What is Facebook Shops?
The giant Facebook wasted no time in reacting to the shopping changes brought on by the coronavirus crisis. With a very opportune strategy, the company is launching Facebook Shops to, as they say, help the hundreds of thousands of small businesses who need to take the digital leap and start selling online.
Opening an ecommerce site is expensive, nothing like starting a blog with WordPress. It is expensive in resources: time is needed to organize all the product contents, knowledge to choose the right platform and plugins (and to configure them), and money to pay for the necessary software and the necessary plugins (even on free platforms), as well as to pay fees charged by marketplaces like Amazon.
Facebook Shops seems to solve, on the surface, these problems for small businesses as it offers a free, easy to use platform. But that does not mean that a little bit of work and knowledge are not needed to get things set up well.
With Facebook Shops, you can include your online shop inside of the Facebook social network. Thus, the millions of users of said social network will be able to find your brand and products with ease.
Each shop inside Facebook Shops will have a native design adapted to any device and screen. Still, sellers will have a certain margin of freedom to personalize their shop and choose the colors, template, and highlighted items from their catalog.
The main intention of Facebook is (apart from taking advantage of a giant market of newbies in the digital world) to make the online buying and selling experience something very easy and intuitive for sellers, distributors, and buyers.
Additionally, on this occasion Facebook is not jumping into the pool of ecommerce alone: to compete with the online sales leader Amazon it has allied with third-party services like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooComerce, ChannelAdvisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube, and Feedono.
Differences between Facebook Shops and Facebook Marketplace
But, couldn’t products already be sold on Facebook?
Yes, retail businesses and brands could link their products from their online shops to their Facebook Business accounts; however, the Facebook Shops system is much more integrated. It has a different design and easy connectivity with other platforms so that Facebook can really be part of a retailer’s or distributor’s omnichannel network.
Facebook Marketplace was never created to be a network for shops and it has always been more used for private sales between users than as a functional ecommerce alternative.
The process of adding brand products to the marketplace seemed too involved and confusing for a novice seller; thus, Facebook Shops has come to be as a true platform for mobile shopping aimed towards professionals.
Benefits of social commerce: a sales platform for 2 social networks
If over 2.3 billion Facebook users don’t seem to be enough for you, Facebook Shops will also give you access to the entire Instagram network.
As they are both part of the same business group, Facebook Shops will make it easy for sellers to create shops on both platforms, with a separate tab for this new online social shop environment.
Social commerce has seen an immense increase in the last few years and users make use of shopable content increasingly more through ads, photographs, stories, and videos with direct links to buy a product.
Nevertheless, until now, these types of purchase options were mixed in Instagram with the rest of the publications that only show contents. Instagram Shop, just like Facebook Shops will include only publications with products on sale on the social network – things that can more easily be queried by users with an intent to buy.
The system will make it very easy to duplicate the product catalog on the two platforms, saving resources and time to synchronize and upload data. Users can locate products by category and through filters, as well as by brand or influencer – all from a tab in the app.
The secret of Facebook that’s not such a secret: a centralized, automated platform
One overarching trait seen in all of Facebook’s strategy can be summarized in two words: centralization and automation.
The keys for an agile and effective online sales strategy for distributors and sellers. Software that centralizes catalog data and automates how it is managed and served up to users is increasingly more demanded by all industries. For example, PIM (Product Information Management) solutions, which are a vital tool to lighten the workload on Facebook Shops.
The next step for Facebook Shops: to integrate these online sales with WhatsApp Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct. This will provide more omnichannel functionalities through conversational commerce.
Live streaming and live shopping
Stories and videos on Instagram TV have become increasingly popular to the point of being replicated on Facebook and starting to eclipse ‘simple’ photo content.
For ecommerce, this phenomenon is no different. Sales through recorded videos and live streaming ecommerce open up a new window of opportunities for brands and retailers.
Facebook shops also has taken this into account and will include live shopping as a part of the experience. Showcasing new products and analyzing a product through video will have the advantage of being accompanied by links to the products presented. Thus, viewers won’t have to search for them on a different website; instead, they can view them directly from the video itself.
How to use Facebook Shops to sell products online
If you are interested in Facebook Shops, you should know that the launch is only currently planned for the United States. If the experiment works, it will most likely be expanded to the rest of the world under similar conditions.
Registering and selling through Facebook Shops is free, quick, and easy as the process is designed for businesses with less digital resources and experience. Sellers and distributors can choose which products from the catalog will appear on Facebook, personalize the appearance of their online shop on the platform, and start to advertise.
We have to understand the profitability model sought by Facebook through this initiative. Behind the idea of supporting small and medium-sized businesses, there is the idea of receiving more revenue through ads. If Facebook Shops works and attracts traffic, brands will be more interested in buying ads inside Facebook and Instagram.
Users will be able to find shops through profiles, publications, stories, and advertisements. They will be able to check the available catalog on the platform and buy on the seller’s website or without even leaving the app (if the ‘native sales’ option is turned on in Facebook or Instagram).
Integration: the key to organizing your Facebook catalog
Integration with the chats of each platform and WhatsApp allow for buyers to directly ask questions to the brand or seller, request information about the state of a shipment, and even place orders directly via instant messaging.
Linking products to Facebook Shops is much easier if the seller has an account on an ecommerce platform like Shopify or WooCommerce. At first sight, that doesn’t seem to make much since if this is an initiative geared towards businesses with few resources and even those without an online shop.
Nevertheless, it is logical for Facebook to want to attract the same online shop traffic that Amazon has been attracting up to now. By offering easy integration with BigCommerce, Shopify, and other platforms, it is much easier and more attractive for brands and retailers who already have an online shop to sell on Facebook. It’s simply a question of adding another sales channel and expanding the omnichannel network.
Although things aren’t quite that simple: having all the product contents well organized on an ecommerce platform requires a Product Information Management System. This type of software centralizes all the data and acts as an updated source of truth for all the sales channels where you would like to distribute your products.
At Sales Layer, we are experts in PIM and we have connectors for the main ecommerce platforms to make the launch of your omnichannel strategy and your sales on Facebook Shops much easier, should it become available in your area.