Facebook is testing a shopping section for its app, a “single place for people to more easily discover, share and purchase products”, as a way of extending the commerce capabilities of its core social networking product.

The company said it is working in partnership with a “limited set of small businesses in the US”. “Over time we’ll explore incorporating additional content into this experience, such as items listed for sale in Facebook Groups,” it continued.

Facebook is one of many companies looking to extend the reach of its core product to include other features, with e-commerce being a popular option. Messaging app LINE has gained a raft of additional features as it is positioned as a “life platform“, and Pinterest has augmented its social features with commerce, for example.

Last week, Facebook added a ‘shop’ section to Faceboook Pages, for businesses to showcase products.

Canvas ads, buy buttons
The social media giant also announced a new ad format for its app called Canvas, which will take users to a “fast-loading, full-screen experience” to browse products before being taken to a retailer’s website to make a purchase.

It is designed to help businesses drive advertising objectives such as brand building and generating sales, the company said.

“When people click on products from ads in their news feed, the mobile websites they’re directed to often take a while to load and aren’t optimised, increasing the chance that people will drop off,” the company said in a blog post, explaining the reasoning behind the product.

Facebook has also been testing a “buy” call-to-action button. Users on desktop or mobile can click the buy button in ads in their news feed to purchase a product directly from a business, without leaving Facebook.

It also made call-to-action buttons on mobile more prominent, “bigger, brighter and directly under the page cover photo”.

Keeping up with users
The company noted that while “people have shifted to mobile”, with a survey even suggesting that nearly half of people come to Facebook to actively look for products, businesses are “still making the shift” – and it is evident that it wants to be at the forefront of the process.

Last year, Facebook introduced the carousel format for ads, which lets advertisers showcase multiple product images and links in one ad.

Based on preliminary testing, advertisers have seen carousel link ads drive 30 to 50 per cent lower cost-per-conversion, the company said.

Carousel ads also made their way to Facebook-owned Instagram, and other recent introductions include video ads of up to 30 seconds and marquee, a “premium product” for events like movie premieres and product launches.