Sahail Ashraf posted on 5 March 2019
Social media and shopping became bedfellows right at the very start. As soon as brands realised that people would search social media for stuff to buy (which was probably about five minutes after Facebook went live) the landscape became one that was worth advertising to.
However, shopping on social has the scope to become even more fundamental to the user and their day-to-day experience. A number of features on the biggest platforms have made shopping easier than it has ever been. And Instagram has kind of made it even easier.
We will get onto the new Instagram feature in a moment. For now, let’s go back to the announcement Instagram made back in November 2016:
…we’re testing a way for our community to learn more about the items they view within an Instagram post. Most mobile shopping experiences today take people from the shop window directly to the checkout, without giving consumers the opportunity to consider a product and get more information. However, in an internal survey, we learned that the vast majority of purchases take a day or longer, with only 21% of purchases made within a day.2 Knowing that Instagrammers are open to discovery on the platform and that people take time to better understand the products they’re interested in, this test provides our community with valuable steps along their shopping journey before they make a purchase.
Instagram Business Blog, 1st November 2016
And that’s where it all started for Instagram. The platform suddenly realised it was made for e-commerce and acted accordingly. It was the perfect marriage of useful information and the ability to buy stuff based upon that information.
Now, Instagram is adding a shopping tab on the Explore page. This means that users will find it even easier to make a quick purchase while using the Instagram app. The tab will bring up a number of shopping opportunities right there on the screen.
Also, if a seller wants to, and as part of the launch, they can add a sticker to their Stories, allowing for even more shopping to take place. Stories have been Instagram’s big hit, and it makes sense for the platform to make it more attractive to business.
Images below can be inserted here – had to screenshot from phone as Shopping Tab function now viewable on IG Desktop.
This is not the only move Instagram is making towards becoming a shopping platform, however. In fact, another project is slowly taking shape. The platform isn’t shy about it, and it will make Instagram a true market leader in online retail.
Instagram is developing a standalone app that will be dedicated to shopping. The details of this app are still pretty unclear, but it’s definitely coming.
The basic thrust is exciting. Users of the app will be able to browse products from sellers they follow. And if they see something they want to buy, they can simply buy it right there and then.
It’s unclear whether or not there will be the option to include detailed information about products, or how exactly they will be presented. But this is a clear sign that Instagram is heralding a new way to shop online.
There are over 2 million businesses on Instagram that use advertising. And while we’re not sure on how that will affect the business model behind the app, it’s obvious that there will be a strong advertising element. Businesses and sellers find Instagram to be well worth their advertising spend, so that will only increase when the app is delivered.
Of course, the app may never be released. The current shopping experience on Instagram is far from clunky, and if the dedicated app never arrived, Instagram would still see growth as a shopping platform.
To get the best idea of how e-commerce on Instagram is only just starting to bloom, it’s worth looking at some of the most successful fashion boutique stores that have set up shop on the platform.
Studio the Label is a flourishing brand and has thousands of followers. It pushes the bright, striking imagery that the best users of Instagram do, and has completely mastered the option to buy through Instagram.
Girl of the Sun again manages to attract thousands of followers and sells directly through Instagram, and when you take a look at the posts, you can see how this brand uses that same understanding of what works on the platform.
Brands like these two are perfect for the standalone app (when it arrives).
Instagram has made a huge impression online. People love it’s bright and colorful feel, and it’s the perfect platform for anyone who wants to shop, especially with visual products. And that leads us to the next big challenge.
Shopify has made its name through providing would-be retailers a space and a method of selling online. Will Instagram become the go-to place for online retail? And what about Facebook Marketplace and, dare we mention it, Amazon?
It remains to be seen. We look forward to the standalone app with bated breath. Carried off well, it could mean that Shopify, for one, could be facing some very stiff competition.
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