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Facebook aims to be a “new Westfield”

Facebook is set to be a “new Westfield” according to its local retail lead, with a number of changes to the way businesses can reach customers pushing the social media closer to an online shopping centre than ever before.

In a series of announcements this morning, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg detailed the quest to build the world’s largest shoppable social media platform: bringing ‘shops’ to WhatsApp and Facebook Marketplace, visual search to Instagram, and personalised and targeted ads to take customers to where they are most likely to spend – be that a Facebook shop, a third party marketplace, or an individual retailer’s website.

“Instagram and Facebook are a new Westfield,” said Kate Box, head of retail at Facebook ANZ.

“We are making the online shopping journey more personalised, more entertaining, and more seamless. Capabilities like shoppable media, branded content, social shopping and messenger for customer service are available in Australia.”

The announcements, according to Box, show that Facebook is doubling down on shopping as consumers increasingly turn online for their spending.

Bringing ‘Shops’ to more places is aimed at making it easier for businesses to reach their customers, essentially providing a secondary e-commerce store that can operate in tandem with their own website and other marketplaces they may sell through. These shops can now appear in Facebook’s WhatsApp messaging service, and can be linked to Facebook Marketplace to allow products to also appear there.

And, using its lead in the technologies space, Facebook is investing further in augmented reality and artificial intelligence to help customers make informed decisions about what to buy.

Customers will soon be able to use a visual search function to find similar products.

Customers will be able to use visual search on Instagram to find similar products to ones they find online, and will eventually expand to photos taken on the user’s camera. Additionally, the business’ AR capabilities will extend to helping brands show off their products on the screen, allowing customers to virtually try on products from the comfort of their own home.

Live shopping, as well, will be a focus. According to Box, live shopping is something that has largely catered to brands with smaller followings, as it becomes cumbersome to handle a “large scale of sales while live“.

“We are bringing new tools to enable large businesses to scale product sales in live shopping,” said Box, though didn’t elaborate further on what these tools would be.

The announcements, while aimed at helping businesses to use Facebook as a shopping destination and drive ad revenue, are also part of a larger push by Facebook to keep its users within its own ecosystem.

Yesterday the business announced it will launch Clubhouse-style live audio rooms in the US, will begin allowing users to listen to podcasts within the Facebook app while scrolling, and has a “pact” with Spotify which will see the audio player integrate with the Facebook App, according to Variety.

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