Facebook launches Shops to bring more businesses online during the pandemic.

Facebook launches Shops to bring more businesses online during the pandemic.

Facebook has launched shops to bring more businesses online during the pandemic.

The company today announced the launch of Shops, a convenient way for businesses to set up free storefronts on Facebook and Instagram.

The shops are designed to turn the social network into a shopping destination and  will be powered by third-party services, including Shopify, BigCommerce, and Woo,

These shops can be found on Facebook business pages as well as Instagram profiles, and they can also appear in stories or be promoted in ads. Items that businesses have made available for purchase will appear within the shop, and users can either save items or place an order. (Some businesses enable users to make purchases directly on Facebook, while others will take you to the business’s website to complete the transaction.)

The launch of Shops comes as stay-at-home orders related to the COVID-19 pandemic and has led to record sales for e-commerce companies. Shops will begin rolling out on Facebook today in the United States and are coming to Instagram sometime this summer. Instagram will showcase brands on its existing shop account, which already highlights items that are available for purchase. Later in the year, it plans to add a dedicated shopping tab to its navigation bar

The CEO Mark Zuckerberg in a live stream said, “If you can’t physically open your store or restaurant, you can still take orders online and ship them to people,” he also added that,  “We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online businesses get online for the first time.”

While Shops are free to create, they could create important new business opportunities for Facebook in advertising, payments, and other services. Businesses will be able to buy ads for their Shops, and when people use Facebook’s checkout option, it charges them a fee.

Businesses can handle customer support issues through Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp. Eventually, the company plans to let you browse store catalogs and make purchases directly from the chat window. It also plans to enable shopping from live streams, allowing brands and creators to tag items from their Facebook catalogs so that they appear on the bottom of live videos.

Facebook is also working to integrate loyalty programs with shops. “You’ll be able to easily see and keep track of your points and rewards,” according to a blog post, the company is “exploring ways to help small businesses create, manage and surface a loyalty program on Facebook Shops.”

Zuckerberg further added that Shops will improve on the standard web commerce experience by storing users’ payment credentials in a single place that they can then use on any Facebook or Instagram storefront. There are currently more than 160 million small businesses using the company’s apps.

Facebook has been around in commerce for years. It introduced Marketplace, a destination within the app for peer-to-peer buying and selling in 2016, and  Facebook is betting that bringing more local businesses online will help them to endure while also creating big new business opportunities for Facebook itself.