How Facebook just created thousands of online shopping malls

There are now 45 million active small business pages on Facebook - and the social network has decided it needs to make more money from them. Facebook has just launched a series of updates that will make it easier for businesses to interact and sell to their customers. 

What changes are they making? 

Today Facebook upgraded Pages with a cleaner mobile layout.  Here businesses can now display storefront “Sections” where users can “Shop” and/or view “Services”. “Call Now,” “Send Message” and “Contact Us,” buttons are now bigger and more prominent encouraging more direct personal contact from customers. Essentially Facebook has created online shopping malls, enabling users to browse, query and buy at their pleasure. 

With the "Shop” section, this will now include Buy buttons powered by Shopify. This will allow customers to make a purchase without leaving Facebook. For those unable to integrate, Facebook is also testing Buy buttons that link directly to their website.

Anything else?

Facebook have also made customer interaction and service a lot easier through automated replies and "badges". Over 500,000 Pages have earned a "Very responsive" badge, given to those that respond on average in under five minutes, 90 percent of the time. This has encouraged many businesses to have concerted support options through the platform. 

To help with this Pages can also create Saved Replies that can be quickly tailored to names and situations. Page admins can also respond to Wall Posts or comments with these messages. 

What could this mean for small businesses?

This is the biggest update to Pages since 2012, and has been seen as a move to encourage businesses to end the days of small business websites. The company would, in theory, love for businesses to instead have their Facebook page as their main "website" - utilising the existing infrastructure the network now provides. 

Facebook's Sheryl Sandberg explained that they view building a mobile commerce experience as expensive and inefficient. Instead they believe Facebook is the answer - and free.

In addition, it could affect posting strategy. Instead of having to post new updates every time you wish to highlight a product, you will now have an area which constantly does this on your behalf, through the store. 

If all goes well for Facebook this big move could see a reduction in the number of small business websites, instead choosing to direct traffic to Facebook Pages. That might be a win for businesses, but it's the gold medal for Facebook as it will see a host of new businesses using their platform for advertising.