Shopping is Coming to Instagram: What it Means for Brands

Instagram's been on an update rampage since summer 2015 and the latest bomb to drop in their series of new releases is what every single brand has been waiting for with bated breath.

S H O P P I N G.

What does this mean for your biz? We're breaking it down below.


our spot. #datingmypurse

A photo posted by kate spade new york (@katespadeny) on

Kate Spade be testin'.


Time May Change Me

Social media tops the priority list of most smart marketers we encounter. In fact, that's why Dash Hudson has become an indispensable tool for informing the Instagram strategies of some of the world's best brands. These new, more direct than ever consumer touch points have helped pilot the rise of digital marketing into a new era.

In fact, it's now hard to imagine the world before we were on our devices 24/7. Before we had endless access to whatever information we seek at any given time. Before we could interact on a one-on-one basis with the brands we're loyal to. Before we could browse items we're interested in and make purchases from any location with a decent 4G connection.

These social networks all serve different purposes, but what unites them is that they all began as platforms geared toward personal use. Spoiler alert: our propensity for commerce as a human species has taken a hold of them. Through the years, these platforms have been turned into highly effective business accelerators, and are now central to marketing funnels across all kinds of industries.

This commercial pivot with user-heavy, device-accessible platforms is no surprise when you think about how much people rely on their mobiles every minute of every day for basically every single existing mortal need. Sure we use our phones way more than we should, but that's just the reality of today's modern world. And where people are, businesses go. As they should.

Don’t worry, we have other options. #NewArrivals, now in.

A photo posted by Nasty Gal (@nastygal) on

Shop, don't drop.

When Instagram was released, it fulfilled a need that no one knew they had: to take lots of photos and share them not only with their friends and family, but with perfect strangers, too. Users united in their appreciation for specific niches, for particular aesthetics, for humoristic memes - communities were formed and brands took notice.

The fact that Instagram was a purely organic channel was both a problem and an advantage for companies onboarding the app. On one hand, it forced brands to put a lot of thought into their content and to foster an audience, and in the process turning its members into loyal, committed, emotionally invested customers.

But on the other, it offered no means to actually conduct business transactions with them. Monetizing solutions came along down the road via third parties, but the big barrier preventing brands from turning their most direct consumer touch point into a commerce conduit was the fact that the Big House simply did not allow for it.

Money, Money, Money

For better or for worse, Instagram had yet to release a functionality conducive to monetizing outside of ads - until they finally announced last week that they were veering into mobile retail territory. They've come to realize that folks are increasingly using their smartphones to inform their purchases and are betting on facilitating those transactions by being the middle man.

The almighty app's new shopping functionality will allow brands to display detailed information on specific items in their posts. If a user likes what they see and are ready to commit to a purchase, they then have the option to be redirected to the product page to complete the transaction. Instagram will become a full-capacity purchase pipeline for brands with inventory to move. It's a new dawn, friends.

Just like this:

Instagram has given brands an unprecedented opportunity to tell their their story with representative visual narratives, and now they're giving them the holy grail with this new tool. It's the chance to bring the consumer cycle to completion without any outside hurdles. Brands are finally going to be able to take their audience from awareness to purchase without the challenges of having to redirect them to another touch point. Crafting aspirational content for Instagram serves the purpose of inciting transactions, whether in the immediate or down the road, and this new function facilitates those intentions - a heaven-sent for brands.

Our community uses Instagram as an aspirational discovery platform and they’re looking to us for inspiration, this test is going to change the scope of what we, as retailers, are capable of offering on mobile.
-Ryan McIntyre, CMO, JackThreads

Some are predicting that this might throw a wrench in the well-oiled influencer/brand ecosystem, arguing that those relationships are subject to change. In the end, we think that cool brands will always want (or need) cool girls to push their products to help them stay relevant in the circles they deem right for their image... But there's no disputing that behaviors are inevitably going to be shifting - that of regular users, brands, influencers, and third party businesses whose claim to fame are Insta hacks.

A shoppable Instagram is proving to be both polarizing and tremendously exciting. For the successful brands that embraced Instagram a long time ago, chipping away at strategy perfection and evolving with the platform, this new opportunity to bridge the gap between inspirational storytelling and monetization has been a long time coming. However, the naysayers are maintaining that the app is deviating too far from its true north and that it's shifting into "shopping app" territory.

Instagram's been subtly revealing its agenda to commercialize the platform since their API opened last fall, making many strides to show brands that they're being supported. Most businesses viewed the lack of live links as the number one barrier when marketing on the app, but those days are about to come to an end. All those hefty resources brands have dedicated to the 'gram are about to pay off big time.

Stay tuned as we start learning more about the functionality and bring you actionable strategies to navigate the update, right here on this blog.


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