Thousands of small businesses were forced to shift online in the last year due to lockdowns. Many were caught unprepared by the costs and the technical skills required to get online.
As most of us know, starting and maintaining a digital shop can be expensive. Many small brick-and-mortar stores aren’t equipped for online selling. Can you imagine your grandpa or grandma, still using a rotary phone, creating a website from scratch?
The Transformation of Social Networks to Ecommerce
Long before 2020, most social networks have been developing tools to shop straight from their platforms. First to bat is Facebook, which has recently launched Facebook Shops (and Instagram shops … you can interconnect them). Is this going to be a gamechanger for ecommerce?
Facebook Shops seems to have all the bases covered. It provides an opportunity for small businesses to survive and grow online. Your visitors can shop straight from Facebook and Instagram (again, if you set it up in both.) Setting up is simple. A couple steps, and you are set up to sell!
Facebook will automatically detect which ecommerce platform you are using from your business page. You simply click a few buttons:
Facebook Shops is designed to make shopping a more convenient and enjoyable experience for all users. On a PC or mobile device, your customers can browse through your catalog with ease while on Facebook properties. If you set it up this way, they can even pay for your products without going to your website (currently U.S. only, otherwise it is a link to your ecom website).
Of course, Facebook will earn money from ads and payment processing fees. It’s also a direct challenge to another giant, Amazon. This increased competition and additional sales channels is good for all of us.
How does it work?
This is your custom-made online store on the world’s most popular social media platform. You can create styles, add images and adopt a layout that reflects your brand. Also, you can edit your shop’s appearance any time you want. Your shop can reflect the passing seasons or trends so it always looks updated and fresh.
Depending on your current ecom platform, once you set up your shop, you will upload your product feed into Facebook. It will then auto-populate the shop with your products. Right now, you can add as many items as you want to your shop catalog. Customers can save those products they’re interested in. Through messaging apps, users can ask for more details and if they finally decide to buy, they can do so on Facebook or click to your website’s direct product page.
Why set up a Facebook shop?
Aside from being free, it acts as another sales channel for your business. Below are several other good reasons why I recommend opening up shop on Facebook:
- There are no site development, hosting and maintenance costs. These are compelling reasons for most online entrepreneurs.
- It’s an additional channel to sell your products. As a marketer, you want your brand visible on as many platforms as possible. Instead of clicking on links to your website or another platform, customers on FB can look at and buy your products.
- It could be where your target market is hanging out. You might be unaware, but millennials and Gen X aren’t the only ones active on Facebook. You’ll find more baby boomers now because of the pandemic.
- Your shop can connect to customers through Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. You have access to the entire Instagram network with a Facebook shop. That’s an additional 120 million users in the U.S. alone. There’s no need to create another shop on IG. You can invite your customers on this platform to visit your store. Aside from FB, you can promote your brand and provide customer support with WhatsApp and Messenger.
- Improved engagement with your products. It’s a big plus if customers can find a product’s details without leaving FB. They can search for your brand in both Facebook’s and Instagram’s search tabs. If you use Instagram Stories or Facebook Live Video, you can provide links to your shop.
On Facebook Shops, you can divide your products with similar features into specific types. Called collections, these will help your customers easily find your products. Also, these can be shared on Instagram.
It’s always about convenience. If you can make a buyer’s journey short and simple, chances of conversion become greater.
- Partnership with Shopify, WooCommerce, BigCommerce and others. Good news for you if you own a Shopify store. It can be completely integrated with Facebook Shops. You can conveniently sync your products. When you update Shopify, your FB shop is automatically updated too. Add Facebook as a sales channel on your Shopify account.
Integration with WooCommerce and BigCommerce is also easy. The best news is that the plugins you might need are also free. Based on feedback, integration with Etsy isn’t as easy. A lot of issues need to be fixed but, I’m sure a solution will be discovered soon.
- Flexible payment options. While setting up your shop, you determine how you’ll get paid. Your customers can pay on Facebook through Checkout. This is currently only available for U.S. users only. The other option is providing a link to your website to complete their purchase.
Facebook also promises that one day, customers can purchase items within a chat in WhatsApp, Instagram Direct and Messenger. It’s one of the features I hope will be available soon.
- It can be your first online store. That’s right! An existing digital shop is not a requirement to open a Facebook shop. You can promote products, answer inquiries and receive payments all within your FB shop.
Starting Your Shop In a Nutshell
There’s a couple ways to start your store. From your business page, click “Manage Shop.” You’re be introduced to Shops and how to begin. Another way is to navigate to Commerce Manager from your business account.
Both ways will take you to ship screen:
On the right, you’ll find the option to set up a test account. If you’re new, I suggest you try this out first to get a feel of the process. You can tweak your shop and manage a test inventory. A test shop cannot be converted to a regular account. But, you can place test orders using test credit cards.
Filling out the required information You’ll be asked about your business, products and preferred payout option. You’ll then be asked to add products. Your images should at least be 500 x 500 pixels. For best quality, Facebook recommends 1200 x 628, which is the recommended dimensions for Instagram.
Once you have the hang of it, you can add collections and customize your shop. You can preview and make adjustments until you’re happy with everything. When done, click Publish and wait for Facebook’s approval.
For more information, Facebook has an entire set of tutorials here.
Before You Open a Shop …
Barely a year old, Facebook Shops is still evolving and improving. Keep track of developments that will have a bearing on your store. Here are a few things to keep in mind.
- Your shop will not advertise itself. You have to let your target market know you opened an FB store. Users will most likely find info about your shop on your FB wall. Post engaging content and update often. Host contests or run surveys. Also, don’t forget to promote through your website, e-mail lists, other social media accounts and advertising.
- Comments can work against you. You can’t stop an unhappy customer from posting negative feedback on Facebook. Sure, you can delete it, but you never can tell if this has been seen or shared by others.
- The number of likes you get can be misleading. There are no current tools right now to determine if users are seeing your posts.
- Weigh the options of not having traffic going to your website. As a U.S.-based business, does it make sense to have your customers buy directly from Facebook without ever visiting your store? Or should you funnel them to your store first? We’re testing this right now to see which is more profitable for our business.
- Currently, only physical items can be sold in Facebook Shops. Digital products and services are not allowed. But, there’s talk that these may be accepted soon. Be sure to check with Facebook’s guidelines on what other products aren’t allowed in Shops.
- Search for feedback about Facebook Shops. There’s a growing community that voice concerns and share tips. I’ve learned a lot by reading these on Quora. For one, according to some shop owners, you can’t add referral programs or promo codes.
- For every sale on Facebook Shops, there’s a selling fee of 5% per shipment. If the cost is less than $8.00, the fee is $0.40. This might be too high for you, but compared to selling on Amazon, it’s definitely worth it.
- North American sellers are required to have a U.S. bank account. Facebook can only pay you through your bank. This is only significant if you have no other payment options available except through Facebook.
It definitely makes sense to open a free shop on Facebook if you already have an existing online store or plan to start one. It’s a selling and shopping solution for most if not everybody. Definitely don’t rely on it alone, as it’s still in its infancy and not many customers know about it. Instead, add it as a new marketing channel. Why not create another opportunity to sell your products with little to no effort?
Who has opened a Facebook Shop? How are you liking it? Please let us know in the comments section below.