It would only make sense that Facebook would continue to develop new technologies to meet the growing needs of users during the Coronavirus pandemic. After all, they’re by far the largest social media platform with some 2.45 billion users worldwide. And in times of crisis, consumers need convenience just as much as they need social contact.
Particularly the convenience of shopping. In the U.S. alone, eCommerce sales were estimated to be over $187 billion for the fourth quarter of 2019. But there’s only 247 million monthly active users who reside in the U.S. The largest concentration of users are actually located in the Asia Pacific region. A recent survey from IPSOS indicated that China has seen an increase of eCommerce sales by approximately 50 percent. In comparison, the U.S. reported an increase of only 23 percent. So how is Facebook planning to address the shopping needs of global consumers?
Facebook Shops. In a recent press release, Mark Zuckerberg and company announced the launch of a new feature that would allow small businesses to set up a single online storefront to reach customers on both Facebook and Instagram. It’s a bold move. And it’s one which may be poised to make a dent in Amazon’s $280 billion business. But will it?
What Is Facebook Shops?
Facebook Shops allows businesses to choose featured products to display through a single storefront which users can access from either their Facebook Page or Facebook Ads. Just like Amazon, businesses can customize the look of their shop with a cover image and curated content that can help showcase their brand. Users can browse the full collection and order it either from your website or directly from Facebook Shops if they live in the U.S.
Users can also message a business directly through WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger to ask questions, get support and track deliveries, with a future option to shop and make purchases during a live chat. Facebook recently confirmed the feature has already been rolled out, with the introduction of a similar app called Instagram Shops planned for the U.S. this summer.
“People have been using live video on our apps to showcase products for years,” the social media giant announced. “We’re making it easier to shop for products in real time. Soon, sellers, brands and creators will be able to tag products from their Facebook Shop or catalog before going live and those products will be shown at the bottom of the video so people can easily tap to learn more and purchase.”
"Shops are going to be able to use our AI to create better more personalized experiences than you’re going to have almost anywhere else," said Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during a recent Facebook Live appearance.
There’s just one small problem. Facebook Marketplace has already developed a similar mobile app for eCommerce. And it doesn’t seem to be taking away too much business from Amazon.
The Advantages And Disadvantages of Facebook Shops Vs. Amazon
Right now more than ever, people are relying on social connectivity for basic human needs. They want reassurance of the safety and security of friends and family members. But they also want a personal connection to their favorite brands. Platforms like Facebook and Instagram have already leveraged powerful capabilities for marketing by providing a showcase for brands to build a narrative through curated content. The effect is a much more personalized customer experience, not a sales-driven retail one.
But Amazon’s eCommerce platform has a distinct advantage over the potential of Facebook and Instagram: security. The security that’s already been established by a 25 year history of providing safe and effective retail sales. And while Facebook has been proven to be an effective marketing tool, it simply doesn’t have that history of ensuring seamless online transactions. Customers might be able to interact and connect with a brand. But can they provide the customer-centric approach Amazon does through one-touch purchases, personalized product suggestions, featured items and free one-day shipping?
Amazon’s reputation for secure purchasing has long been established. Facebook is entering into eCommerce at a time in which privacy breaches are on the forefront of many customer’s minds. Consumers want reassurance as much as they want the convenience of online shopping. And during a time of crisis which is likely to boost online sales, that reassurance is fundamental to the customer experience as a whole.
There’s no reason why Amazon and Facebook Shops can’t coexist harmoniously in the eCommerce world. And there’s no reason why you can’t leverage both to provide a multi-channel digital retail experience. But security is critical for your brand. The only security that’s more critical is the health and well-being of your customers.
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