Business development · 2 November 2016

Shopping on Instagram update provides new platform for retailers

Shopping on Instagram
Instagram is owned by Facebook, which bought it for $1bn in 2012

Social media channel Instagram is trialling a new feature that will allow users to get closer to the act of buying a product, without having to leave the app.

Citing research which suggests 84 per cent of smartphone users in the US browse, research and compare products through a web browser or mobile app, shopping on Instagram is a move to give brands a better chance of attracting a potential customer’s attention and induce a purchase.

In a post, the technology business said the shopping on Instagram trial was a way for its community to “learn more about the items they view” in a post.

The test panel for the new “experience” includes retailers Kate Spade, JackThreads and Warby Parker. Kate Spade’s executive vice president and chief marketing officer, Mary Beech, said Instagram is where the business reflects the “interesting life” of Kate Spade New York girl through “relatable” social moments.

“With this seamless shopping experience launching on Instagram, the possibilities for selling our products are endless,” she added.

The shopping on Instagram process will see users of the app provided with a “tap to view” icon at the bottom of a photo, which then provides a list of products and their prices. The preferred tag then leads to a more detailed view of the product, after which the formal purchase of the product can be made by linking directly to the retailer’s website.

Additional Instagram research found that 21 per cent of purchases are made within a day, leading it to believe that users of Instagram are keen to “better understand” the products they’re interested in and after a more informed shopping journey.

“Our community uses Instagram as an aspirational discovery platform and they’re looking to us for inspiration,” commented Ryan McIntyre, CMO at JackThreads. “This test is going to change the scope of what we, as retailers, are capable of offering on mobile. Instead of having to transition over to the JackThreads app, our customers will be able to shop seamlessly from their social media feeds – allowing us to reach guys where they’re already hunting for what’s new.”

In September, Business Advice reported that small firms had helped Instagram double its advertiser base in six months, with it now hosting in excess of 500,000 monthly advertisers. So far, more than 1.5m companies around the world have created a business profile since Instagram’s Business Tools service was launched.

That launch, at the beginning of June 2016, allowed business to set up profile for free, access information on who followers are and turn well-performing posts into ads and connect with more customers.

The new shopping on Instagram functionality will initially be available to a “group of people” on Apple iOS devices in the US. As an expected roll out begins after, Instagram will be looking at product recommendations, ways products are showcased to shoppers, global expansion and the ability to save content so users can take action later.

Romain Ouzeau, CEO at Iconosquare, an Instagram analytics and management platform, added: “This new shopping experience on Instagram is clean and user-friendly and I expect there will be even more changes before it becomes a fully-fledged feature on the app.

“This is a huge step forward for Instagram as it aims to conquer new markets but it will also face a challenge as businesses will now be able to measure the real ROI of Instagram. Will consumers buy products directly through Instagram or is it only a “discovery channel”? That is the big question but I have no doubt that this new feature will be a success.”

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Hunter Ruthven was previously editor of Business Advice. He was also the editor of Real Business, the UK's most-read website for entrepreneurs and business leaders at the helm of growing SMEs.

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