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Instagram Turning Discovery Into Action with New Shopping Features

By Stephanie Baiocchi

Instagram Turning Discovery Into Action with New Shopping Features

Imagine being curled up on your couch on a Saturday morning with a cup of coffee, scrolling through Instagram. You see a pair of shoes you love, so you click “purchase” and check out on the spot.

With Instagram’s two recent updates, users can go on a shopping spree without even leaving their favorite app, let alone their couch.

In fact, now they can even get personalized recommendations in a dedicated shopping section of the app. That’s right. Instagram has users’ retail therapy needs covered.

In-feed shopping was first introduced in Instagram back in 2016. Since then, more robust versions have rolled out including more options for businesses such as specific button text on shopping posts.

This week they announced two new updates to their shopping tools that show that Instagram is really going all-in on their shopping experience - but should brands take the bait?

The two newest updates include the global launch of Instagram’s shoppable stories, which they began testing in June, and a specific channel in the Explore (aka search) tab which is dedicated to your personalized shopping recommendations.

The shopping channel in Explore will be expanding globally in the coming weeks, according to Instagram’s release.

instagram shopping 1

Image via

Best of all? These shopping tools are available to businesses at no cost.

If it seems too good to be true, it just might be, but first, let’s look at what the tools have to offer.

Shoppable Stories

We know by using Instagram to show the more personal, human side of our brands we can build trust with consumers.

According to a study by Dana Rebecca Designs, 72% of surveyed users said they have made fashion, beauty or style-related purchases after seeing something on Instagram. Furthermore, 25% of those surveyed consider themselves “somewhat to very influenced” by accounts they follow on Instagram.

So, why not then give them a friction-free, seamless way to purchase the thing they see and want right in the moment?

Instagram felt the same way.

That’s why they’re rolling out Shoppable Stories globally this week.

Shoppable Stories are just like regular Instagram stories except they allow brands to add tags or “stickers” that link to specific products on their websites. They can add one sticker per story and even customize the color to match the item featured in their post.


Image via

When a user taps a sticker it opens a product details page which provides them with a link to the brand website to actually complete the purchase.

Naturally, businesses will be able to track the number of clicks their tags are getting and how many continued on to purchase through their website. Retailers can also partner with companies like Shopify and BigCommerce to make using Instagram’s shopping stickers easy.

Instagram recommends these three tips for using stickers in Stories:

  1. Customize the text color on product stickers to complement your visual creative
  2. Try using product stickers in stories for your product launches or sales announcements
  3. Keep the product as the focal point in videos when using a product sticker

Personalized Shopping Recommendations from Brands You Already Follow

In addition to the topic channels such as “food” and “travel” which are already available in Explore (aka search) in Instagram, there will now be a “shopping” channel which will show users shopping-tagged posts from brands they already follow as well as related businesses they may like based on their interests and past engagement with shopping posts.

Instagram Explore Shopping Tab

Image via

By adding a shopping section to Explore, Instagram hopes to make it “easier for users to shop when they’re in the mood” according to Vishal Shah, product management director at Instagram.

“For many people on Instagram, shopping is an entertaining way to get inspired and connect with new and interesting brands,” Instagram said in their release.

It makes sense that the next logical step for Instagram was to give users a way to connect with brands they may like based on their interests - and then purchase from those brands.

Does the Future of Shopping Lie within Instagram?

According to an article by The Verge, as Instagram leans further into shopping, they may even build a standalone shopping app.

For the time being, Instagram has “no comment” on the topic of a standalone shopping app. However, allowing users to purchase directly within Instagram in the future could certainly shorten the buying cycle and get more users to complete purchases.

So, that brings us back to the topic of whether or not brands should take the bait of these wonderful (and free) new shopping tools.

Should You Explore Instagram’s Shopping Tools?

While free tools to encourage users to make purchases may seem like a no-brainer, think back how news outlets responded to Facebook’s surge of referral traffic to publishers a few years ago.

They became so dependent on the Facebook traffic so quickly, they were completely caught off guard when Facebook cut them off as they began to focus things back on content from friends and family.

While the shopping tools on Instagram are definitely a nice bonus, be careful how much you prioritize diving into these new features.

Instagram is still in complete control of how the Explore section functions and tend to be pretty responsive to their users’ feedback.

Businesses should still develop relationships with their followers on Instagram and make it easy for them to buy things they see and like without getting too caught up in the potential Amazon-equivalent Instagram of the future.


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Social Media Marketing
Published on September 19, 2018

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