Facebook aims to answer brand pain points with ‘data that’s actionable for merchants’

On Tuesday, Facebook announced updates to its slow rollout of shopping features across both Facebook and Instagram. These improvements address some pain points for brands and provide access to more companies hoping to drive sales through Facebook’s social channels.

The big, immediate reveal is Facebook Shop, which is the counterpart to Instagram Shop, released in July. Meant to be a page for discovering new brands and products, and eventually shopping them in-app, Facebook Shop pulls in suggested products for a user from individual Facebook Shops. The feature was introduced today, in beta. 

George Lee, director of product management at Facebook, said he expects the Facebook Shop experience to be unique, based on Facebook’s large community of users (2.6 billion versus 1 billion for Instagram, according to July 2020 Statista data). “We have places like Marketplace, which are pretty diverse,” he said, noting the contrast on Instagram, where fashion, beauty and wellness stand out as the popular categories. 

In addition, Facebook is prepping Instagram Checkout to emerge from beta “in weeks,” according to the emailed announcement. Businesses using Shops, as well as Facebook Commerce Manager, Shopify or BigCommerce, will be able to use it — Facebook will support more platform partners in the future, according to the company. The selling fees of 5% per shipment, which cover the transaction and buyer protection, will be waived through the end of the year. 

Vishal Shah, vp of product at Instagram, declined to share data around transactions to date through Checkout, due to the feature’s beta state. 

Instagram Live Shopping, allowing brands to sell products while livestreaming, will fully roll out at around the same time as Checkout. “[Livestream shopping] is obviously a behavior that we’ve seen grow around the world and is really starting to grow more in markets like the U.S.” said Shah.

Facebook Shops, which launched in beta in May, is a place for brands to set up a store that can be accessed through Facebook and Instagram. In “coming weeks,” Facebook will follow the launch by introducing access to Shops to all businesses, along with new customization options, a new messaging function and new insights through its Commerce Manager. 

“The one thing that we haven’t always done particularly well in the past is provide data that’s actionable for merchants,” said Lee. “It’s one thing to share a bunch of data, and it’s another thing to show data that actually could result in product changes — like changes to your Shops, in terms of how it looks or how it’s organized. Most of the [new insights] will be centered around the performance of the Shops. At the end of the day, the main thing merchants want to know is: ‘How do I set it up in a way that actually gets people to use it?’”

The added customization feature will include new design layouts, allowing brands more control of the look of their storefront. Meanwhile, the messaging function will work like a customer service tool, letting Shops users to direct-message a retailer through Messenger, WhatsApp or Instagram Direct.

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