Facebook advertisers have more shopping tools thanks to an update announced by CEO Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday, including the ability to target to shopping preferences and augmented-reality ads for consumers to virtually test goods before clicking “buy.”
The shopping updates came as part of a talk Zuckerberg held in a live audio room, one of Facebook’s other new products, which mimics the Clubhouse app. To show off how those audio sessions can be useful to brands, Zuckerberg came with product announcements of his own.
Zuckerberg revealed that Shops, the digital storefronts on Facebook and Instagram, would expand to WhatsApp, the messaging app, and Marketplace, which is a kind of digital flea market on Facebook. Also, a new Shops ad product helps “provide a personalized ads experience based on people's individual shopping preferences,” Zuckerberg said in the live audio announcement.
In the announcement, Facebook execs talked with e-commerce leaders from Sephora, and discussed other retail partners like Abercrombie & Fitch and Alleyoop.
Shopping is not a new focus for Facebook, but it is a critical one. The company is competing with Amazon, Google, Walmart, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest and others in a converging world of social and commerce. One key for Facebook is that direct sales from the platform can help it become more intelligent in analyzing consumer behavior. As Apple and Google both restrict access to internet data from phones and web browsers, Facebook is looking to encourage activity that stays within its walls and help brands reach target audiences, measure ad campaigns, and develop better intelligence on soon-to-be customers.
The announcement also showed that Facebook is particularly interested in a space that has so far been dominated by Snapchat, melding augmented reality and shopping. Snapchat has been leading the way with AR Lenses, which brands create for consumers to try products digitally through their cameras. Facebook said that “AR dynamic ads” were now available in the U.S. Dynamic ads are ones that can link to retailers product catalogs and update in real-time to show correct pricing and other variables.
Last year, Facebook pushed heavily into e-commerce as more shopping began to be conducted from the home during the pandemic. Facebook opened Shops, which gave brands the ability to set up digital stores similar to how they maintain a presence on Amazon. Last month, Facebook was still tweaking its offering with a new feature called “Drops” in Instagram, a place for brands to launch new products.
Facebook said there are now 1.2 million “active Shops” on its platform, including Instagram, and that 300 million visitors view them each month.