Last week, Mark Zuckerberg announced some big changes to how Facebook and its various platforms will work for businesses, along with new technological developments that will transform the digital shopping experience.
While e-commerce has been evolving rapidly for many years, we’ve now reached a point that fundamentally changes how things will work in the future. That is, it has never been easier for businesses to sell online or for people to buy.
Here’s what you need to know.
Shops were only introduced on Facebook and Instagram last year, and there are already 1.2 million active stores receiving over 300 million visits each month. While this move to ‘social shopping’ has clearly been accelerated by the Covid-19 pandemic, it’s unlikely to slow down. In fact, it seems like it’s just the beginning.
The changes that Facebook is introducing are inspired by innovations already taking place in South-East Asia – an area where global brands look to for identifying e-commerce trends. A key trend making waves is what Facebook calls ‘conversational commerce’ – where customers can use messaging apps to talk directly to brands. Studies show that when brands are available through instant messaging, people are more likely to make a purchase. This is the driver for many of these changes – Facebook has pledged to mimic the connection and experience that people get from real-world shopping in the online environment.
According to Facebook’s vice-president, Dan Neary, the way people shop has changed. We’ve moved on from a time of ‘going shopping to ‘always shopping’. Marketing in this environment means going beyond traditional e-commerce experiences and thinking about how people discover, consider, and purchase products. For marketers and business owners, it means finding a new and holistic approach – every stage in the customer journey is an opportunity for inspiration, connection, and sales.
Shopping will extend to WhatsApp and Facebook MarketPlace
With this latest update, Facebook will be extending its Shops features to WhatsApp and Marketplace. This is significant because WhatsApp is the most used messaging app in the world and the potential to connect with people through it could help a lot of businesses win new customers.
WhatsApp users will soon be able to browse a shop inventory, get product information and talk to businesses about items before making a purchase. As mentioned above, conversational commerce is a big driver in this move.
Brands will also be able to list their shop products on Facebook Marketplace, encouraging more browsing and purchasing opportunities. With more than 1 billion people using MarketPlace each month, this too is significant!
Thankfully, businesses will only need to sign up for Shops once to use it across the entire Facebook ecosystem.
Instagram Gets Artificial Intelligence (AI)
Facebook is transforming Instagram with a new AI-based feature called Visual Search. This technology already exists with Pinterest Lens and Google Lens, allowing users to scan a real-world item, or upload a photo/video, to find a similar product. The extension of this technology to such a wide audience could mean it soon becomes a habitual shopping behaviour.
Another update to Instagram Shops is the addition of customer ratings and reviews in both written, video, and photographic format.
Personalised Shop Ads
New advertising opportunities will be released to display ads based on people’s shopping behaviours and individual preferences. These ads will direct users to a shops curated collection in the place that they are most likely to make a purchase, whether that is on Facebook or a website.
Augmented Reality (AR) Advertising
One of the few remaining hurdles in purchasing online is the ability to try-on products, so Facebook is making it easier by creating tools for AR try-on experiences in Shops. Companies like Huda Beauty and Laura Mercier are using these ads to let customers test lipstick shades with AR before making a purchase.
They are also introducing tools to include AR product catalogues in ads that automatically show relevant products to people based on their interests.
Facebook is also investing in the live shopping trend that is already established in some parts of South-East Asia. It involves live streaming events on Facebook where customers can watch product demonstrations and ask questions. This is an interesting development that we’ll be watching closely!
As more people become accustomed to searching and purchasing through social media, this way of shopping is likely to gain momentum. Not only will it transform how people shop, but also how they use social media. And it’s not just Facebook where we can expect these changes, you can expect to see widespread shifts across the e-commerce sphere.
AR, VR, and AI are definitely building momentum, with Facebook investing in ways to capitalise on these technologies.
“This is a really exciting time for businesses going forward, especially those who haven’t got the capability yet for a full blown e-commerce website. I’m looking forward to seeing small businesses succeed using these new variation of the platforms! If you’d like any advice on how to get started on the Shop front, please get in touch” Ellie Harries, Cofounder & Social Media Expert, Glass
Ellie is co-founder and Social Media Manager at Glass. Having initially trained in journalism, Ellie switched her career with great success to focus on digital and discovered a love for all things social. Ellie will wholly admit her screen time is far too high but she’s on top of the trends, and is invested in moving brands forward.
Glass are a sister agency to Giant Peach, find out more here