Social media has long since been a powerful way to connect with customers, for both small businesses and global brands alike. Now, thanks to what Facebook has coined ‘social commerce’, you can convert more of those connections into sales from right within your social platforms.
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On May 19th, the social media giant announced the early release of Facebook Shops – digital storefronts designed to make the process of online retail that much easier.

The Difference Between Marketspace & Shops

The platform already dabbles in social commerce through Facebook Marketplace, a feature generally used by individuals to sell unwanted items. Whilst some small business owners have utilised Marketplace as an outlet, the Facebook Shops feature is specifically geared towards professional online retail with far greater functionality.

Free to set up and accessible through both Facebook and Instagram, Facebook Shops are already available to some, with a global rollout planned for the coming months.

Its plans also include early release of the Instagram Shop feature, which will allow users to browse, discover and buy from brands directly through Instagram Explore.

In light of the current pandemic, these new features are a welcome addition for many. So, what do they mean for small businesses looking to adapt?

Facebook & Instagram Shops for Small Business

It was only a few weeks ago that Google made its move to support small businesses by allowing them to sell products for free on Google Shopping. Now Facebook has opened up another revenue stream, available to everyone regardless of budget, since Facebook Shops are also free to set up. But the real benefit of Facebook Shops is that they allow you to sell from a space where your audience are already actively engaging with your brand.

Customers can find your Shop through your Facebook Page, Instagram Profile, stories or ads. Once they’re there, they can browse your products catalogue, save items to their basket and, in some cases, even complete the payment transaction without ever stepping foot outside of the app.

Businesses can also offer customer support with direct communication through Facebook Messenger, Instagram Direct or WhatsApp.

If you’re a small business that’s had to close a physical store, Facebook Shops offer an efficient way to move your operations online. After all, if you’ve been active with social media marketing, you’ll already have a strong following of customers that relate to your brand. Where better to sell to them?

For those already selling online, Facebook is working in collaboration with major eCommerce platforms, including Shopify and BigCommerce, to make tracking and inventory as seamless as possible.

How Social Media Will Impact the Future of eCommerce

Whether the current upward trend in online retail will continue after lockdown restrictions begin to unwind remains to be seen. But Facebook’s plans suggest that it sees social commerce as a major future player.

In addition to features already released, it’s also working on in-chat purchases made through WhatsApp, Messenger and Instagram Direct, as well as Live Shopping, where brands can tag items before a live stream and have product links appear in real time. It’s also looking at ways of connecting loyalty programmes to a user’s Facebook account, and helping small businesses develop their own reward schemes linked to their Facebook shops.

There’s no exact date yet as to when these features will be widely available, but it goes without saying that if you want to make full use of the Facebook Shop feature, you’ll need to build your social reputation.

Requesting Reviews for Facebook & Instagram Shops

Whatever platform you’re selling through online, you should look to build credibility by collecting more authentic customer reviews.

Whatever platform you’re selling through online, you should look to build credibility by collecting authentic customer reviews. Facebook operates a review system internal to its own platforms, but reviews collected through your Facebook page, don’t contribute to your Google Seller Rating.

That’s not to say you shouldn’t collect Facebook reviews. Now more than ever you want those trust signals that support potential buyers to make an informed decision. As well as feedback left on your page directly, customers can direct their review invitations to facebook reviews, which allows you to collect on multiple business solutions improving their reputation.

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