Facebook is plunging further into e-commerce. During a time of social distancing, its new online selling feature could be a lifeline for your side hustle or small business.
The social media behemoth unveiled Facebook Shops, a virtual storefront accessible via Facebook and Instagram business pages. Mark Zuckerberg, CEO and founder of Facebook, announced the new feature in a live video May 19.
“It’s clear at this point COVID isn’t just a health emergency. It’s the biggest economic shock we’ve felt in our lifetime. As people are being told to stay home, small businesses are having a hard time staying open,” Zuckerberg said in the video. “One of the ways small businesses are surviving during this period is by moving more online, and I think this is going to be a bigger part of the future of commerce anyway.”
Shops are free to set up, though like many e-commerce websites, Facebook charges a fee for every sale completed through the platform. Until June 30, all seller fees are waived due to the coronavirus.
“Even if you’re just starting a business in your living room, Facebook Shops give you the same tools to build and operate your online storefront that global brands have had for reaching their customers,” Zuckerberg said.
How Do Facebook Shops Work?
In the video announcement, Zuckerberg painted a picture of how he envisions Facebook Shops to work: seamless integration across all Facebook apps, including Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, artificial intelligence that automatically detects products in a photo and links viewers with Shops, and augmented reality features that allow customers to “try on” products virtually.
Such integrations could have a big effect on side gigs and businesses that sell products. The features seem especially beneficial to influencers who make money through photos and content that feature visibly branded goods. As of now though, many of those features aren’t fully available. Additional updates are slated for release later this summer.
The core piece, Facebook Shops, is functioning and can automatically sync with your business’ Instagram account if you have one already set up.
To qualify for Facebook Shops, you must have:
- A Facebook business page.
- Physical products to sell.
- A valid U.S. bank account.
- A Tax Identification Number (TIN).
Your products must meet Facebook’s commerce standards (which are the same for Facebook Marketplace). For example, gift cards, firearms, drugs, alcohol, animals, jail-broken electronics and other items are banned. Certain items in Shops may automatically be listed on Marketplace, according to the fine print.
Before Shops, Facebook allowed some businesses to display catalogues of their items but not sell them directly through the social media website. Now, with Facebook Shops, customers can purchase your catalogued items without going to a different website to checkout.
“That of course means higher conversions and more sales for small businesses,” Zuckerberg said.
How to Set Up Facebook Shops
The new feature can be set up from a desktop computer, from the homepage of your Facebook business. The new “Shop” tab is on the left menu bar, under your business’s name. If you don’t see it listed, you may need to change your business profile’s template to one that supports the Shops feature.
Once the “Shop” tab is enabled, it will automatically add “/shop” to the end of your business page’s URL. From there, you can follow the prompts to set up as much product information as you want.
If you already run an ecommerce business on another site, you can import your product list, or create an entirely new one — all through Facebook’s Commerce Manager tool.
Through Commerce Manager, you’ll be prompted to add your business’s information and choose which shipping, customer service and payout options you want to implement. You can still choose to only list the products and not actually sell them should you want to channel your sales through a different website to avoid Facebook’s seller fees (when they restart).
When the per-sale fee waiver expires on June 30, Facebook will take 5% of the sales price per item that is purchased through Shops — or a flat 40-cent fee for items that cost $8 or less.
In his video announcement, Zuckerberg said Facebook will monetize Shops by selling ads to businesses, but he did not explain much about the associated seller fees.
According to a Facebook report on more than 80,000 small- and medium-sized businesses released May 18, 31% of respondents said their businesses are closed. As a result, the majority, 51%, of businesses are turning online to reach their customers.
“This isn’t going to make up for all of the lost business, but it can help.” Zuckerberg said. “And for lots of small businesses during this period, this is the difference between staying afloat or going under.”
Adam Hardy is a staff writer at Codetic. He covers the gig economy, entrepreneurship and unique ways to make money. Read his latest articles here, or say hi on Twitter @hardyjournalism.