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The Rise of Social Shopping

Instagram shopping

An Instagram survey of 21,000 regular users aged 13 to 64 found that 87% of people had taken action after seeing a product on the platform – clicking through to buy or doing research elsewhere.

Considering that Instagram says its 400 million active users spend 53 minutes a day scrolling through their feeds, that’s a LOOOOT of potential sales.

Are you missing out?

The thriving Instagram marketplace

For years, all us marketing ‘experts’ insisted that you shouldn’t go too heavy on product promotion in your social media activity. And every seller on Instagram is laughing at us.

The words ‘DM to buy’ are everywhere – a simple honour system of approaching the seller about that vintage dress, negotiating a price and sending the money by PayPal or Venmo. It’s organic, tech-light and oddly old-fashioned. An internet jumble sale.

Vintage sellers, in particular, have this down. They’ll often do a teaser post of an upcoming item and you’ll see hundreds of comments below saying ‘Tag, please’. When the item goes up for sale, the seller will tag those accounts to notify them.

Instagram has sprouted this ecosystem by mistake, and it’s now formalising the process.

Instagram Checkout

Of course, any platform would want a piece of the pie. No big business can let a cottage industry go unmonetised under its own roof.

Instagram Checkout is a new tool that lets businesses sell products IN Instagram. It puts a Checkout button on organic posts from brands using the feature.

The organic bit is important – these aren’t ads. They’re posts a user wants to see, with helpful shopping details and an easy purchase journey. Pull, not push.

A Kantar Media study found that 55% of UK consumers felt completely apathetic towards ads. No surprise there but it does show that we should be experimenting with these new sales tools alongside traditional advertising.

Instagram Checkout lets users pay for products by credit card and PayPal, making it the easiest thing in the world to go from browsing to buying. Instagram will even save their payment details for future purchases (duh – it’ll GOBBLE up that data).

The issue with Instagram Checkout is that your customers aren’t actually yours. They don’t go near your site and Instagram essentially keeps the customer’s data for itself. You don’t get any details for future marketing so lifetime value is out of your hands.

Instagram Checkout

Some big brands like Adidas and Zara are already using Instagram Checkout and most retailers are taking advantage of Instagram’s precursor to Checkout, Shopping, the simple e-commerce features it released last year.

These don’t allow a buyer to transact within Instagram but do let sellers display prices on images and link to their website product pages. This is arguably better for your brand awareness as a small business, while the huge retailers can afford to give Instagram some of their site visits in exchange for rapid social sales.

How to take advantage of the social shopping trend

  1. Work on the quality of your product photography
  2. Take time to style products in multiple ways to attract buying attention
  3. Encourage and feature customer images of products
  4. Make sure your customer service on social platforms is just as attentive as through other channels
  5. Submit your Instagram account to apply for Shopping features (you’ll need a Facebook catalogue)
  6. Register your interest for Instagram Checkout – it’s only available in the US right now but it’ll be coming our way soon

Social shopping is one of the best things to happen for the small, independent businesses sprouting up everywhere. If you can stand out, react quickly to trends and adopt new selling tools, you can take advantage of the brilliant rise of social shopping.