Facebook Shops gets updates, including an integration with WhatsApp messaging, coming soon.

Facebook on Tuesday unveiled new updates coming to Facebook Shops, the new social commerce offerings available across its primary network and Instagram.

Taking a page from the latter network, the parent company created a dedicated Shop section in its app so users don’t have to wait for interesting items to populate their feed or go to the merchant’s store on its Facebook page.

“Facebook Shop is going to make it easier for people to find products and new businesses,” George Lee, director of product management, told WWD. “They’ll be able to find products and businesses that they already love and engage on the platform, and [it will] also make it easy to make purchases all in one place.”

According to Lee, the company started testing it in the U.S., and is now ready to launch it.

The social media giant also introduced new merchant tools, including new layouts, real-time previews for product collections and new features for data metrics, “so you can see how the shop is doing,” Lee said, adding that the company is also working on a new ad unit so Facebook Shop sellers can “buy an ad and point it to Shop as well, if they want.”

The changes arrive alongside deeper integrations with Facebook’s messaging apps so users can contact stores directly via chat.

“Think of this as the equivalent of walking into a store and asking an associate for help with a recommendation or what sneaker might fit me best based on my running style. That requires a level of back and forth,” said Vishal Shah, vice president of product at Instagram. “We think messaging can be a really powerful driver.”

According to Shah, when shoppers see a product inside Shop, there will be a button that takes them to a messaging thread on Instagram Direct, Messenger and, soon, WhatsApp as well.

The company plans to release another update that brings Instagram Checkout to all sellers in the U.S. in the coming weeks, and it won’t charge for it for the rest of 2020. Waiving fees seems to be Facebook’s modus operandi lately, as it also waived fees for its Paid Online Events.

Merchants will be able to control the details either on their Commerce Manager dashboard or through vendors like BigCommerce and Shopify, with more likely to follow, as Facebook is working to expand its list of partners.

“Creating a streamlined checkout experience is paramount for merchants looking to social commerce to drive revenue growth,” said Brent Bellm, chief executive officer of BigCommerce. “The rollout of Checkout on Instagram is another significant step in Instagram’s evolution toward becoming an essential commerce channel for customer-focused brands.”

Badgley Mishka has been working with Instagram Checkout, and credits it for having “given us the ability to turn beautiful imagery into shoppable experiences for our customers, allowing them to buy new items while scrolling through their feed,” said Katie Ouaknine, ceo and owner of Badgley Mischka Web, the e-commerce business unit of the brand.

Working with BigCommerce, the brand can fulfill orders and communicate with customers on the platform right alongside its other sales channels.

Insta sellers have even more to dive into beyond Checkout. Instagram’s Live Shopping feature is ready to graduate to a full U.S. rollout. The social media company announced that it’s opening up the experience to all Instagram merchants in the U.S.

Shopping via video livestream — largely understood as the newfangled, techie version of QVC — was already underway before the coronavirus pandemic. Live shopping’s traction in Asia inspired interest in the U.S., with development from players such as Amazon, NBC Universal and many others, including a rising tide of new startups. Facebook’s own acquisition of video commerce start-up Packgd in December hinted at what was to come.

As e-commerce traffic swells among shoppers stuck at home, the live shopping trend has soared. And companies like Facebook and Instagram are betting it’s here to stay.

Shah breaks down the experience on Instagram: “A consumer, when they’re seeing that ‘live,’ can click on it, and purchase it from directly inside the livestream, even without having to leave the ‘live,’” he explained. “We think that’s going to be a really important way of bringing the purchase behavior into the live stream experience.”

If he’s right, e-commerce and social commerce may never be the same again.

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