Coronavirus: Facebook Shops debuts as virtual marketplace for small businesses

Facebook Shops debuts as virtual marketplace for small businesses amid coronavirus

Facebook and Instagram are entering the online marketplace, allowing small businesses to set up free storefronts on the social media platforms.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said the decision to go head to head against more established online shopping platforms such as Amazon, eBay, and Etsy was in response to the coronavirus pandemic.

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“It’s clear at this point that COVID isn’t just a health emergency,” Zuckerberg told The Wall Street Journal on Tuesday when the Shops concept was rolled out. “It’s also the biggest economic shock that we’ve felt in our lifetime.”

Zuckerberg said the virtual shops would appear on businesses’ Facebook and Instagram accounts, and he plans to expand the storefronts to the Messenger and WhatsApp messaging platforms, the newspaper reported.

Small businesses would be able to personalize their sites to show specific products, Zuckerberg said. Shoppers will be able to purchase items through links to the businesses’ websites or by using Instagram’s checkout feature, which takes a cut of the sale, NPR reported. A checkout feature on Facebook will become available in the future, the website reported.

“We’re seeing a lot of small businesses that never had online presences get online for the first time, and we’re seeing small businesses that had online presences now make them their primary way of doing business,” Zuckerberg said in a livestreamed announcement Tuesday. “For lots of small businesses during this period, this is the difference between staying afloat and going under.”

Zuckerberg said Facebook would not charge small businesses to create their virtual storefronts.

“We know that if (Facebook) Shops are valuable for businesses they’re going to in general want to bid more for ads. We’ll eventually make money that way,” Zuckerberg told NPR.

Zuckerberg told CBS News that online shoppers would not have their privacy compromised.

“No, we’re not going to tell anyone what you’re buying or your shopping history across our services without your permission,” Zuckerberg told the network." And that’s not really a big part of this experience. This is really more about people being able to connect with the small businesses that they care about."

Facebook and Instagram unveiled virtual shops for small businesses Tuesday.
Facebook and Instagram unveiled virtual shops for small businesses Tuesday. (Jaap Arriens/NurPhoto via Getty Images)