The move comes as small businesses around the world have been forced to close brick and mortar stores, with the majority looking to ecommerce in order to boost sales.

Shops brings together some of Facebook’s previous ecommerce efforts (found on WhatsApp and Instagram), enabling businesses to set up a single online store that customers can access via Facebook and Instagram.

But what does Facebook Shops mean for social commerce (and ecommerce in general)? We asked a few experts for their opinion.

A challenge to Etsy, Asos and Deliveroo?

Tom Jarvis, Founder and MD, Wilderness Agency: “I believe this is the first real step, in the West at least, to the birth of social commerce in a way that has so far been untapped, and could be the biggest announcement Facebook has made since the acquisition of Instagram back in 2012.”

“The timing of this is also flawless as Facebook gets the chance to ride in as the saviour to small business during the pandemic, whilst at the same time driving up ad revenue and creating new revenue opportunities from customer support and loyalty features.”

“Some have said this poses a threat to Amazon but to me, this spells bigger trouble for the likes of Etsy, Uber Eats, ASOS, Boots, Deliveroo, and could be the death knell for the traditional department store, unless that is, of course, they adapt quickly.

Facebook Pay and accurate attribution could be a game changer

Zoë Stephenson, The Social Shepherd: Supporting small businesses is an obvious positive, removing the need to develop an e-commerce site, and from what we know from previously setting up Facebook Shops, the process should be pretty slick and easy. 

“We’re advising clients to plan with Facebook shopping in mind as it rolls out. But the real game-changer is Facebook Pay which will enable in-app purchases, taking on the likes of Amazon and eBay, and meaning that ways of driving revenue will become further diversified for online brands.”

“This will have a significant impact on paid media teams, who will have to optimise for both in-app and out-of-app purchases… dictated by consumer behaviour of course, and if they actually trust Facebook enough to pay in platform. A definite plus from an agency perspective comes from more accurate attribution that will presumably come with in-app purchases, but only time will tell!”

A wakeup call for brands

Saradha Sethuraman, OMG Transact: “More and more, consumers expect seamless and highly personalised journeys across all the channels and devices they browse on. Brands therefore need to ensure they are consistent with their product content and ensure images are fit for purpose across multiple devices and channels.”

“Most importantly, they need to ensure consumers can complete the journey in the same channel as often as possible. So, whilst Facebook’s current focus is small businesses, bigger brands also need to act to get their content, assets and processes in shape, to reach and understand audiences better, in this evolving channel.”

If you own the interface, you own the customer

Chloe Cox, Social Media Lead, Wunderman Thompson Commerce: Facebook Shops works for the social media giant’s own business strategy. We have seen from Amazon that if you own the interface, you own the customer. If you own the customer, you own the data. And if you own the data, you own the future. Facebook’s model has always centred around advertising and through its shopping platform will help it provide a hyper-personalised experience that keeps customers on its platform for more than just social media.”

Eric Shih, Global SVP Business Development, Teads: “The announcement of Facebook Shops is a further step in their commerce strategy which started a few years ago, which is only intended to bolster Facebook’s advertising business, enticing brands to promote Shops and granting Facebook valuable shopper data to better compete with Amazon.

“Ultimately, this should result in further industry and antitrust scrutiny given further consolidation of digital advertising market share with the duopoly [of Facebook and Google].”

The full purchase funnel

Saradha Sethuraman, eCommerce Business Director, OMG Transact:Facebook and Instagram have always been powerful discovery and engagement platforms that have traditionally been used by brands and agencies to focus on top or mid-funnel activities. Now, there is a huge opportunity to link it to conversion activities, all inside the same platform.”

“Historically, above the line activity that would build awareness and visibility would be separate from more conversion led tactics. However, in today’s challenging environment, it has never been more important to ensure media and demand-led sales objectives are closely linked. Brands should now aspire to have a full purchase funnel in each channel by making every destination shoppable.”

Chloe Cox, Wunderman Thompson Commerce: “Social media has always been a great way to generate interest, but when customers want to convert that into a purchase, they are moved off the platform to a brand site. This introduces friction into the customer journey when you want to convert and also plays into customers’ desire for speed and convenience.

“The move into social commerce for brands and retailers is a no brainer. Our research [in late 2019] found that a fifth of digital commerce leaders believe that social commerce would be important in 10 years’ time, thus making it the number one commerce channel. Whether or not this was a smooth marketing move by Facebook during a pandemic that has forced everyone online is up for debate, but the company will certainly win brownie points from small businesses and consumers alike in helping out a sector in desperate need of commerce.”

For more on this topic and for relevant reports, visit Econsultancy’s social media hub.