With a new Canvas ad format and a dedicated Shopping section, Facebook is upping its focus on mobile e-commerce solutions.
Facebook is continuing to tweak and build on its ad offerings for e-commerce marketers and position the social network as an actual shopping destination. Citing a survey showing that nearly half of people come to Facebook to actively look for products, the company announced new initiatives to make it easier for users to discover — and shop for — products from their smartphones.
On Monday, the company unveiled two new product tests to make it easier for users to engage with shopping ads and content in Facebook’s mobile apps. We’ve got your questions about today’s announcements answered.
Q. First, what was announced?
The first announcement is an expansion of what the company is calling Canvas. Initially unveiled in June to showcase products in full-screen interactive fashion in Facebook mobile apps, the latest ad experience on Canvas lets users browse an advertiser’s product catalog after clicking on an ad:
The second announcement is the addition of a new Shopping section in favorites in the Facebook mobile app:
The idea is to give users a first-stop and centralized place for discovering products on Facebook. Not everyone will yet see this Shopping option when selecting “More” from the Facebook app’s menu. Facebook says it will roll out in the coming weeks.
And where are the listings in Shopping coming from? They’re powered by a small set of businesses in the US that are testing the Facebook Shop section introduced last month for retailer and brand Pages.
When users click on Shopping, they’ll be able to see the products being showcased by these select retailers.
Q. Why the focus on Canvas, and what is the new ad format?
The key benefit, in a word, is speed. The new Canvas format Facebook is testing essentially allows users to do their initial catalog browsing on Facebook.
Just as users balk at waiting for article links to load from Facebook (and Google, Twitter, Pinterest and LinkedIn), Facebook says users often abandon advertisers’ websites after clicking an ad because the page is too slow to load from their mobile devices. With the new Canvas format, users will be taken to a “fast-loading, full-screen experience” within the Facebook app to look at a variety of products before they click through to the advertiser’s website.
Q. But didn’t Facebook already have shopping ads?
Yes, Product ads have been around for some time, and last year Facebook added a carousel format to showcase multiple products and images in an ad. More recently, Facebook enabled video for Product ads and rolled the format out on Instagram. There are also Dynamic product ads that pull from product feeds advertisers upload to Facebook and serve based on the products users visited on their websites.
Each of these formats sends users directly to the retailer or brand site when they click an ad and leaves open the opportunity for user abandonment before those pages load.
Q. What’s happening with Shop section pages, and how does this new Shopping section fit it?
Facebook introduced the Shop section for pages last month as another attempt to make it easier for users to browse and buy from the platform. It also positions Shop as the retailer’s solution to poor mobile site user experiences. Shop is Facebook’s second attempt at creating micro-stores in retailer’s pages. One drawback is that users have to actively be on one of those Shop section-enabled pages and then know to engage with it.
The new Shopping section is meant to give users a destination in the app for finding, sharing and buying products. The company also says that in addition to product content from Shop sections, it plans to incorporate content such as items listed for sale in Facebook Groups. Think of it as the mall-ification of Facebook.
Q. Can I start participating in these new initiatives?
Chances are slim. Both of these new features are in limited testing. The testing for the new Canvas format is going to start in the coming weeks. Shopping is only available to a small set of businesses. But stay tuned to see if these gain traction and open up to more advertisers.
(Some images used under license from Shutterstock.com.)