Facebook has accelerated and extended the launch of its shopping platform because of coronavirus.

The social media conglomerate will allow businesses to set up online stores and sell products across Facebook and Instagram on a no-fee basis. These stores will appear on business pages, Instagram pages and through targeted ads across both platforms.

Shoppers will be able to browse products, message sellers directly through Whatsapp, Facebook Messenger or Instagram to arrange a purchase or get more information, and in some cases buy items in-app using the recently launched checkout feature in the US.

Facebook chief executive Mark Zuckerberg told the Financial Times it had accelerated the launch of its shopping capabilities, which have been in developed for the last six months, in order to help businesses that were struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and subsequent lockdown.

The social media platform will also use data gathered from users browsing and purchases to tweak its recommendations.

“If you browse a shop inside of our app or if you buy something, we will see that and we’ll be able to hopefully use that to show you better recommendations for other things that you’d be interested in in the future,” said Zuckerberg.

Facebook will also add functionalities that allow businesses to create loyalty programmes for users that buy products they find on Facebook or Instagram.

Facebook’s shopping capabilities will also integrate with other ecommerce platforms such as Shopify and ChannelAdvisor.