Instagram has been a great way for brands to build brand awareness and reach customers since its early days. Over the course of the last year, we’ve also seen the platform roll out a number of new features aiming at making the app not just a point of discovery, but also a point of sale - features like Instagram Checkout, shoppable tags, and product tags for influencers posting branded content.
With these developments, it’s become clear that Instagram is angling to become a major ecommerce destination. But the ins and outs of shopping on Instagram are still pretty murky. Many of the features are still in beta testing or only available to a handful of accounts, even nine or ten months after their initial release. To help clear up some of the confusion for brands and creators alike, here’s everything you need to know to make the most of Instagram’s shopping features right now and in the months ahead.
1. All brands can use Instagram’s shopping tags… In early 2019, Instagram added a feature that allows business accounts to upload a product catalog and tag specific items. These shopping tags take a user directly to the product page on the brand’s website. By now, this feature is widely used and available.
2. But only a few dozen brands have Instagram Checkout. In March 2019, Instagram also gave a handful of big brands access to a new Instagram Checkout feature. Brands with serious Instagram cred like Kylie Cosmetics, Revolve, and Uniqlo started selling products directly in-feed, meaning customers don’t have to leave the app to purchase. While Instagram expands this feature to new brands every few weeks, there’s still a lot that’s unclear about this feature. For example, how successful is it so far for the brands that have it? When will it be more widely available, and will it ever be a tool for any brand that wants it? And ultimately - do people like and use the feature?
3. Instagram is using its own @Shop account to promote shopping on the platform and to give smaller brands more exposure. The @shop team gives cool brands and products a boost by featuring them in-feed. They source their content partly by checking what’s trending on Instagram, and to our knowledge, Instagram doesn’t charge brands when they’re featured.
4. Brands need to be deliberate in how they use shopping features. The customer experience is another major thing for brands to consider. Shopping on Instagram is still not an optimal or smooth experience for most customers, even when they intend to purchase. It’s also hard for brands to upload an entire product catalogue for shopping tags; most only show a selection. Right now, while the trade-off is still ease of purchasing, it may be wiser for your brand to focus on using shopping tools to strategically increase product awareness.
5. Instagram checkout comes at a hefty cost. Instagram takes a whopping 5% transaction fee for transactions completed via Checkout (that’s probably in addition to the usual fees charged by services like Stripe). In addition, the platform doesn’t let brands be the touchpoint for the purchase journey - Instagram handles all order update communications with the customer directly. Instagram also requires Checkout brands to integrate Shopify, and once brands have opted in, there’s no way to undo the integration.
6. Brands can give influencers the ability to add shopping tags too. If influencers have a partnership with a brand using shopping tags, the brand is able to grant influencers access to directly tag products in their post for their followers to click and shop. Influencers like this feature - it gives their collaborations more legitimacy and helps their followers find products quickly and easily.
While there’s still a lot to be determined about Instagram’s shopping tools, all signs point to more and better ones in the months ahead. Expect iterations of the existing features… and additions of a few that will try to draw brands and influencers alike to sell more on the platform.
Have you bought products on Instagram, either through shopping tags or Instagram Checkout?