What does Instagram shoppable mean for the platform and brands?

Instagram was launched in 2010 and saw exponential growth in its early years, but has since become a mainstay of social media. Increasingly it has also become a popular platform with marketers, with sponsored Instagram posts being launched in 2014 and influencer marketing becoming a staple of many marketing strategies.

The latest development in Instagram’s evolution is the launch of shoppable posts, which allow brands to tag their products in content which users can then click to purchase. But what does this mean for the future of Instagram and for those brands looking for market their products via the feature?

For Instagram

For the future of Instagram, the launch of shoppable represents a desire to move into the world of ecommerce and carve a bigger role for itself in retail. According to Marketing Week, Instagram’s shopping feature ‘essentially acts like a shop window so that users can explore products from businesses they follow.’  

A key point to note, however, is that even though the feature allows the brand to tag their products in a post, the majority of the shopping experience will be conducted within Instagram’s platform. After initially hovering over the tag to see the name and price of the product, when users click on the tag they ‘will be brought to a more detailed page – with more product details, similar items and other shoppable posts from the brand – all without going into the product website.’ Not until the final purchasing decision is made and the consumer clicks “shop now” will they be taken to the business’s own website.

All this allows Instagram to maximise the amount of time spent on its platform and prevent users from losing interest if they are transferred to another app or external website. Much like Facebook’s feature that allows news items and articles to be read within the app itself, shoppable shows that Instagram is looking to act increasingly like a Google-like search engine rather than merely a social platform.

Although the feature is still in its early stages, Instagram’s head of business development, Amy Cole, told Marketing Week that ‘Instagram will continue to hone the feature after the launch’ by monitoring engagement and simplifying the process for brands and users alike.

For Brands

According to Marketing Land, brands who were quick to engage with Instagram shoppable in the US (which has been running since last year but has only just been extended to Europe) have seen positive results and strong ROI on their participation.

One example is clothing brand Lulus, which says it has seen ‘tremendous’ value and growth since testing began. Lulus Vice President of Marketing, Noelle Sandler Delory, told Marketing Land ‘since launch, shopping on Instagram can be directly attributed to over 1,200 orders and over 100,000 sessions.’

Andy Burton, CEO of ecommerce optimising firm Tryzens, told My Business that Instagram’s new feature represents a ‘golden opportunity’ for retailers ‘to reach a larger share of the market and increase customer loyalty.’ Due to the fact that the feature integrates into a platform which millions of people are already familiar with, Burton believes shoppable will aleviate the problem faced by many brands when it comes to tempting users off social media sites and converting likes into sales.

While this could simplify conversions, shoppable could also present challenges in mapping an already complicated customer journey. The intricate, multi-platform and cross-channel nature of most customers’ route to purchase is already a headache for many brands, and so adding another element which is not under the brand’s direct control could add further complication to this process. Brands will have to develop or hone their measurement and tracking methods to ensure that they are not left behind if Instagram’s shoppable becomes the next big thing in ecommerce.  

Only time will tell how successful Instagram shoppable will be, but as its head of business development indicated, the brand has every intention of investing the time and money into making it a leader in ecommerce. Brands will have to adapt if they want to reap the benefits, so ensuring the necessary strategies are in place is a must while the feature is in its early stages.

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