Following Shopify’s expansion with Google – an expansion that brought shopping to a multitude of Google’s platforms – last week Facebook announced that it would be adding even more apps to its e-commerce shopping experience, including WhatsApp and Marketplace.
Several e-commerce updates were included in Facebook’s bid to make shopping for products across apps easier, including solutions for businesses to personalise shopping journeys with ads and the introduction of new technologies like Instagram visual search and AR Dynamic Ads.
Already a thriving commerce platform, Facebook Marketplace attracts ‘more than 1 billion people each month’, so by bringing Shops into Marketplace, businesses will be able to reach even more people. The new personalised ads option will also help these businesses target the right audience, providing users with a more attractive shopping experience where they are directed to a Shop’s curated collection at the click of a button.
Social media accounts are personal to users. We use these platforms to interact with friends and family, they are a way to communicate changes and life events to a large community of people, so by using these interactive platforms to present shopping ads that match a user’s needs and interests, it immediately increases chances of interactivity between business and customer.
Mark Zuckerberg, CEO of Facebook, commented on this interactivity in a post:
“Soon you’ll be able to view a Shop in WhatsApp so you can chat with a business before buying something. Businesses only need to set up their shop once to have it work across Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.”
At its recent F8 conference, Facebook also revealed updates to WhatsApp for Business. Previously a lengthy process and taking weeks to set up a business account, now businesses can sign up in just a few minutes. The aim of this update is to increase the number of businesses using WhatsApp Business accounts daily for things like customer support, as despite WhatsApp having more than 2 billion global users, only around 175 million businesses use these accounts by means of support.
This opportunity to provide immediate, accessible support will improve the interactivity between business and customer and will provide a more personal, attractive shopping experience.
However, a potential obstacle Facebook and businesses that use these platforms will have to consider is the recent concerns over data privacy policies. As WhatsApp’s user data are vital if Facebook is to achieve these e-commerce ambitions fully.
Much like other social platforms, Facebook has been tracking users online for years without ever asking for consent. However, recently Apple challenged this policy with the introduction of App Tracking Transparency (ATT), a new privacy protection framework for Apple device owners.
ATT came with the most recent Apple iPhone update and demanded apps to ask you for permission before tracking you across iPhone apps and services.
Facebook was, of course, very vocal in its opposition to ATT since the feature was first announced last year. The social network even took out full-page newspaper ads to criticise Apple’s privacy move, claiming the update would hurt small businesses the most. These adverts also featured small businesses talking about how they only survived the pandemic because of targeted ads.
Facebook argues that sharing data with advertisers is key to giving users “better experiences”. It also says that Apple is being hypocritical, as it will force businesses to turn to subscriptions and other in-app payments for revenue, from which Apple takes a cut.
WhatsApp’s user data are vital if Facebook is to achieve its e-commerce ambitions, and the social media company is pushing ahead with controversial changes to its privacy policies. However, even though new visibility has seemed to increase customer anxiety over privacy, WhatsApp users are unlikely to abandon the platform en masse due to the challenges inherent in switching to another service.
The next feature Facebook will aim to bring to its Shop Ads developments is the AR Dynamic Ad feature, which will be included across multiple apps. This ‘try before you buy’ feature will quite literally allow users to impose a product on an image taken by themselves.
AR Dynamic Ads are already available in the United States — companies like Huda Beauty and Laura Mercier are using these ads to let customers test lipstick shades with AR before making a purchase.
These AR try-on experiences are made available through API integrations with Modiface and Perfect Corp and will also allow users to search for products similar to those on the image.
“A lot of shopping discovery begins with visual discovery, right, so you see something that you think is awesome. And then, you know, maybe you want to see other products that are like that, or you want to figure out how to get that product. This is the type of problem that AI can really help out with.”
Although basic Facebook Shops and Marketplace features are readily available, it has not yet been announced with these Facebook Shop enhancement features will be introduced for Facebook and WhatsApp in the UK.