According to the Office of National Statistics, e-commerce accounted for 30% of total retail sales in April – a sharp increase from the 18.9% it previously stood at in February of this year. It’s been said that e-commerce is an inevitable eventuality; a popular trend which is always destined for an upward trajectory. However, COVID-19 has accelerated the journey.
In response, in May, Facebook launched Shops – an in-house shopping function which allows users to purchase goods from businesses through its platform. Albeit a little late to the virtual party, the roll out of Shops has the potential to radically alter the e-commerce landscape, although it’s unclear just how much of an impact it will have.
What is Facebook Shops?
As shared in the announcement, ‘Facebook Shops is a mobile-first shopping experience where businesses can easily create an online store on Facebook and Instagram for free.’ Essentially, businesses will be able to create a customised online shop, select their merchandise, sell directly in app and communicate with customers via WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram DM. Powered by third-party services, including Shopify and BigCommerce, it’s a game changer.
To be frank, we’re surprised it has taken the platform this long to join the social commerce trend, especially when you consider Chinese competitor WeChat launched their WeChat Pay function back in 2014. To give you an idea of how successful the platform is, in July 2019 the company shared that there are on average 1 billion WeChat transactions every day. It seems Facebook has got some catching up to do.
When better than now?
With the long-term impact of COVID, social commerce could help rebuild the economy during the pandemic. It could also offer a life-line to many boutique shops and larger brands alike. Even influencers’ prospects are brightening with the launch of Instagram’s content-monetisation feature for creators. This means creators, who make a living from partnerships on the platform, are now able to also earn via ‘Badges’ (followers can reward creators by paying them during an Instagram Live).
In conclusion, the rollout of Shops is a positive for smaller businesses looking for an easy way to sell their goods online. However, with many other digital tools available to retailers, a much-delayed rollout of the feature, and some viewing Facebook’s eventual move into the space as just more evidence of the firm’s intent to infiltrate every part of our digital lives, it remains to be seen just how successful Shops will be.