Facebook is a proven pioneer in connecting businesses with potential customers through its namesake platform and Instagram. The two social media platforms have become essential tools in promoting digital e-commerce businesses and communicating directly with their consumer base. The tech giant recently unveiled its newest initiative with the launch of a virtual mall aimed at helping small businesses thrive in the wake of the COVID-19, or novel coronavirus pandemic.
Facebook Shops is a new feature for small businesses to utilize to build digital storefronts through Facebook and Instagram pages. The new stores allow consumers to browse the full product collection with user functions like save products you’re interested in and placing an order either on the business’ website or without leaving the app.
Business owners will also be able to send direct messages through WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, or Instagram Direct to ask questions, get support, track deliveries, and other support needs. The tech giant hopes to add the ability to view the shop and make purchases directly through chat in WhatsApp, Messenger, or Instagram Direct.
CEO Mark Zuckerberg said in a livestream announcement held on Tuesday that the efforts were put in place because of the coronavirus pandemic which has left close to 160 million small businesses that use Facebook’s apps struggling to stay afloat.
“We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online presences get online for the first time, and we’re seeing small businesses that had online presences now make them their primary way of doing business,” he said according to NPR. “For lots of small businesses during this period, this is the difference between staying afloat and going under.”
He went on to say that Facebook will not charge additional fees for the new upgrade. “We know that if [Facebook] Shops are valuable for businesses they’re going to in general want to bid more for ads,” he said. “We’ll eventually make money that way.”