With almost 500 million monthly active users and engagement 15x that of Facebook, it would have been highly unwise of Instagram if it had shown its back to one of the biggest realities of our time: ecommerce…especially when all other social media platforms like Pinterest and Snapchat are doing everything to make significant inroads in it. Instagram ecommerce has become more and more of a reality over the past few years, but recently Kevin Systrom’s team has made much more concrete moves to make the photo-sharing platform into a dedicated shopping channel.
50 employees were just recruited for the Instagram ecommerce division, but it’s being reported that full-fledged in-app shopping capabilities are still two to four years away. However, Instagram itself as well as a number of independent companies have done a lot already to take it from an untrackable marketing channel to a monetized, metrics-driven platform that actually allows a handful of in-app purchases. Let’s take a closer look at the various features of Instagram ecommerce.
Until last year, Instagram was very rigid about its policy of not making URLs able to be opened. It wanted people browsing photos, not the web. But advertisers as well as retailers wanted a system that would give them measurable impact with more possibility of communicating with potential buyers.
Instagram’s team listened and started showing clickable links, but only in its new multi-photo carousel ads that can tell a story by letting you swipe through four branded images in sequence. With the help of “Learn More” button, links got opened in an internal browser within Instagram that allowed people to quickly jump back to the feed with a tap on the top bar. This is how the clickable carousel ads looked and worked.
It’s true that Instagram began showing ads in 2013. But they were primarily for raising brand awareness and influence and not necessarily immediate sales. But clickable carousel ads changed that as they were workable for a wide range of ecommerce products.
A fashion brand had the opportunity to show a model wearing a complete look, or an outfit, on their first slide. You could also see close-up of the dress, handbag, and sunglasses, with a link out to buy these items at the end after swiping. Or the big-ticket advertisers like car companies were able to show more than a single image to show off their product. It’s true that sequenced ways of storytelling have always been effective. Snapchat has shown that. Apart from giving the best visual illustration of the product and its functionality, it also creates product catalogs from which people can buy. Instagram did the same.
They’re useful for online-only, omni-channel, and brick-and-mortar-only businesses, as the profiles have a “contact” button that parks itself beside the “follow” button, a linkable location tag, and a category for your account.
The biggest reason of grievance of marketers with Instagram was their inability to post links in their content apart from their Instagram profile space. Instagram recognized that and inserted the contact button in the business profiles to create an immediate channel for brands to communicate with the potential clients. Naturally, it eliminated the need to put e-mail address into the bio space…and thus the chances of spam.
After clicking the contact button, a pop-up menu appears offering directions to the business or the ability to email the account. The Get Directions options made is easier for marketers to make their locations visible. It was a welcome addition, considering what businesses had to do in the past. Businesses had to provide geotags in each image. More than often, they were ritually ignored or overlooked by the most proficient Instagram users.
Indeed, it was like a blessing to small and local retailers who were still working around to find a way to put their location in their bio. It also made identification of the business easier by including categorization of the page through the business name field. In the following image, you’ll notice that below her name, she describes her business as a “Health/Wellness website.” It will be helpful in quickly establishing what the page is all about. It ensured that people are looking at the right page…and it’s in accordance with their interest.
It’s not enough to have a wide-ranging platform for ads and business profiles; it’s necessary to have a system to keep an eye on their performance. To give a completely in-depth analysis of Instagram ecommerce activities and ads, Instagram Business Tools launched.
These tools allow companies to view post engagement and performance metrics across all content and to promote posts directly within the mobile app with the goal of reaching more customers. They were built after many brainstorming sessions with businesses to find out how to make companies stand out and how to make posts resonate with users and reach new customers.
Instagram’s latest innovation for sellers is its product tags feature, which we discussed just a few weeks ago. So far, this solution has been essentially in beta, as only 20 retail brands have been allowed to use it. Their posts have had the “tap to view tags” icon at the bottom left of a photo. When tapped, a tag appears on various products in the post—showcasing up to five products and their prices. Once the selection of the tag was done, users were in a position to see a detailed view of the product. If a user decided to buy that product, he could tap on the Shop Now link from the product details view. That user then was directed to PDP on the business’ website–while still being within the Instagram app–making it easier for them to buy the product they want.
Since product tags are only available to 20 brands, another valuable solution that enables Instagram ecommerce is Shoppic.me. It creates a mobile gallery that mirrors your Instagram, but links out to your product pages. All marketers have to do is place a link in their Instagram bio and associate their Instagram photos with the correct products. All the other implementation work is taken care of instantly, so there’s no need to wait to get approved for Instagram product tags. For thoughts on how to boost sales, recognition, and engagement with Instagram visual social content, take a look at our guides: