Facebook users can now buy products directly on brand Pages without visiting an external site. The company announced this week that it would turn the Pages of a few dozen brands into miniature “shops,” without charging vendors a cut.
“With the shop section on the page, we’re now providing businesses with the ability to showcase their products directly on the page,” Facebook product marketing manager Emma Rodgers told BuzzFeed News.
With online commerce seen soaring to $350 billion this year, social platforms are vying for a share of the action. Facebook tested a “Buy” button last year, as did Twitter. Pinterest recently unveiled its own buy button, followed this week by Google.
The initial popularity of Like2Buy, Instagram’s foray into e-commerce, reveals thriving consumer interest in social commerce. While the non-native platform created some friction in terms of usability, it substantially increased shopping overall. Early adopter Forever 21 received more than 38,000 outbound clicks to its website through Like2Buy, with an 80% click-through rate. Those who used the platform were also more active shoppers: mobile visitors directed through Instagram spent 24% more time on the Forever 21 website.
However, revenues and conversion from social commerce have largely remained low, even for WeChat, whose Shopping and Payment functions make it easy for consumers to buy products without leaving the app. WeChat saw stronger growth in brand adoption than any other platform last year, with brands like Tommy Hilfiger, Maybelline and Neutrogena integrating in-app commerce. Yet only 2% of brands in L2’s Digital IQ Index: Social Platforms employed the app’s full e-commerce functions.
Facebook’s history of about-faces could make brands wary of investing too much in “shops” on the social platform. In 2014, Facebook caused consternation among Page owners when it announced news feed changes that would force them to pay to boost content if they wanted it to reach their communities – which many had already spent money to develop. Publishers have also been cautious of getting involved in Instant Articles, wary if publishing directly on the platform will benefit them in the long run.
In jumping into social commerce, platforms like Facebook and Instagram may be overlooking a bigger opportunity. More consumers trust user-generated photos than brand or professional photos, and an increasing number of brands are investing in creating content. Social media’s greatest potential might be in influencing consumers rather than pushing immediate sales.