Facebook are expanding their reach into eCommerce. They've previously announced Libra, their own online currency, and now they are allowing businesses to sell directly through their platform (at time of writing, integrated payment is limited to the US). 

Responding to a global pandemic

Facebook's marketing is tapping into the current crisis. Their message is all about enabling small businesses to stay connected and make sales during the pandemic. Facebook even make a point of showing how easy it is to set up products one by one and start selling. 

They're not talking about linking to an existing platform.

That means that this is not something which is aimed at experienced eCommerce businesses. Instead, it's a fast way into online selling for starter businesses. 

Setting up a shop

The actual set up is fairly easy, and this can be done quite quickly and at no charge whatsoever. Adding products can be done one at a time, and after a little digging, it turns out you can upload them in bulk via XML. We've looked at this and it's closely related to their pre-existing shopping feed.

In fact, this is essentially a rebranded Facebook shopping feed; the one that has previously been used for advertising. 

So, if you're already marketing on Facebook (or Instagram) this should be really fast. Take a look at our client Cookes Furniture below for an idea of how this will look.

Cookes Furniture Facebook Store

The sting in the tail

Setting up a Store is only going to be half the battle. While it's easy to get products onto Facebook and Instagram, it'll be harder to get them in front of customers. Currently, listing products is free, but you can be sure product visibility isn't going to be. 

Facebook have got form for this. In 2018, a huge change to their algorithm prioritising posts with meaningful interactions and conversation. In theory, that was to encourage personal posts. What it meant was that organic traffic to Facebook brand pages fell through the floor. Zuckerburg himself was very up front about this.

Mark Zuckerburg - 2018

As we roll this out, you'll see less public content like posts from businesses, brands, and media. And the public content you see more will be held to the same standard -- it should encourage meaningful interactions between people.

The upshot of Facebook's selfless drive to encourage more personal interactions was that they made more money in advertising. To get visibility of their brand, companies were having to pay to promote their posts; we've seen similar things with the advertising of products on Facebook. 

Setting up a Shop on Facebook could turn into a whole other channel, but it is very unlikely to ever be a low cost option. It's just not in their business model. 

Room to grow

Facebook Shops is not a finished product - right now, in-app purchases are only available in the US. Online payments are not yet possible in the rest of the world.

They're sure to develop this further but right now, we can't say it's going to revolutionise your online business. At best, it will form part of an omnichannel strategy - a new channel through which you can acquire sales and customers, but just like all the others, you'll still be paying a Cost per Transaction, in the form of an advertising cost. You'll just have to decide if it is worth it. 

20th May 2020