In this post, I talk about the new shopping feature that will make selling on Instagram much easier for businesses and bloggers.
Recently, Instagram announced that they are (OMG FINALLY) making Instagram posts shoppable. For pretty much ever, brands and bloggers alike have begged, pleaded and found roundabout ways to sell on Instagram (think LIKEtoKNOW.it or “link in bio!” captions). But now, Instagram is rolling out a mobile shopping experience to 20 US-based retailers, like Kate Spade, Jack Threads and Warby Parker. And while that means that you don’t have the ability to use this yet, if it’s successful, you can be sure that Instagram will roll this out to all business profiles eventually, and you want to be ahead of the game and ready for it, don’t you?
So what exactly is happening, now?
Instagram recognizes that mobile is changing the way people shop, while social media has changed the way people discover new products. So Instagram is testing a way for users to not only shop from the platform, but learn more about a product directly within it.
According to an internal survey, Instagram found that only 21% of purchases are made within a day – meaning most people aren’t buying products the day they check them out. Using that information, Instagram has added a couple of “discovery” steps into the discovery process of their new purchase flow. That’s great for Instagram, who ideally wants to keep people on the platform.
I’m assuming part of the reason for these in-app discovery features are to keep more people on Instagram – if you don’t need to leave the app to find out that $800 handbag is out of your price range, you’ll move on to engage with more content.
According to Instagram’s announcement,
“Each post will have a tap to view icon at the bottom left of a photo. When tapped, a tag will appear on various products in the post—showcasing up to five products and their prices. Once a tag is selected a new detailed view of the product will open. This functionality will bring important product information to the consumer earlier in the journey, all without having to leave the Instagram app to search. Then, if the consumer taps the Shop Now link from the product details view, they’ll go directly to that product on the business’ website, making it easier for them to buy the product they want.”
How is this helpful to me?
If you are an ecommerce business owner:
Not surprisingly, this major update (once it’s rolled out to everyone) will be most helpful to those in ecommerce. It’s basically built for you, after all.
Even better news for you is that instead of building a program that would allow users to make a purchase within the app itself, clicking the “shop now,” button will actually take users to your website. This means if your site is not mobile optimized, it’s time for an overhaul. (Honestly, it’s been time for an overhaul for awhile, but this is just another reason you need to be ready for mobile.)
This update is going to be great for anyone serious on tracking data (and you all should be). The previous workarounds for selling on Instagram left much to be desired in the way of attribution.
Finally, you will be able to directly track a sale from an organic Instagram post, if the user goes from the discovery part of the funnel through checkout. Although it would be great to be able to track a user who views more information about a product and then returns to your site to make a purchase later, jury is still out on whether or not that will be an option. (I’m going to go with probably not – at least not now.)
Still, you’ll now be able to get a much better idea of how Instagram is affecting your bottom line, if Instagram users are more or less likely to convert, etc.
Since Instagram announced its switch to an algorithmic-run feed, brands have been searching for ways to increase engagement, thereby increasing reach. No word yet on whether or not clicks to “discover” more about a product will count towards the algorithm, but they definitely should.
At the very least, brands can use this feature to ask questions that will compel users to find out more about the product. For example, “Who can guess the fabric of this sweater?” may now get more answers since users can go to the discover area to find the answer.
Finally, if you previously used captions to describe a product, you’ll have much more room for creativity! Since everything the customer needs to know will be there in the discover area, you can use the caption space to be funny, inspirational, thought-provoking, or whatever tone your brand typically takes.
And don’t forget to add a call-to-action driving users to discover. Test something generic like, “Click to discover more about our new sweater collection,” vs. something driving a more specific action like, “Click to discover what fan-favorite designer is behind our new sweater collection.”
If you are a blogger / influencer:
OK, so I’m totally jumping the gun here. Instagram has not announced a roll-out of this feature to influencers, so you won’t be selling on Instagram just yet. But assuming it’s in the pipeline (and why wouldn’t it be?), you might as well get ahead of the game and plan to use it as soon as it’s available.
Let’s look at the retailer-influencer relationship. You work out a deal with a retailer to post a photo featuring its product, per usual. But instead of using ye ol’ “link in bio” hack, the retailer gives you a dedicated URL that they use to track purchases from your post alone. They provide you the product description, and you upload all of this into your Instagram post.
Now your fans can shop directly from your sponsored post, which undoubtedly lead to more sales that can be attributed to you. And like brands, you can reserve the comment section for something more creative, rather than explaining what the product is and how and where to buy it.
And don’t think this is only going to work for beauty or fashion influencers. A successful shopping platform on Instagram could lead way for more brands to think of influencers as a viable means of making money. For example, a chocolate company could pay a cooking blogger to share a photo of a dessert made using their chocolate, using the shopping feature to give more information about the chocolate and drive users to its website for purchase.
OK, this sounds great. Where can it go wrong?
There is one major potential red flag here. Just like Facebook, Instagram does not want brands ruining the user experience.
It is important to keep content beautiful and engaging. Just because you can get more from your product posts does not mean you should post a generic, typical ecommerce-style product-on-white-background photo. The goal is still to make your users not only want your product, but the lifestyle associated with it. My one fear with this roll-out is that brands will get too excited to use the new feature and overload their feed with poorly planned, weak photos.
So what do you think about the new feature? Will you be selling on Instagram? Tell me in the comments.