In a move sure to please marketers and shoppers alike, the new "Instagram Shopping" feature is rolling out to American apparel, beauty, and accessories brands.
After four months of testing, the social network’s shoppable posts feature is becoming a self-serve option that brands can use to convert Instagrammers’ “hearts” to impulse purchases.
As GE’s Vice Chair Beth Comstock once said, “You can’t sell anything if you can’t tell anything,” but Instagram’s been enormously popular with brands because they can show and tell their community about their best products. With an audience of already-engaged consumers following their favorite brands’ content, shopping was the next step, and Instagram has managed to do it in an clean, non-instrusive, organic way.
In an internal study, Instagram found that 60% of its users reported learning about products and services through the app, but a whopping 75% said they’d visit sites or tell a friend about such brand offerings after spotting influential posts on Instagram.
By incorporating shoppable elements into posts, users must no longer leave the app to do a browser search for products. Instead, they’ll put their fingers to work and tap through.
Desktop users won’t get to experience these features, but Instagram has always been primarily a smartphone experience. In the phone app, Instagram Shopping is seamless. When just scrolling through a feed, there’s nothing to indicate a post is shoppable, maintaining the clean aesthetic that has made Instagram so popular with marketers. When an Instagrammer hovers over a shoppable image, however, that’s when things change.
Take Warby Parker’s shoppable posts as an example. Upon hovering on a photo of three pairs of glasses in the brand’s feed, an icon briefly appears in the bottom left of the image. It reads, “Tap to view products.” Tapping on any of the three pairs of glasses makes all three prices appear in a small, aesthetically-pleasing font. Click the “Hudson” frames, and a product description appears, along with a price and “shop now” touch-link. Tapping takes the viewer to WarbyParker.com or the Warby Parker app, if installed. There, the Hudson design is listed as out of stock, and a prompt asks if the user would like to “find another frame,” allowing the on-site shopping experience to continue, or the user can just click “back” and return to Instagram. It’s worth noting that only one of this post’s three eyeglass designs remains available to buy, possibly speaking to the effectiveness of five weeks of shoppable post viewership.
Warby Parker’s CEO Dave Gilboa praised shoppable content for making social marketing more streamlined. Instead of convoluted explanations of what the image contains, and respective prices, or having the community ask about pricing or availability, shoppable posts make all that information a self-serve, actionable experience for consumers.
Another of the original 20 “Instagram Shopping” brands, JackThreads was thrilled to help test the service. Its CMO Ryan McIntyre released a statement saying, “Instead of having to transition over to the JackThreads app [or website], 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.”
For now, Instagram Shopping is limited to single-photo posts. There is no Instagram “stories” option, nor can the recent “multiple image carousel” posts be used. Industry-watchers, however, expect those opportunities to come. One recent Instagram add-on does play well with the new Shopping feature, though. The “save posts” option allows Instagrammers to save the shoppable posts for another day, meaning they don’t have to act the first time they see the post, but can still take advantage later.
The Instagram Shopping feature is now intuitive and brand-implemented with the tap of a button, but its testing phase for was anything but easy. Brands had to work with back-door service from Instagram engineers, a process marketers found both time-consuming and onerous, with the result being that only some products were made shoppable.
That meant brands like Lulu’s found their enthusiasm for the feature dampened somewhat, since it was a chore to use. Still, despite not being able to make every post shoppable, Lulu’s still found their audience clicked with the technology, since 33% of its followers tapped through on shoppable posts. What percentage of those converted to actual sales, they haven’t shared.
Perhaps, though, there’s not enough analysis available yet to have definitive sales numbers. That will soon change, thanks to Instagram’s plans to create analytics for merchants to crunch, so they know what’s performing and what needs tweaking.
On their side of the action, Instagram reports that 19% of users who clicked “more” to reveal product information below images on shoppable posts would then “tap to view products” and later follow the link to the company site, but only 4% of users on average revealed more information to begin with.
Like any new offering, though, audience education will loom large in the future of shoppable content. As each brand’s community realizes the tap-friendly, shoppable potential of their Instagram content, companies may see their most loyal followers turning to their Instagram feeds for buying pleasure, rather than third-party fashion and beauty publications.
Blending intuitive design with practical capabilities means brands can implement shopping features with the same ease as tagging a friend in an Instagram photo. With compelling images and product captions, merchandise is featured with touchable images that by adding outgoing links to shopping pages on their website means customers are one click away from merchandise they can buy.