Instagram Announces a “Significant Step Forward for Shopping”

Instagram Announces a “Significant Step Forward for Shopping”
Wednesday, March 20, 2019
Tzvi Grosman

Instagram announced on March 19th 2019 that they are adding a new way for people to buy products they discover on the app. Consumers in the US can purchase items directly on Instagram’s app from over 20 different brands, including Zara, H&M, Outdoor Voices, and Uniqlo. The checkout feature will allow people to make purchases without having to navigate to the browser and without needing to log in and enter their information multiple times.

The latest news continues the string of updates in the last year focused on making it easier for people who love to shop, including product tags in Feed, product stickers in Stories, and a shopping destination in Explore.

Screenshots of Instagram's new in-app shopping feature.

A potential game-changer for the mobile shopping experience

It’s clear that Instagram believes shopping represents a huge business opportunity. According to Ashley Yuki, an Instagram product exec, 130 million people look at product tags each month inside the app, up from 90 million in September. In fact, The Verge reported last year that the company is building a separate app specifically for shopping.

Direct checkout on Instagram has the potential to dramatically reduce friction in the mobile shopping experience and shorten the buyer journey. Since shoppers will be able to store a credit card and shipping address in the app, it means making a purchase will only require a few taps. The fewer steps it takes to complete a purchase, the more likely it is that people will complete the process.

As marketers, we need to think critically about our buyer’s journey, and the role each channel plays in the digital mix. The reality is that we are no longer in complete control of the buyer’s journey—and we need to meet consumers where they are.

What it means for brands and advertisers

The checkout feature could impact sales for small and independent brands in the long-term, but for now this update seems to be aimed at larger, established companies. Adidas, Nike, Burberry and Prada are a few of the brands that will have checkout available in the coming weeks.

It’s important to note as well that for now, this feature is only available in the US and for organic posts, meaning ads aren’t eligible. Retailers will need to change their organic search strategy, and start thinking about their content in terms of influencing decision making in addition to inspiring and spreading brand awareness, as the path to purchase is much shorter now.

But checkout-equipped ads could be a gold mine for Instagram in the long term, especially with recent speculation that Facebook will soon rely on Instagram for the majority of its ad revenue growth. And with the ability to checkout without leaving the app, Instagram will now be able to collect data on what your customers are actually buying, rather than just what they’re interested in.

While direct checkout is a clear indicator that Instagram is entering the retail race in a serious way, we’ll be keeping a close eye on the impact as the feature is rolled out more broadly.

For more on Instagram’s latest update, read the official announcement.

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