The social media giant accelerated the launch of its mobile-first, eCommerce shopping experience, Facebook Shops, during COVID-19, as local economies and brick and mortar stores shut down. Facebook Shops allows businesses to easily create an online store for free on the Facebook and Instagram platforms, as well as connect with their customers and provide real-time service and support through WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, and Instagram Direct. One in three shoppers globally say that they plan to spend less time shopping in-store, even after the pandemic, and armed with that knowledge as well as the fact that three-quarters of consumers get their shopping ideas from social media, Facebook has steadily been introducing new tools and technology to power the future of shopping, including waiving fees for business sellers on Shops through summer 2022.
One tool Facebook is launching is Visual Search for Instagram, as well as an augmented reality try-on solution. The Visual Search feature is powered by artificial intelligence and allows Instagram users to find relevant product listings and recommend items by tapping on photos, with the goal being to turn almost every item appearing on Instagram into a shopping product, and turn Instagram into a native checkout portal where users don’t have to leave the app in order to source and complete a purchase. A natural fit for the visual discovery core to Instagram’s identity, Visual Search will allow users to tap on, say, a floral print dress, and then provide recommendations for similar products identified using artificial intelligence. In the future, users will be able to take a photo with their camera to engage the feature and be provided with a variety of products similar to that found in the picture taken. The company is also exploring an AI-powered stylist that will recommend accessories for a piece of clothing.
Using sophisticated AI tools to make media shared across social platforms more shoppable, as well as to contain the retail shopping experience within a company’s own digital platform, is a trend that PSFK researchers are increasingly seeing across retail companies and social tech platforms both big and small. By being better able to understand shoppers’ intent within the discovery stage, AI provides more specific and engaging results which in turn increases customer conversion along their shopping journey all the way to the checkout stage.
Even as brick and mortar storefronts re-open in many countries, online shoppers have indicated that they want to virtually try on products from the comfort of their home, in order to get a better feel for the fit of a product before purchasing. Facebook and Instagram Shops’ new AR try on tool helps personalize the shopping journey by providing the consumer with what they want, when they want it, making finding, trying, and buying products a more seamless experience.
This article originally appeared in PSFK’s research paper, AI-Supported Conversational Commerce