For a whole week in May, Instagram’s top designers and product managers were not in their California headquarters. They were in a rented house, stocked with snacks, far away from laptops and machines. They were brooding over how to make their photo sharing app shoppable without transforming it into a splashy catalog. That intense brainstorming process gave rise to several ideas…and after carefully filtering out them, the team decided to put their heart in one idea- Instagram product tags!
Instagram is testing a solution allowing certain retail partners–20 to be precise–to tag products in the photos they post to the social network, similarly to how one would tag a friend. 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. After selecting this tag, a user will be able to see a detailed view of the product. If user is convinced by that product information and wishes to buy that product, he can tap on the Shop Now link from the product details view. The user then will be directed to that product on the business’s website, making it easier for them to buy the product they want.
In short, the new Instagram product tags work much like tagging a user would work, except now certain test companies will be able to tag their products in their images and Instagram users who happen across these tags will be able to purchase the product within the app. There is no need for third party processing or a browser.
The noticeable thing about Instagram product tags is that they do not hinder the user experience. Neither do they force people to view these tags. Instagram product tags are initially hidden by default to all users, but users will see a button that allows them to show the tagged products. Besides, as the product pages will be opened within Instagram itself, there is no need for users to open a separate browser to complete the purchase. If user goes to the product page of retailer’s website after tapping the new link button and he decides not to buy at the final moment, he can simply swipe to go back to their feed without needing to switch out of a separate app.
Of course, one has all the reasons to look at this move through the lenses of cynicism and pessimism. After all, social media has found it hard to sell items on its platforms. Not long ago we saw the premature death of Twitter’s buy button along with the departure of its head of e-commerce. The history of shopping Facebook, Instagram’s parent company, is not all rosy either. It’s had “credits,” store tabs, and more, and just recently debuted product tagging itself as well as a Craigslist-style marketplace. We’re unsure yet if these efforts will work out, but Facebook’s earlier adventures definitely didn’t. With such a mixed past, why did Instagram decide to go in the direction of social commerce?
The functionality and ways of operating are different for different social media platforms. Twitter is all about textual ways of expressing one’s thought about any damned matter coupled with the curiosity to know what celebrities have to say. After all, more than common people, Twitter has become celebrities’ first choice when it comes to social media platforms. The flourishing of a buying activity has a lesser possibility there.
But Instagram is inherently and predominantly visual. That’s what is actually needed to showcase the various qualities of your products in an effective way. Hearing about a beautiful wallpaper and actually having a look at it is as different as night and day. The visuals have more power to stimulate buying behavior. And this is the thing which might work in the favor of Instagram.
Instagram is not taking any profit from its 20 retail partners for this service. It’s understandable too. Instagram has the financial and logistical power to look at it as a pure experiment. With this, Instagram will get the clear cut picture of online shopping from the angle of social media. It can keep an eye on what people generally like to buy on social media platforms, up to what extent people are ready to accept social networks as places of shopping, what are the common hindrances that may occur in such shopping activities, and much more.
In the long term, this will fortify Instagram’s future attempts of targeted ads. Through Facebook, it already has huge data about the habits of the world’s Internet users. This feature will give it much more granular shape. And it will definitely brighten the ad revenue prospects of Instagram. According to eMarketer, Instagram is on track to surpass Twitter, which seems to be fading quickly, in worldwide ad revenue by 2017—pulling in $3.6 billion compared to Twitter’s $2.53 billion.
Though with each passing day mobile is more and more the de facto tool for shopping, most mobile shopping experiences today take people from the shop window right to check out—without giving consumers the opportunity to consider a product and get more information. Instagram’s own survey suggests that the majority of purchases takes a day or longer, with only 21% of purchases made within a day. Without ruling out the power of impulse buying, it’s quite clear that people take time to better understand the products they’re interested in.
That’s precisely why even though this feature is currently available to a group of people on iOS devices within the US, Instagram will be exploring more options of this feature such as the ability to save content so Instagrammers can take an action later. This will give customers time to think about the product more…and once they are truly convinced they want it, they can fall back on the saved content to buy it. Naturally, the better the mobile shopping experience, the better the chances of sales!
Eventually, Instagram product tags will be an act to boost its monetization process- something which many social media platforms have tried to achieve. But the way Instagram is doing it and the visual nature that it has, it looks like a move in a right direction. Instagram is already profitable and is raking in billions of ad dollars, so if this succeeds, it’ll mean a whole new level of revenue for the app.
For now, though, this is only in testing and available to a select few brands. If you want to make your Instagram shoppable without waiting, check out Shoppic.me!
Note: We always keep a close watch on each and every happening in the social media world. In this blog also we have discussed Facebook’s recent updates for marketers, including product tags. Here, you can find out everything about Facebook’s launch of Marketplace. To know which new targeting tools Snapchat has added in its arsenal, have a glance at this blog. Similarly, to get acquainted with recent Instagram updates, this blog is a must-read.