In May 2020, Facebook announced the release of Shops, a free ecommerce platform designed for businesses across both Facebook and Instagram. Shops will utilise third-party services, such as Shopify, Woo, and BigCommerce, to turn the social network into a shopping experience for users.
During the pandemic, many traditional retailers made the transition to ecommerce out of necessity to remain operational. And although businesses are now open again, online shopping isn’t going away, so putting your business in a position where it is accessible and available to buyers in the comfort of their own home is an immediate advantage.
While Facebook Shops provide an easy shopping experience for the end consumer, it’s worth considering the advantages and disadvantages of Shops compared to other channels, including your own online store. So, why have an ecommerce website when platforms like Shops are available?
The reality is, people want to buy from brands they can trust
Studies show that between 70-80% of people research a company online before visiting the small business or making a purchase with them (1). Having a business website will set you apart from any competitors who operate solely on platforms such as Etsy, Amazon, eBay, and now Shops, and will better support your future goals for your business. Developing sales channels across multiple platforms will help you build your brand’s footprint, and can increase sales. Having your own website gives you control over your branding, design and SEO, and it supports you as a professional and reliable business, as well as setting you up for better future growth, especially if you’re a B2B business or looking to build relationships with retailers.
While Shops will assist in brand recognition for your audience, we recommend businesses to send their customers to their website to complete their transaction. Facebook’s goal is to keep users inside of their platform, which also makes it much trickier to get all the valuable analytical data about your customers that can help develop your business and marketing strategies.
Shops has many advantages and exciting features, but don’t put all your eggs in one basket
There are some interesting features in Shops to enhance the social experience for consumers. You can connect with consumers directly through Facebook Messenger, Instagram or WhatsApp, Businesses products will appear in Facebook and Instagram stories, and can also be promoted in ads. There are also plans to browse store catalogues and purchase directly from the chat window in the future, as well as enable shopping from Live Stream videos. Facebook is also looking at integrating a loyalty program with Shops, to further enhance the consumer experience.
While these features are positive, and exciting, businesses should always sell through multiple channels. If you think about how your business may have advertised or sold in the past, it is likely that you never relied on one source. Instead, you probably utilised social media, email newsletters, Google ads, community engagement, traditional advertising, and a mix of other advertising and promotion channels. Most often, it isn’t one specific activity that brings in a result, but the cumulative effect of your efforts across multiple streams. You should think about Shops in the same way – as one tool in your toolbox.
So, what’s the solution?
All this said, Facebook Shops can be a great starting point for adding an ecommerce option for your business, or to add an extra level of convenience for your customers. But it should just be a tool in your toolbox. We recommend investing in a professional ecommerce website, which will set you up for growth long term. WordPress is the top platform globally for small business websites, and it is extremely flexible, allowing you to grow the site and improve its design and functionality over time. Using a WordPress website, you can add additional features to your site (such as Shopify for ecommerce), control the branding and design of the site, and enhance your SEO and organic reach: something that you cannot do with Shops, eBay, or Etsy alone.
The long-term possibilities and design features of using Shops on its own are more limited, and can end up holding back your business. Your business can grow sales and reach new customers by combining a range of tools: investing in a professional website, boosting organic reach on Google, using effective digital marketing, and creating brand recognition. By collecting customer information, and re-promoting your products or services to previous buyers, you can turn the once-off buyer into someone who both trusts and recommends your business again and again.
- Betsy McLeod, November 26, 2019, “75+ Small Business Statistics to Help Your Digital Marketing Strategy”, https://www.bluecorona.com/blog/29-small-business-digital-marketing-statistics/