Yesterday, I made my first purchase using the new Instagram Checkout and, being a known Instagram addict fan, was very impressed by the experience:
- I found a very discrete checkout tag in the feed of a brand participating in the beta release - a small dot that, once tapped, displays product tags with prices on them. It didn’t seem obtrusive or distracting at all.
- Tapping the product tag launched the Checkout page with information to help me make an educated purchasing decision: product description, shipping, return policies, and other posts where the product was featured.
- I provided my shipping address and linked my Instagram account with Paypal - which in total took maybe 30 seconds.
- I chose the default option to opt-out from sharing my email with the brand.
- Now I can track my purchases and reach out to the brand, if I have any issues through the new Orders tab.
Admittedly, a good portion of my shopping is heavily influenced by social media, so being able to buy a product “in the moment” saves me a lot of time. Overall, the decision of a social media giant with 1 billion users worldwide to bring the shopping experience into their app is a signal that in-content shopping pioneered by Pinterest back in 2016 is becoming the new norm.
Instagram is not just a shoppable feed, it is starting to show the characteristics of a marketplace: unified commerce experience, keeping consumer within the app rather than redirecting to a different channel, and limiting brand access to consumer data. Marketplaces, in general, are not new to eCommerce, but the type of shopping Instagram offers - impulsive, discovery purchasing behavior - hasn't been harnessed until now.
So what does it mean for brands?
Instagram has been busy: back in March 2018, it added a feature allowing brands to tag products in their posts linking them to the brand’s website. Soon after, this feature was extended to Stories. And finally now, in March 2019, Instagram perfected the shopping experience when they released the in-app checkout option.
From this timeline, it is apparent that the race to conquer new shopping experiences is no longer measured in years, but in months.
For young brands
Instagram checkout can become a powerful tool for start-up brands building their social recognition without significant investments in eCommerce. Shoppable tags can substitute building an eCommerce website or a mobile app, at least in the short-term: with the new in-app checkout young brands are no longer required to have ‘link in bio’ website to convert their social media interactions into sales.
Young brands should choose an eCommerce platform that is light-weight and flexible enough to feed the product catalog into Instagram and, at the same time, has the potential to power the entire commerce engine once the brand is ready.
For well-established brands
For large brands, building an effective social media strategy is no longer just about brand awareness, it is about offering appealing shopping experiences and effectively converting interactions into sales. Brands that have a strong social media presence but a rigid architecture will quickly fall behind. We all get used to good things fast so having a social feed that is not shoppable will seem outdated.
Established brands should start layering ecommerce APIs on top of their current architecture to enable new shopping experiences now without a significant strain on the budget or their eCommerce roadmap.
By introducing checkout, Instagram made it easier for new brands to start selling products, and also added fire to the race for larger brands to extend outside of traditional eCommerce. Here at Elastic Path, we are incredibly excited to see such transformations in the industry and continue building tools to take brands of any size to the next level.