By Maria Armental 
 

Facebook Inc. is making a big push into online shopping through Facebook Shops, enlisting small businesses to sell their wares through its platform and giving them access to its technology at a time when the coronavirus pandemic has upended business worldwide.

"It's clear at this point that Covid isn't just a health emergency," Facebook Chief Executive Mark Zuckerberg said Tuesday, referring to the pandemic that's forced businesses to close physical stores. "It's also the biggest economic shock that we've felt in our lifetime."

Small businesses, Mr. Zuckerberg said, will be able to personalize virtual storefronts to show specific products that are considered more relevant and use augmented reality to let customers virtually try on things like sunglasses, lipstick or makeup or what furniture might look like in a room.

The virtual shops will appear on the businesses' Facebook and Instagram accounts and, eventually, on Messenger and WhatsApp as well.

The move, which Facebook said was months in the making and was done with partners like Shopify Inc., comes a day after the company released results from a survey of small business owners that found that as of April nearly one-third of small and medium-sized businesses had stopped operating.

"Small businesses need a way to find new buyers," Shopify CEO Tobias "Tobi" L├╝tke said Tuesday speaking with Mr. Zuckerberg.

Facebook, Mr. Zuckerberg said, is building a dedicated shopping tab on Instagram, for example, and a destination inside Explore to help find and buy products. Live shopping features, he said, will be also added.

"For years, people have used our apps to buy and sell things from the early days of posting a photo of a bicycle with the caption 'for sale,' to selling your coffee table on Marketplace and now shopping styles from your favorite brands and influencers on Instagram," Mr. Zuckerberg said in a statement posted on the company's blog, adding: "It was the people who use our apps who envisioned social commerce. We're helping them make it a reality."

 

Write to Maria Armental at maria.armental@wsj.com

 

(END) Dow Jones Newswires

May 19, 2020 15:06 ET (19:06 GMT)

Copyright (c) 2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc.
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