According to Facebook’s recent State of Small Businesses report, nearly a third of SMBs in the U.S. are no longer operating. Those that have been able to keep their doors open during the pandemic are up against two major challenges: Having enough cash to run the business and enough customers to keep things going.
“They’re worried about where money is going to come from, and whether there is still demand for their goods and services,” writes Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg about the 86,000 SMBs surveyed by Facebook and Small Business Roundtable.
To help ease the economic disruption caused by COVID-19, Facebook has launched Facebook Shops, a mobile-first experience that allows businesses to easily create online stores that live on the business’ Facebook Page and Instagram profile. Business owners can choose the products they want to feature, or upload collections with up to 30 items, and then customize the shopping experience with their choice of fonts and colors.
Once up, customers will be able to browse, save or order products directly in the app and businesses will be able to communicate with customers about products in their Facebook Shop via Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger. CEO Mark Zuckerberg called Facebook Shops “easy to create,” “native” and “fast” – offering a consistent shopping experience across Facebook’s family apps.
The new tool is free to set-up but Facebook’s Vice President of ads Dan Levy told TechCrunch Facebook will charge a “small fee” on each purchase made through the ecommerce platform – he said the real monetization benefits for Facebook come through driving more advertising since Shops can be featured in News Feed and Stories ads.
“We’re uniquely positioned to be a champion for small businesses,” said CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a Live video announcing the launch of Facebook Shops. The company touts it has more than 100 million SMBs using Facebook services, “Most for free,” said Zuckerberg. But he confirms a majority of Facebook’s revenue comes from the small businesses that advertise on the platform. Saving SMBs by giving them direct-to-consumer ecommerce tools impacts Facebook’s own business model.
Zuckerberg said he worked directly with the team that built Facebook Shops and that new features are coming, including an Instagram Shop which will be available this summer. Facebook is also adding a shop tab to Instagram’s navigation bar. The company is working on Live shopping features that will allow businesses to sell products during Live video events and loyalty programs connected to Facebook Shops. The ecommerce platform will eventually integrate Facebook’s AI technology to personalize the shopping experience and include AR capabilities.
Facebook has also partnered with multiple ecommerce solutions, including Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, ChannelAdvisor and more, giving businesses the flexibility to use a variety of tools within Facebook’s ecommerce ecosystem.
Zuckerberg called the launch of Facebook Shops the biggest step the company has taken to enable commerce across its family of apps.