Instagram shopping (also referred to as ‘Shopping on Instagram’ by Instagram) is one of the most innovative features available on the social platform. But Instagram are seemingly about to make a bigger leap into the world of e-commerce.
As marketers, we need to follow such innovations very closely because we don’t want to get left behind by our competitors. And that applies to influencer marketing too!
The following article summarises the recent history of in-app Instagram shopping but ends by describing the revolutionary new app Instagram is likely to adopt in the near future.
How has Instagram Shopping worked up until now?
So, what’s the history behind ‘Shopping on Instagram’?
Well, it’s no secret that Instagram has a huge impact on contemporary society. This year, the app announced that it now has one billion monthly active users. That means that Instagram plays a massive role in the way many of us lead our lives. And that includes the way consumers interact with brands and their products.
For instance, Instagram has changed the way that we discover new brands. Instagram social media influencers, in particular, are constantly introducing us to new products and encouraging us to make purchasing decisions. This is exactly why Instagram and shopping go hand in hand.
However, having said that, until very recently, the Instagram app was not designed to deal directly with purchases. Instagram did not allow users to post URLs in their photo captions – so consumers were unable to click and purchase a product directly from the app. In short, Instagram posts were not shoppable.
Ultimately, influencers and brands alike have found ways to get around this issue. The majority of Instagrammers have gone on to tag brands in their posts, and some even post links to products in their profile bios. This has allowed influencers to guide consumers towards purchasing decisions to at least some extent.
Other app developers have also worked towards finding a solution to the Instagram shopping dilemma. For example, third-party apps like LikeToKnow.it were specifically designed to make Instagram posts shoppable. And, having no alternative options, many influencers welcomed such apps with open arms.
Change is afoot: the new Instagram Shopping Feature
Of course, the situation on the app has now changed drastically. Nowadays, Instagram posts are directly shoppable.
This feature actually dates back to around November 2016, but it was only available to users in the USA back then. Here in the UK, Instagram posts have only been shoppable since March 2018. Since then, the feature has been made available in a range of other countries too. This includes France, Italy, Germany, Australia, Brazil, Canada and Spain.
In short, then, the availability of an Instagram shopping feature in the UK is a long-time coming. And for influencers, brands, and ordinary app users, the update is definitely a huge deal.
What is the Instagram Shopping Feature?
Now we know just how significant the Instagram shopping feature is. But what exactly is this feature? And how does it work?
Well, as you’ve probably already noticed, the update blends seamlessly in with other Instagram features. It’s therefore simple to grasp and use.
Essentially, brands and influencers are able to tag products in an Instagram post – in the same way any of us might tag an individual. A shopping bag icon on the post will indicate that the photo has been tagged in this way.
Brands and influencers are able to tag up to five products per image – and up to twenty products on a multi-image carousel post. From then, users are free to interact with the tagged products. Tapping the tag displays price information, as well as a link to a new page within the app. This page offers more details about the product and a ‘shop now’ button. When users click this button, they are directed to the online store selling the product – and there you have it. It really is that simple: finally, Instagram posts are properly shoppable.
Driving Sales with the E-commerce Instagram Shopping Feature
In the UK, top retailers like Marks & Spencer, Topshop and Kate Spade were some of the first businesses to use the Instagram shopping feature. But now, many more brands are making use of this handy new social media feature, in order to reach consumers and drive sales.
There are a few conditions that brands need to meet in order to use the Shopping for Instagram feature. First, businesses must explicitly sell goods and meet Instagram’s specific e-commerce policies. The business should have also converted their Instagram account into a business profile. This business profile should also be connected to a Facebook catalogue. And finally, the business will need to be using an updated version of the app in order to use the update!
Many businesses are already happily meeting these criteria and making use of the Instagram shopping feature. And it’s already clear that the update is something of a game changer for both brands and Instagram.
On the one hand, Instagram users are responding well to the product tags. More and more users are becoming open to the idea that Instagram might become a consumer-orientated space, rather than just a platform for sharing photography. This is of course great news for brands wanting to reach consumers and drives sales through social media. It means that brands are having real success with the Instagram shopping feature.
Of course, Instagram itself is sharing in this success. This experimentation and new venture has certainly paid off for the social media giant. And now, we’re seeing a new chapter in Instagram’s history. The photo-sharing app is slowing transforming into a fully fledged and wholly successful e-commerce platform.
In that case, what does the future hold for Instagram and its in-app shopping features? What further shopping updates might be on the horizon for the app?
Instagram Shopping on Stories
It’s no secret that the Instagram developers are continuing to look at ways that shopping can be incorporated into the app, and they are wasting no time in developing such features.
On the one hand, back in June, the app announced that it was planning to expand its shopping feature beyond the Instagram ‘Feed’. This essentially meant that the Instagram shopping product tagging feature would soon become available on Instagram Stories. So now, Instagram Stories will also be directly shoppable.
Once again, this has been a clever move for Instagram. After all, more than 300 Instagram users make use of the Instagram Stories feature on a daily basis. And many of these users specifically say they use Stories to stay in touch with their favourite brands and to hear about their latest products. So, making Instagram Stories shoppable seems like a natural progression for the app and a great opportunity for brands.
This reinforces the idea that Instagram are committed to establishing themselves as a central e-commerce platform. But what else does this mean for the app, and its users?
The Future of Instagram Shopping: In-app Shopping?
Further to these other updates, Instagram are allegedly developing a new standalone shopping app – an app that would revolutionise the world of online shopping.
This adoption would mark a huge shift for Instagram, and the company’s attempt to step into the e-commerce game. Of course, currently, the standalone shopping app would firstly be tested on a small number of users. But it is wholly conceivable that one day, we could all be using a new standalone Instagram app to book in at cinemas, restaurants and hair salons.
According to sources, Instagram quietly added a native payments feature to some US-based users’ accounts. This allowed users to link a debit or credit card to their Instagram profile and set up a security pin. From there, these users were able to purchase products quickly and simply – all without leaving the Instagram app.
This would be a huge deal and would mark the beginning of in-app shopping on Instagram. That would mean smooth, seamless shopping via Instagram, without redirection or further links. But one question remains – would this actually work for brands, Instagram and its users?
The Reality of In-app Instagram Shopping
Facebook have tried to introduce shopping to social media in the past – but with little success. However, Instagram’s incredible recent growth suggests it might just be the social media platform where e-commerce can flourish.
Since Facebook purchased Instagram back in 2013, its number of monthly users have grown considerably: from 90 million to more than 800 million, in fact. This is largely thanks to the fact that Instagram is the go-to app for younger social media users. Moreover, Instagram is hugely popular with social media influencers. An incredible 78% of influencers use Instagram as their main social media platform.
Of course, for now, we’ll have to wait and see how Instagram proceeds to develop its shopping features, and how users ultimately engage with their new developments. But in any case, one thing is certain. The future of shopping on Instagram is definitely something that brands and influencers alike should be aware of, and that they should continue to keep an eye.
Get in touch with PMYB
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Also, don’t forget to continue checking our blog to keep up to date with the latest news and views on social media – including updates on the latest Instagram shopping developments.