Facebook is pushing forward with its missive to become not only the dominant platform for people to connect with friends, but to facilitate commerce.
This week, tens of thousands of additional merchants will now have the ability to add a custom “Shop” section to their Facebook Page. Like a digital storefront that resides on Facebook, the Shop section is a way for merchants to share merchandise and ultimately direct customers to complete the transaction on their e-commerce site.
The news is the result of a new partnership between BigCommerce, the engine that powers the e-commerce presence of many small and midsize retailers, and it was shared to coincide with this week’s F8 developer conference in San Francisco.
BigCommerce has worked with Facebook for a number of years, said BigCommerce Nate Stewart, senior product manager. BigCommerce first began working on the Shop section of Facebook Pages in fall 2015, when Facebook also began testing a unique “Shopping” bookmark on its mobile application that acts as an aggregator for all the items available for sale on Facebook. (Facebook began testing the Shop section on individual pages in July.)
“The collaboration was fueled by a mutual desire to help more BigCommerce merchants reach and attract customers across Facebook’s mobile and desktop platforms,” Stewart said. “There is a lot of interest from our merchants to grow their Facebook presence, and using Facebook as a sales channel is certainly one of their top priorities.”
This especially makes the mobile shopping experience more accessible for the types of retailers who work with BigCommerce. Research has shown that mobile users tend to only regularly use about five mobile applications, and that the mobile shopping experience is a notable sticking point, due to slow lead times and a clunky design. By attracting shoppers first on Facebook, these merchants can capitalize on the ubiquity of the platform and its robust infrastructure.
This also means that despite some skepticism that social media users will turn to the platform to shop, Facebook is forging ahead with that mind-set. (This week, company chief executive officer Mark Zuckerberg also shared that Facebook’s Messenger platform would begin allowing businesses to use bots to correspond with and sell to users.)
“While still in the early days, we believe contextual commerce — meaning, selling in context of wherever shoppers are — will have a transformative impact on online retail during the next few years,” Stewart said. “Today, shoppers have so many places to discover new brands, and we want to make sure our merchants and their products are easily discoverable and available everywhere a potential customer could find them.”
BigCommerce had previously tested this capability with some merchants, but this week’s news means that any retailer running their e-commerce operations through BigCommerce can now begin testing this. The products will also potentially appear in the Shopping bookmark, which has since been named “Marketplace.” Marketplace culls product from the businesses that have a Shop section, based on the pages that a Facebook user has “liked,” in addition to products for sale from people (via Sale Groups).
To participate, merchants selling to U.S. shoppers can upload and manage their product catalog in Facebook’s Business Manager control panel. Facebook users will begin seeing the additional Shop sections immediately.
Earlier this month, BigCommerce introduced an option for its merchants to automatically sync their offering with eBay, and it also facilitates “Buy” buttons on other platforms like Twitter and Pinterest.
As eMarketer analyst Krista Garcia told WWD when the Shopping bookmark was announced, social media still isn’t where most consumers turn first when shopping, but Facebook is the leading platform when adding social to the mix. “Turning shoppers into buyers is what all of the social networks are trying to master right now,” Garcia said, “and it’s to be seen if this will be a measurable success.”