You may have heard the latest buzz surrounding the new Instagram feature, currently being tested by a select number of retailers. Shoppable product tags have been introduced by the social media site, to help brands transform their feeds into a retail space.
While all brands are currently able to promote their products via ads, this will offer a more natural shopping experience for users. The aim is to provide Instagram shoppers with a direct route to buying things, rather than having to go through descriptions and bio links, thus making the buying process far more efficient.
How does it work?
The feature is simple; brands tag the products featured in the image much the same way users can tag their friends. If an image has been tagged with specific products, it will include a label that instructs you to “tap to view products.”
Once you click on the picture, tags will appear, which can include the name of the product and the price. Clicking on an individual tag will bring up further information on the good and include the option to “shop now,” which will take you to the retailer’s website, allowing you to buy then and there. The feature has been designed to make the consumer experience seamless, minimizing redirections, so users can immediately buy something they like.
Currently, a group of 20 US retailers including JackThreads, Kate Spade, and J.Crew is still testing the feature. Eventually, the idea is to start rolling it out across more countries, with carousel posts and video posts also in the pipelines. The company is also said to be considering a “save button,” which would allow users to save products they are interested in buying in a virtual shopping cart.
The failure of social commerce
Instagram is not the first social media site to try bringing shopping into the user experience. It’s easy to see the logic behind the decision to pursue e-commerce, after all, social media sites have massive audiences.
However, turning social engagement into sales is no easy feat. It simply doesn’t align with consumer behavior and how people want to buy. Many social sites are now accessed primarily through mobile, which has a notoriously poor rate of ecommerce effectiveness, converting at one-third to one-quarter the rate of desktop.
Twitter tried using a “buy button” for over a year, before abandoning the project for having a negligible impact on its earnings. Pinterest launched a buyable pins option, yet it is still unknown just how well the tool is performing with users.
Even Instagram’s parent company, Facebook, has tried and failed with attempts at e-commerce products. Ventures include their online gift shop, Facebook Gifts, which was shut down after a couple of years back in 2014. Their attempt at a “buy button” also failed to catch on.
Learning from past experiences
So, how can Instagram learn from the past mistakes of others? So far, social commerce hasn’t managed to live up to its potential. Instagram hopes to change all that by making the process appear more natural. What sets them aside from some of the other platforms is that their users already use it as a tool to make purchasing decisions.
Instagram previously conducted a study, which found that 75% of users influenced by a post on the app take an action such as searching, visiting a site, or telling a friend. Furthermore, 60% say that they learn about products and services by using the platform. Instagram is highly visual and the ideal place for inspiration, discovery, and wasting time.
Many people use it for beauty, fashion, and food inspiration, so you can see how certain brands will be able to thrive in this environment. Many have already embraced the platform and managed to build a loyal number of followers who are primed to purchase. Removing the barrier imposed by the lack of links and “click the link in bio” solution, and introducing tags may be the best solution for this platform.
However, the platform is already facing pretty negative reactions to the news. Essentially, users are concerned that the feature will ruin the flow of the Instagram feed. Instagram is hoping that the approach is subtle enough so as not to turn users away, yet still compelling enough to drive sales. Think of it as an inspiring, scrollable version of a catalog. Only time will tell whether or not users will buy into this new feature.