Facebook turns WhatsApp into a shopping hub with virtual storefronts

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Facebook has slowly but surely been looking for ways to monetize its investment in WhatsApp, adding new severalfeatures for businesses over the past few years. Now the company is turning it into a straight-up shopping hub — in a few countries, at least.

Facebook introduced Shops in 2020 as a way to turn Facebook and Instagram pages into digital storefronts, with a particular emphasis on small businesses. The company noted at the time that the feature would be coming to WhatsApp (and Messenger), so today’s announcement isn’t exactly a surprise.

In fact, it seems that the Shops integration with WhatsApp essentially boils down to a prominent button in chats that links to a business’ Shop. While that may not sound like much, it could be a valuable addition for small businesses that rely on WhatsApp to make sales; that’s relatively rare here in the US, but is common elsewhere in the world. Shops integration could help streamline sales while allowing customers direct conversations with store staff.

The company notes that coronavirus shifted the way people were shopping, turning to online sales even more frequently. Moreover, according to Facebook, “one in three shoppers globally say they plan to spend less time in-store even after the pandemic is over, and almost three-quarters say they get shopping ideas from Facebook, Instagram, Messenger or WhatsApp. ”

It says there are 300 million people visit Shops every month, and WhatsApp integration will surely drive up that figure. The company says the feature is rolling out soon “in select countries,” although it doesn’t specify what these countries are.

For more on updates to Shops, including visual search, rating and reviews, and AR try-on experiences, you can read Facebook’s blog post here.

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