So… Facebook Shops. What’s that, then? A guide for SMEs

Facebook Shops

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Most of us have bought furniture from a stranger on Facebook.

No? Just me, then.

In May, Facebook upped its eCommerce game considerably by launching the imaginatively titled ‘Shops’ platform, thus enabling businesses to sell their products directly on Facebook and Instagram.

Whether or not Shops is a direct, fast response to COVID-19 and the sickening number of small retail outlets who have had to close their doors is debatable. It may, after all, have been part of Zuckerberg’s world-dominating plan for some time.

Regardless, it’s a fascinating development, and there are already mutterings that it spells doom for some of the high street’s biggest retailers.

Facebook shopping

See ya later, Etsy?

“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,” said one industry expert in an Econsultancy interview.

He might have a point. As previously noted, the launch of Facebook Shops is suspiciously (or smartly, depending on how you look at it) well timed. With the high street at an all-time low thanks to the pandemic, the social network has donned its cape, raised one fist to the sky and propelled itself into the role of business saviour.

At least, that’s what it’s trying to do. And it really does have a point, because social commerce hasn’t taken off yet.

Think about it – when you buy something online, you will almost certainly do so via the brand’s own website or a third-party fulfilment company like Amazon.

Facebook wants you to remain resolutely on their platform when shopping, because, well, of course they do. The more they can keep you in their little world, the more money they can make from advertising – even if there’s the suggestion that Shops is practically a free trading platform for retailers.

It isn’t.

Commercial model behind shops

So, how much does it cost?

Facebook Shops is designed to make shopping “seamless and empower anyone from a small business owner to a global brand to use our apps to connect with customers,” says Zuckerberg in a video announcing the new platform.

However, if you strip away the unique ‘story telling’ features and fluffy stuff, there is of course a commercial model behind Shops that benefits Facebook.

It’s free to use, so any business can sign up now and begin selling to a ready-made audience. However, Facebook knows that their platform is very much pay-to-play these days, which means businesses will still need to invest in ads to get their brand and its shop noticed.

“We’ll eventually make money that way,” reveals Zuckerberg. Which means although not directly linked, they’re confident business owners who use Shops will probably spend more on their Facebook Ads as a result.

So, the cost isn’t defined and there are zero barriers to entry, but it will be noticeable in your monthly Ad spend budget which you’ll inevitably increase.

Smart, eh?

Finally: will Shops work for SMEs?

Who knows? If nothing else, it’s another channel through which to sell your wares, and at the moment, any channel is worth a bash.

The benefit of trying out Facebook Shops is you probably already have a business presence on there, and the audience is all but guaranteed. They’ve even introduced useful little features like product tags (which allow people to purchase while watching videos) and loyalty program capabilities.

Just keep an eye on that Ad spend. He’s a smart tyke, that Zuckerberg.

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