Anthony Quintano from Honolulu, HI, United States [CC BY]

Facebook’s new intervention could help small businesses get some relief amid the economic implications posed by the pandemic. The tech giant has launched “Shops” on both Facebook and Instagram, which lets these businesses build digital shops to directly sell their products to customers across Facebook’s apps. The purpose is to help these businesses manage and improve the customer journey end-to-end, and of course get Facebook’s foot into the lucrative digital commerce sector.

Mark Zuckerberg announced the launch in a Facebook post, “I think this particularly important right now because so many small businesses are moving online to deal with the economic fallout from Covid-19.”

Given the state of affairs, small businesses that maintain physical shops are bearing the brunt of the pandemic as most countries are under lockdown. Since there is no certainty regarding when life can switch back to normal, these businesses are threatened.

Averse from the physicalities of shopping, Facebook Shops lets you enter online shops set up by small stores and allows customers to view the story of the business and their featured products which can then bought on the apps. This cuts out the time staking process of switching to a browser and re-entering a credit card code if a user happens to like a product.

Considering convenience, the shops are easy to create and manage. When they first set up, they will appear on Instagram and Facebook and soon on Messenger and Whatsapp too.

Aiming to build a handy eco-system of tools for these businesses, Facebook is also working with partners like Shopify, BigCommerce, WooCommerce, Channel Advisor, CedCommerce, Cafe24, Tienda Nube and Feednomics. The businesses can decide on the level of integration they desire.

Coming to the apps, Facebook is engineering them to build a shopping experience for the users. On Instagram, there will be a dedicated shopping tab as well as a section on the explore page where users can find and purchase products they like. We can also anticipate a live shopping feature on Facebook and Instagram which will allow users to shop live in real-time.

The tech giant is also using its AI prowess to further improve the experience. In a post detailing the new launch, Mark Zuckerberg says, “In the near future Shops will use our AI and augmented reality tech to create better shopping experiences. We’ll automatically identify and tag products in feeds so people can easily click-through to purchase when they find things they like. Small businesses will also be able to personalize their storefronts to first show products that are most relevant to you and use augmented reality to let you virtually try on things like sunglasses, lipstick or makeup to see how they might look on you before buying, or what furniture might look like in your room.”

The move will surely help small businesses recover some level operations, as they would get a platform to continue to showcase their products. As a whole, Facebook provides an entire package that could help someone grow a business they may be running alone within the confines of their room. At the same time, Facebook gets a chance to step a foot into the lucrative ecommerce sector, albeit through small and medium businesses. Facebook has been pretty serious on that front, with a recent $5.7Bn investment in India’s Jio platforms aimed particularly at developing something like ‘Shops.