‘The retail-pocalypse is over’: Facebook unwraps holiday-ready AR, Instagram tools for merchants

Facebook opened up a slew of tools early for retailers to get a head-start on holiday shoppers through its platforms. / Alexandre Godreau via Unsplash

Facebook yesterday announced a group of new tools for retailers to cater to shoppers this holiday season.

In a blog post and accompanying presser at its NYC headquarters, the social platform gave brands a 123-day head start on reaching shoppers before, during, and after the holiday season. The Drum selected some of the highlights from Facebook’s new product offerings for retailers of all kinds.

Augmented reality has become the new fitting room

Facebook has been testing out an augmented reality ad feature for its news feed across categories of fashion accessories, cosmetics, furniture, gaming and entertainment. Michael Kors was the first brand to pilot the offering, giving customers the opportunity to try on different looks.

The marketing team at Michael Kors said in a statement, “We see augmented reality as an emerging and important part of our customer-centric mobile strategy. We know our customer is highly visual, and we are always looking for ways to deliver experiences that are not only unexpected but relevant, personalized and useful to her in her shopping journey.”

Other US retailers like Wayfair, Pottery Barn, and makeup brands Sephora, NYX, and Bobbi Brown Cosmetics have been slated to test this new feature later this summer.

Instagram takes its shopping experience worldwide

Instagram had already been working with apparel brands like New Era, Louis Vuitton and others to showcase shoppable items on its main feed, but in June, the platform has opened up its Stories feature to allow brands to place stickers on its content that will send users to retail experiences.

Facebook found that most of the same tactics that draw consumers to video ads on its platform would work for its story watchers as well. According to a survey they had conducted amongst a select group of its 300 million users, one in every three had reported an increased interest in a product or after seeing it on an Instagram story.

A kit for your brand’s pivot to video and mobile

Facebook highlighted from a 2017 Wyzowl survey found that 79% of consumers would rather watch a video to learn about a product than read text on a page. In order to address the multitude of brands that have struggled to create mobile-optimized ads, the social platform created a ‘video creation kit’.

This kit has allowed smaller brands to utilize existing imagery and add overlays and logos to build mobile-first video ads.

According to Sam Wheatley, director of growth marketing for weight loss startup Noom, utilizing this toolkit had resulted in a 77% increase in performance compared to when he used static assets only. “We’d seen a growing need for a solution that could help us quickly and efficiently scale our video efforts on Facebook. Using the Video Creation Kit we were able to upload existing static assets and turn them into mobile-optimized videos through the use of Facebook’s ready-to-use templates.”

These templates have been made available to advertisers in August on Facebook, Instagram, Messenger and Audience Network.

Facebook claims the end, or non-existence, of retail-pocalypse

A running theme throughout the event was that even though traditional retailers like Toys R Us, JC Penney and Sears have faced closures to their stores in part, due to the growth of Amazon and others, Facebook may provide some answers to woes in the space.

According to Facebook’s own research, as stated by the platform’s Eva Press, group lead for retail, CPG and healthcare, 60% of shoppers get excited about holiday shopping. Among that group, about 78% are people who shop with friends and family.

It was an insight that helped find a few key moments for online shopping. One, that Black Friday, long-heralded as the start of the holiday season, was seen as too competitive of a day for these consumers. Instead, Press pulled trial data of retailer check-ins and said: “The day after Christmas and the day after New Years Day are the most social shopping days of the season when it comes to in-store shopping.”

There also exists a set of power users that starts shopping the night before Black Friday, which helped retailers accumulate a total of the $1.3bn spend from last year. Karen Tracy, Facebook’s head of industry for retail, fashion and luxury, said that this amount of money forces retailers to have to find ways to approach sales opportunities earlier than they’re used to in order to get shoppers’ attention.

Tracy also proclaimed in summary of the presentation, and in contrast to stories of established retailers closing up shop before the launch of Facebook’s new tools: “For my brick and mortar retailers, let me be clear: the retail apocalypse is over.”

She added, “In fact, it's been overstated the entire time. People love to shop in stores. We have these insights. Let's help them make this experience incredible, but Facebook can also help you drive people there.”

Read more about the latest trends in retail at The Drum's dedicated sector page.

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