Earlier this week Facebook revealed a rather interesting ecommerce offering that is aimed at small-to-medium businesses in particular – Facebook Shops.

For those unfamiliar with the platform, it allows any Facebook or Instagram business profile to be turned into a virtual storefront and essentially operate as a fully fledged online shop.

With ecommerce being hotly debated this month locally, as well as many businesses suffering as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and lockdown, it could prove a worthwhile option for SMEs to look into moving forward.

At the time Facebook Shops was said to be rolling out globally in a phased approach, starting in the United States on 19th May, with no word on when South African businesses could try it out.

That changed today though, as Facebook provided us with feedback on the Shops platform’s local status.

To that end, the company plans to test out Facebook Shops with a select number of businesses next month.

“Shops are available globally, but it is in its early days and will be rolled out in phases and will be more widely available in the coming months. We expect to start testing with businesses in SA in June,” a spokesperson told Hypertext.

Unfortunately there is no further detail as to when in June, and what businesses will be used in the testing. Given that Facebook has shown how the platform would work for smaller businesses which specialise in selling physical products directly to customers, it seems like those will likely be the ones which fit the bill for the test phase next month.

Given the lockdown regulations currently in place (alert level 4), we also asked Facebook what kinds of measures must be adhered to. Unsurprisingly, the firm said local businesses planning to use Facebook Shops will need to be fully compliant with regulations.

“Facebook Shops should be used in adherence with all local regulations,” the spokesperson added.

As such it looks like businesses will need to ensure they can properly handle and sanitise any of the goods they plan to sell via the platform, given the fact that lockdown is here for the next few months at least.

Either way, it is an intriguing platform, and could offer struggling businesses another digital option to stay afloat.

We’ll have to wait to see if the test phase in June yields such a result.