Facebook Inc. is adding a new shopping section to its main app, part of a broader push to capitalize on the increase in online shopping in the midst of the COVID-19 coronavirus outbreak.
The new section, Facebook Shop, begins rolling out across the U.S. on Tuesday. It lets people browse product catalogs from businesses and purchase items on the social network. The company was previously testing the section with a small group of U.S. users, and launched a similar feature on its Instagram photo-sharing app last month.
Businesses could already add shopping catalogs to their Facebook pages, but there was no dedicated section inside the Facebook app for browsing e-commerce selections from multiple retailers or merchants.
Facebook also said Instagram’s Checkout feature, which lets users pay for items directly inside the app, will soon be available to all U.S. businesses, a broad expansion after keeping the feature exclusive to certain partners for almost 18 months.
The Menlo Park, California-based company is moving more aggressively into commerce as a way to enhance its targeted advertising business and build revenue from businesses beyond ads.
Facebook typically takes a fee from transactions completed on its service, but has temporarily suspended those commissions because of the coronavirus, said Vishal Shah, head of product at Instagram. Commerce could also improve Facebook’s advertising, making it easier for marketers to generate sales from an ad, thus increasing the ad’s effectiveness.
Facebook unveiled a similar shopping feature earlier this year that will let businesses create one product catalog that works across all of the social network’s different apps, including Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp. Chief Executive Officer Mark Zuckerberg has also been more heavily involved in shopping initiatives than in years past, a signal that Facebook is taking commerce more seriously given the expansion of online shopping.
“I think there’s definitely an increased amount of energy around shopping, and that’s both the result of more leadership attention but really just what we’re seeing from the data and research around the pandemic and around people bringing their businesses online,” Shah said.