Facebook Inc, a social media giant and a leader in digital ads, is launching new features and tools for businesses to find and connect with potential customers on its platform, said the giant last week as it is looking to become a proper online shopping destination (1).
These new features will help Facebook offer personalized shopping experiences to its users, stated Karandeep Anand, Facebook’s Business Products Vice President (2).
Businesses will add a button on their Instagram profiles and allow people to send messages on WhatsApp with a single click. The integration with WhatsApp is particularly essential for customers in countries like Brazil and India, where the Facebook-owned messaging platform dominates the market, added Anand.
Facebook also stated that it would start testing the ability for businesses to send emails directly via Facebook Business Suite. This feature allows brands to manage their presence across all the company’s apps to simplify how brands reach their customers.
In addition, it will text new work accounts to let employees manage brands’ business pages without needing to log from their accounts. Notably, the new business tools come on Friday, 17th September, a day after WhatsApp started testing a new feature in Brazil that allows users to find shops and services via an in-app directory for the first time, as part of its effort to bolster ecommerce on its services (3).
I’m excited we’re starting to pilot a local business directory within @WhatsApp. This will help you find and contact local businesses, like your neighborhood coffee shop, florist, clothing store and more.https://t.co/kNvUtn7FWR
— Will Cathcart (@wcathcart) September 15, 2021
With the newly added tools and features, Facebook aims to make its platform easier for businesses to navigate. In turn, brands will have an improved chance to appeal to potential customers by offering far more complete shopping experiences.
People can easily find their favorite brands on the platform and be aware of new products and businesses with better discovery options. Facebook has described these new tools as setting notes for the “next era of personalized experiences.” Keep on reading to know more.
First, Let’s See The Significance of WhatsApp’s In-App Business Directory
In an interview, Matt Idema, the Vice President of Business Messaging at Facebook (4), stated, “the new feature can be the primary way people start a commerce process in the messaging platform.”
Unlike Facebook and Instagram, WhatsApp does not run ads on its app. According to Idema, previously, businesses used to promote their WhatsApp numbers on packaging or websites or via Facebook or Instagram ads to bring users into their WhatsApp chats.
However, with the new in-app local business directory, people will directly find and connect with local businesses such as florists, clothing stores, coffee shops, etc.
Facebook-owned WhatsApp increasingly courts its business users with a specialized app for small business owners and an API-like software interface for larger businesses to connect with their revenue-generating systems.
As online retail continues to boom amid the coronavirus pandemic, Facebook seems to be pushing in-app shopping features across its platforms. In June, Facebook’s boss Mark Zuckerberg announced Facebook’s Shops feature would expand to WhatsApp across different countries. WhatsApp has also launched multiple shopping tools in the recent past, including product catalogs and shopping carts.
According to Idema, the new test will include thousands of businesses in different categories like retail, food, and local services across certain neighborhoods in Sao Paulo. He further added that countries like India and Indonesia are excellent candidates to expand the feature.
WhatsApp also can introduce in-app ads in the near future.
“There is also a possible route on ads, which is the core business model of Facebook. I believe over the long term, in some form or another, it would also become a part of WhatsApp’s business model,” said Idema.
Notably, Facebook had bought WhatsApp for 19 billion USD in 2014, but it has been slow to monetize its features. As per Idema, the messaging company is also excited about non-ad models such as building software to allow businesses to manage their offerings across all of Facebook’s platforms (5).
Now, coming back to Facebook’s new business tools.
You may find a bit too much to take in here.
Last week, Facebook announced a cohort of new tools to help brands establish a more direct connection with potential customers with a specific focus on personalized messaging (6). At the same time, Facebook is also looking to improve business discovery and offer new management options to improve business activity and reach.
The new updates are part of the social media giant’s broader business push, including Facebook Shop, ensuring that “the best dollar people spend each day” is on Facebook.
You may find the statement odd; however, there are some potentially significant new elements in this release.
Initially, Facebook is rolling out new click-to-message adoptions, expanding a business’s capacity to engage with consumers in different messaging platforms.
“Businesses can already purchase ads that encourage users to send them messages on either messenger, WhatsApp, or Instagram Direct. Now, brands can select all the messaging apps where they are available to chat, and we will default the chat app in your ad based on where a conversation is most likely to occur,” stated Facebook (7).
You can now build a message ad with the new feature. Facebook will detect which individual user uses which messaging platform most often and then prompt them to message your business on that service.
It could be quite beneficial since, as per Facebook, over 75% of adults wish to communicate with a business via messaging. Simultaneously, it also seems quite high. However, even if that number is partially correct, offering a means for each individual to connect you on the messaging platform as per their preference can lead to an increased response.
Once you build an intimate connection, it can be a valuable engagement and interactive tool to build more personal and direct relationships with each user. Of course, not all brands will benefit from the future. However, it can be a good consideration even for marketing experiments to incorporate Facebook’s messaging services.
It is worth highlighting that Facebook has made Login Connect with messenger also available (8). Keeping on with the messaging themes, Facebook has now availed businesses to add a WhatsApp click-to-chat button on their Instagram profile.
You can now add a WhatsApp button on your Instagram profile to encourage profile visitors to get in touch via WhatsApp messenger.
It can significantly help businesses that mainly focus on WhatsApp to maximize their exposure and connection. With Facebook focusing big on WhatsApp business tools (9), as we discussed at the beginning of the article, Instagram could be a key visual accompaniment for the messaging service.
With Facebook also coming up with ads that redirect users to WhatsApp, all of these emphasized that WhatsApp business could be a major element in Facebook’s ongoing growth. Notably, WhatsApp is already a key connector in emerging markets such as India.
If Facebook could get more businesses relying on WhatsApp amid the ecommerce boom, such additional elements could play a big role in amplifying Facebook’s overall efforts.
Facebook is also testing a new option on its main platform, allowing businesses to select four to five questions to ask customers before starting a chat.
The idea is the feature will help streamline business response by offering more context ahead of the conversation. Simultaneously, it can also narrow down the information you need to provide a quote for a query.
It is somewhat similar to the automated reply options Facebook has had for its Messenger app for some time (10). However, by incorporating it into Facebook directly, there is another way to spark a conversation and get that initial interaction going, making warmer leaders.
Notably, Facebook is also looking to roll out a similar feature on Instagram in the upcoming months.
Moving aside from direct messaging, Facebook adds new email and messaging capabilities to its Business Suite management platform (11). These tools will make it easier for brands to manage their full marketing and outreach the app’s flow.
The primary addition on this front it’s the ability to send remarketing emails from the Business Suite.
Last year, Facebook had tested similar capacity in its Pages, offering businesses the ability to send customized marketing emails via their Facebook page. The expansion of email tools in Business Suites also offers the same purpose, moving Facebook’s marketing tools into a broader range with more complete CRM capabilities through Facebook’s apps.
Even though all of these features may sound good, they can also increase reliability for brands on Facebook. And it has not always ended so well for businesses in the past.
Moreover, Facebook is also offering a new File Manager option to Business Suite, making it easier for brands to manage their Facebook content via the app. The company is also adding Post Testing, through which you will be able to compare different versions of a post to see with which one users are more likely to engage (12).
The process will allow you to upload up to four versions of their posts, which Facebook will test with sample audiences to gather response data. Then, you can put ad spend behind the winner to drive better results.
Facebook is also testing a new option named “Work Accounts,” allowing business managers to utilize Facebook’s services using a separate profile instead of their personal log-in.
“brands routinely tell us that they look for access to business products with separate credentials from their personal Facebook account. We are testing Work Accounts to simplify the process, allowing business users to log in and operate Business Manager without needing a personal account. Businesses can manage these accounts on behalf of their employees and access enterprise-level features like single sign-on interactions, offering them more control over the security of their employees’ accounts.”
The feature can be particularly helpful for social media management teams and ad partners who can access brand business accounts without requiring credentials added to their personal accounts.
Yes, it would tie any changes on the account back to your business profile itself, which can lead to some difficulties in tracking, especially if several people are making changes to your brand information. However, it can be helpful to have an option and not use personal log-in, especially amid the rising concerns about data privacy.
Facebook will test Work Accounts with a small selection of brands through the remainder of 2021 and will go for a broader launch in 2022.
And the social media giant works to attract more businesses; it also aims to roll out a new program that will bundle third-party tools into a broader business startup package.
“For instance, we will start to allow some small brands to access a bundle that will include valuable benefits and tools like Facebook ad coupon bundled with free access to QuickBooks, an accounting software for a limited time or free access to creative looks like Canva Pro for a limited time.”
Facebook aims to gain as many prospective Facebook business partners as possible amid the rising interest in online marketing. The company is looking to increase the appeal of its services and get more SMBs by offering a more comprehensive business offering.
Phew! And lastly, Facebook is also aiming at expanding its Business Explore program (13) to more people in the United States and other nations, including Malaysia, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Philippines, South Africa, Singapore, and the United Kingdom.
The Business Explore process, which Facebook had started testing in April, highlights related content from Facebook Pages below posts when users check out or hover over certain updates within their feel (14). From there, users can tap and find similar topics and brands, helping to guide them towards more businesses on the platform.
According to Facebook, the option will allow people to connect with new and relevant businesses while also helping brand new customers and drive more consideration leading to purchases. In short, Facebook is looking to enable a stronger brand connection via its new features and tool with a direct linkage to messaging tools, making it easier for you to get in touch and establish a relationship with each of your potential customers.
Did Facebook Find a Way to Dissolve Threats to its Targeted Ads Business?
Wait, What? Facebook may say it will help enable personalized connections. But, there seems to be more to these features. At least to some degree, they allow Facebook to avoid Apple’s app tracking update, limiting the amount of data Facebook can collect on its users’ interaction with businesses.
If Facebook can offer more direct connections, both Facebook and the business can track and negate some of those impacts from iOS 14 (15, 16, 17). Moreover, leaning into messaging services would also be essential for the post-pandemic world, with more people getting back into the physical world.
If Facebook can instill some of these features as habitual behavior, it can win big. As has been the case with Messenger Bots, Facebook’s past efforts had not found anticipated success. However, it seems like this time it would foster more connection, something people are craving after being isolated in the pandemic for so long.
Either way, you can make some significant marketing efforts coming your way just in time around the festive season.
Also, Facebook Wants to Be a Shopping Site
With the new tools, the social media giant also seems to be ramping up its efforts to be a shopping platform (18). According to Facebook, these tools will help brands boost their businesses while making it easier for users to find their favorite brands.
And it is not the first time Facebook has shown its interest in entering the ecommerce space.
Last year, Zuckerberg had announced Facebook Shops intending to make it easier for businesses to list their products and services on sale. Instagram also has in-app stores.
There is also an idea, brewing for some time, about cross-platform ecommerce with WhatsApp linking to Facebook Shops, which launched back in June. Since Facebook already owns WhatsApp, the progress was more or less expected for a while now.
But, There Will Be Challenges
A lot of challenges.
Facebook will face several challenges if it is looking to foray into the ecommerce market. Their most direct competitors, especially eBay and Amazon, dominate the market in almost every aspect.
Since Facebook owns a cohort of social platforms like WhatsApp and Paypal, we believe it will overcome at least payment and reach issues.
Nonetheless, we would be more worried about how Facebook is no longer people’s main social media network. Notably, in May, Facebook experienced a 30% drop in its app downs while TikTok witnessed a boom (19, 20). And let’s not forget about how Facebook is under a lot of scrutiny over data privacy concerns.
In the end, we will have to wait and see how Facebook manages to thrive in case it enters the actual ecommerce market.