Like and buy - the next stage in Instagram's evolution

Within the past few months, Instagram is proving to be a premier media communication channel. Not only is it competing with Snapchat with Instagram Stories, but with the release of Instagram Live this week, it is competing with Periscope and possibly even YouTube. So perhaps it shouldn't come as a surprise that they are also piloting inroads into the eCommerce space with a Pinterest-esque competitive model: Instagram Shoppable Photos. This model is in a beta stage on iOS and is currently set to launch with a handful (20 or so) of vendors like J.Crew and Kate Spade during the first few weeks of December so there aren't a lot of details about how it will roll out, but we'll outline the basic premise below.

Here's how it works:

  • Someone browsing their Instagram feed sees something that they like on a product page.
  • If the page has been built with Shoppable Photos functionality, the "tagged friends" icon has been replaced with "tagged products."
  • The 'tagged products" icon is unobtrusive and sits within the photo - users can either 'like' the picture or tap the "tagged products" to highlight the individual components displayed within the grid.
  • Once an individual product tag is clicked, the user is routed to a product description page, built within the Instagram UI - much like clicking on a tagged friend.
  • From the description page, the user can either buy it immediately (via the retailer website) or they can save it for later and return to browsing their feed.

This idea behind Shoppable Photos stands in contrast to the proliferation of brand apps in the marketplace - instead of creating an app for your brand, why not leverage an existing channel people already are engaged and comfortable with? However, there are some important considerations to note about this concept. The audience that uses Instagram is very specific - at its core, Instagram is a peer-to-peer content streaming and sharing medium. This is especially relevant for certain industries looking to humanize their brand, like Retailers...but it isn't as applicable for, say, a Bank or an Insurance company. There needs to be a specific and tangible reference node that can be shared in order for the messaging to be relevant to the user.

Furthermore, it is important to note that while Shoppable Photos has the potential to (ostensibly) compete with Amazon, the truth is, it does and it doesn't. People use Instagram for myriad reasons - and lets be honest, just because eCommerce capabilities are available doesn't mean that people are going to start looking for bulk toilet paper on Instagram. Unless its really photogenic toilet paper.

The net of it is this- it is still very important to develop your own apps and your own website, but having a connection with a popular communication channel allows you to avoid reinventing the wheel and it can foster deeper engagement with this specific audience.

Questions? Comments? We're here to help... sound off below! :-)