As retailers around the world are being forced to adapt or face closure in light of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Facebook has announced the launch of a new shopping feature intended to help businesses sell their products online.

Facebook Shops, which was announced by Mark Zuckerberg on Tuesday and will begin rolling out immediately, will enable retailers to sell products directly to consumers on both Facebook and Instagram. Businesses can create their own virtual ‘storefronts’, which can be customised with images and colours. The store can then be featured on the business’ own profile page, as well as in Stories and adverts. Sellers of all sizes are being encouraged to use the functionality, with no fees included for participating retailers – a model similar to the existing Facebook Marketplace, which surfaces local classified ads.

The feature will also be supported across Facebook and Instagram Live, enabling viewers to make purchases of products featured on live streams in real time.

Facebook claims that the launch of the Shops feature has been accelerated in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, which has caused a number of high-profile retail casualties.