Facebook has announced another wave of updates to its shopping tools across Instagram, WhatsApp, and the Facebook app itself.
The new tools are aimed at making it even easier for users to find things to buy online, as well as communicating with the shops themselves. As ever with Facebook's ecommerce tools, the changes largely revolve around personalized adverts that can help you find the things that you didn't know you wanted. Or, just as likely, incessantly bombard you with adverts for the same thing. Although it has to be said, there are some interesting augmented reality tools amongst all the new adverts.
The question remains, however, what is the endgame for Facebook's shopping ambitions?
Expanding Facebook Shops
Facebook is planning to give businesses the option to showcase their Shop in WhatsApp. As a customer, you'll be able to communicate directly with small businesses before jumping directly into their shop to buy from them.
Facebook is also expanding ratings and reviews on Shops to give buyers more confidence. Similarly, you'll be able to see photos and videos from different users to see how the things you're buying actually look.
Facebook is already trialling this tech by working with AI company Modiface and beauty company Perfect Corp. These new tools will, for example, let you see exactly how a certain shade of lipstick will look before you buy it.
What's more, Facebook is bringing a new feature called “visual search” to Instagram. Users will be able to find similar products — for example, floral print dresses — by tapping on an image of a dress they like.
In the future, users will also be able to take a photo with their phone camera and get visual search to find similar items on Instagram — quite why you wouldn't buy the thing you have taken a photo of is beyond us, though.
Even More Adverts
Facebook is also introducing new Shops adverts to provide unique ads to users based on their shopping preferences.
In practice, this means that Facebook will surface products that it thinks will be relevant to users based on their previous shopping behavior. In the future, Facebook is also planning to roll out personalized offers and promotions to select shoppers.
What Does This Mean for Businesses?
Put simply, if you're running a small business and you don't have a Facebook Shops presence, you're doing something wrong.
While you might be reluctant to get involved with Facebook's advertising behemoth, the easy and expanding access to customers will doubtless have a positive impact on your bottom line.
Effective social media marketing and a strong point of sale and ecommerce system are all but essential these days. For small retail businesses, we would recommend Shopify as a platform that can easily integrate with Facebook and its new tools — plus, you'll be getting class-leading ecommerce with a very impressive point of sale platform thrown in for free.
Square POS, on the other hand, offers a remarkable point of sale system with a strong ecommerce platform to boot. You can easily get started with Square or Shopify, or take a look at our comparison of both platforms.
What's The Endgame for Facebook Shopping?
Facebook's continued attempts to move away from its traditional advert-based revenue model shows no sign of slowing.
Plus, with its suite of apps — Facebook, Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp — Facebook seems to be trying to create an entire ecosystem for users to buy products, find the news, keep in touch with friends and families, and even find lovers.
It seems as though Facebook is no longer conceiving of itself as simply a social network. Perhaps it is trying to position its business as the western equivalent to China's WeChat.
WeChat, which boasts more than a billion monthly active users, allows Chinese citizens to text and call, hold video conferences and broadcast to others, share photos and videos, play video games and interact with businesses ranging from hospitals to fashion companies.
If this is Zuckerberg's vision, he's certainly closer to realizing it than ever before.