Facebook Is Testing A Shopping Section for In-App Retail
As Facebook angles to become the one and only place you spend your digital life, its effort to transform your News Feed into a storefront is once again ramping up.
The tech giant said today that it will be testing a few new ways to shop in its app.
Facebook says that in coming weeks it will test a Shopping section that will act as a “single place for people to more easily discover, share, and purchase products.” You may also soon see ads that will allow you to browse products in a “fast-loading, full-screen experience” before going to the retailer’s website to buy. Facebook says that similar ads that require you to go straight to a retailer’s site are slow to load; so, much like Instant Articles for news, Facebook is hoping to keep you interested in ads for longer by having them load faster within the app.
These are just the latest steps Facebook has taken into the retail realm. The company has already tested “buy” buttons in its app that allow users to directly buy products without leaving. It’s also rolled out “Shop” sections on small businesses’ pages, er, Pages.
“On Facebook we’ve seen that people are coming to our platform not only to connect with friends and family but also with products and brands,” the company said in a blog post. Nearly half of people come to Facebook to actively look for products, the company said.
For Facebook, these efforts are part of its larger goal to become your world—and make advertisers pay to be there. You can read news, chat with friends, or browse shoes without ever leaving Facebook’s enclave. As users spend more and more of their time on mobile, Facebook is capitalizing on the fact that users spend most of their time in a few apps, including, for many, Facebook. Just as the company has convinced many news organizations to share stories directly on Facebook, retailers are being encouraged to market and sell right on the platform.
If Facebook has its way, you may never have to (or want to) leave, which is great for Facebook’s bottom line. After all, retailers will pay to reach you wherever you are.
Facebook is making it easier for you to shop directly in Facebook. That way, you have one less reason to leave Facebook.
The company has partnered with e-commerce service Shopify to enable merchants who uses Shopify’s services to sell their products directly in a new Shop section on Facebook Pages, a feature Facebook is pushing as a better mobile alternative for businesses than the web.
“Our goal is to make it easy to sell products where the customers are,” says Shopify’s director of product, Satish Kanwar, “and increasingly that’s on mobile.”
At an event last week at its Silicon Valley headquarters, Facebook highlighted its success at helping 45 million businesses launch digital storefronts with Pages on Facebook’s app and site. With its 175,000 merchants, Shopify is helping Facebook make it a little easier for some of those businesses to make those Pages true online stores. If a user clicks on a product, stores can either push shoppers from Facebook to their websites, or let them check out directly on Facebook.
Payment processing and transaction tracking will be handled by Shopify, and Facebook will not be taking a cut for items sold on the site. While the companies have been testing this feature for a few thousand users, it will roll it out in the coming weeks for all of Shopify’s merchants on Facebook.
Buy, Buy, Buy
The Shopify announcement today is just one of the ways Facebook is making itself into a kind of digital mall. Shopify and Facebook have been testing “buy buttons” since last summer, and Facebook says it’s also testing other ways for shoppers to buy products on Pages from merchants directly and has plans to work with other e-commerce partners in the future.1
Of course, Shopify is not the only e-commerce site trying to make it easier for people to buy on their phones. Nor is Facebook the only social network hoping to make it easier for people to buy without bothering with the web. Digital transactions startup Stripe said earlier this week that anyone will now be able to sell stuff directly in Twitter using its new API. Pinterest, meanwhile has launched buy buttons to let users make purchases on the site.
Why such a push for shopping? Social media giants are ultimately jockeying to keep you in their worlds as long as they can—and to do that they’re partnering with services that resemble more parts of real life. For Facebook, shopping is just another thing you do in the real world, like chatting with friends or reading the news. Just like you do those other things in Facebook now, the company hopes you’ll start shopping there, too.
1UPDATE 4:45 PM ET 09/16/15: This story has been updated to accurately reflect that Facebook is not yet testing shopping functionality with other e-commerce platforms.