Facebook is launching Shops, a service that will allow businesses to display and sell products on the world’s largest social network’s platforms, Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said on Tuesday.

The move to build up e-commerce offerings follows Facebook’s launch last year of limited shopping options on photo-sharing app Instagram and messaging app WhatsApp. Company leaders wager making the platforms more business-friendly will generate fresh ad revenue, even as user growth slows.

Facebook Shops will tie at least some of those efforts together, enabling businesses to set up a single online store accessible via both Facebook and Instagram. A checkout feature will enable in-app purchases, while a more deeply integrated messaging feature will allow customers to chat with businesses through WhatsApp, Messenger or Instagram Direct.

Zuckerberg also said the world’s largest social network would be working more closely on product integrations with Shopify and seven other online commerce platforms (BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Channel Advisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube, and Feedonomics) going forward. He had Shopify CEO Tobias Lütke join him in a livestreamed video announcing the partnerships.

Shopify’s shares sank after the initial Facebook Shops launch, then rebounded following Lütke’s appearance. Shares of both companies were up over 2 percent in afternoon US trade.

As with Facebook’s other e-commerce features, Shops will be free for businesses to access with the expectation it will boost consumer engagement and ad sales.

“This is the biggest step that we’ve taken yet to enable commerce across our family of apps,” Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg said.

“If you’re running a small business or if you’re thinking about starting one even from your living room, you have a whole suite of tools available that can help.”

The primary focus of Facebook Shops is to make it easy businesses to have online storefronts to survive during the crisis and ride the online shopping trend into the future, according to Zuckerberg.

“We really hope that our commerce solutions help businesses not only survive but thrive during coming months, and adapt to new consumer behaviour,” said Instagram Shopping product lead Layla Amjadi.

“Our business model here is ads,” Zuckerberg said. “Rather than charge businesses for Shops, we know that Shops are valuable for businesses. They’re going to in general bid more for ads and we’ll eventually make money that way.”

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. Zuckerberg said more than 800 million people engage with live videos daily across Facebook and Instagram.

“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.”

Zuckerberg said information about what people buy will be kept private unless shoppers want to tell friends about purchases.

Virtual dressing rooms
Facebook is also 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,” Zuckerberg said.

“Because even when this period and the lockdowns pass… we’re going to continue living more of our lives, and doing business, online.”

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