWS FLASH – Pay using WhatsApp?

This week Facebook-owned WhatsApp has added payment to its capabilities. Users in Brazil will be the first to be able to send and receive money using Facebook Pay. It’s free for consumers to use, but businesses will pay 3.99% processing fee to receive payment. WhatsApp Business already added the functionality to load a product catalogue to the messaging service last year, so it’s just a matter of time before we’ll be shopping on WhatsApp too. What with the popularity of groups, will we be using our group shopping power to buy in bulk or to receive discounts? We’re not ruling anything out!

To Shop or not to Shop?

We’d love to know your thoughts on Facebook Shops. Do you use Shops already? Will you trial it for your business if you can? As with all channels, our thoughts immediately go to testing and evaluating on a small scale before jumping in with both feet. If it works for you, then consider making it part of the mix, but don’t put all your eggs in one Facebook basket. Driving traffic to your own website is too important, you own it! Facebook has its own goals and they might not always align with yours or service your needs. Experiment and continuously analyse the results. Facebook want to take you on the ride with them, so we expect that Shop advertising costs will be low when they roll out. Take full advantage!

Image Source: Erik Mclean