Instagram is about to change the shopping game. In an era where consumers look to their phones roughly 46 times per day – that is 8 million times per day for Americans as a whole – for news, to check emails, to pay for things (thanks to services like Apple Pay and Square Cash), and to scour their various social media feeds, the Facebook-owned platform, which boasts more than 500 million active users, has identified a potential goldmine: Shopping.
Earlier this month, Instagram announced that it plans to roll out a feature that enables brands to tag products in their posts with links that lead to their external websites. The photo-sharing app revealed on November 1 that it has partnered with 20 brands including Kate Spade, Jack Threads and Warby Parker to test the shopping feature over the next few weeks before opening it up to a larger pool.
According to Harper’s Bazaar, “The shoppable posts will have a 'tap to view' icon on the bottom left of a photo. When tapped, a tag will appear on all shoppable products in the post (brands can include up to 5 per photo) and showcase all the prices. After you select the tag of a specific product, a new detailed view of the product will open which then leads to a 'Shop Now' button directing you to the product on the brand's website.”
This marks the first time since Instagram’s launch that users will be able to include click-able links (aside from individual clickable link in a user’s bio) in posts. But there is more to this than a link. Instagram serves as curatorial source of sorts – with users consistently able to discover new products and services, oftentimes through the accounts of well-known and highly-followed influencers. According to a study run by Instagram, 60% of Instagrammers say they learn about products and services on the app, while 75% say they take actions like visiting sites, searching, or telling a friend after being influenced by a post on Instagram. Adding an easily-shoppable link truly stands to up the ante.
INSTA SHOP: A MUCH-NEEDED FIX?
And this may be just what retailers need at a time when luxury and mass-market sales, alike, are suffering. Traditional brick-and-mortar retailers, such as Macy’s and Gap, are closing stores; teen staples, like Wet Seal, Aeropostale, and PacSun, have struggled very significantly, filing for bankruptcy; and even more in-demand brands, from Zara to Nasty Gal, have each suffered in their own ways. Buzzy e-commerce site Nasty Gal filed for bankruptcy last week, and Spanish fast fashion giant Zara recently announced plans to halt its ambitious growth plan to focus, instead, on its digital footprint.
In the upper echelon of the industry, times have been tough, as well. The crisis in the global luxury-goods industry is deepening, with two of the industry's most trusted sources announcing anticipated dips in profit. Hermès International abandoned a long-standing forecast and Richemont predicted a profit plunge that Chairman Johann Rupert deemed unacceptable. Richemont, the maker of Cartier jewelry, said first-half operating profit will probably decline about 45 percent and warned it may have to deepen cost cuts.
While the advent of the e-commerce store has dramatically affected the retail landscape – altering the practice, timing, and technology of business-to-business and business-to-consumer commerce, and affecting pricing, product availability, transportation patterns, and consumer behavior in developed economies worldwide – it obviously has not solved the underlying problem. Simultaneously, the rise of social media and e-commerce shopping has led to a further decline in consumers’ attention spans. It has further emphasized expectations of convenience among consumers.
The notion of a consumer leaving her home, visiting a store and browsing racks of clothing is simply outdated; it has been replaced by the effortlessness associated with browsing various sites that offer curated selections of garments and accessories, which can be categorized by size, color, price, material, and so on – from the comfort of one’s own couch. Couple this with rapid shipping, free returns, and the luxury of doing it all in the privacy of your own home, and it makes perfect sense why this method is often preferable.
Yet, consumers simply are not shopping with as much vigor as they have in the past. In fact, consumer spending has been decelerating, ever so slightly, for the past several years.
THE MALL EXPERIENCE WITHOUT THE MALL
As technology, e-commerce, and globalization become more intertwined, buyers and sellers are increasing their connectivity and the speed with which they conduct sales transactions. This is where Instagram comes in. Instagram wants you to shop – right away – without having to interrupt your scrolling with a browser window.
Instagram appears to want to provide you with everything you want – in terms of garments and accessories, and even services, to an extent – without forcing you to leave one place. If this sounds a bit like the old school mall mentality, it kind of is. The mall was originally conceived of as a community center of sorts where people would converge for shopping, cultural activity, and social interaction. Moreover, in their heyday, malls provided consumers with a sense of convenience: consumers could go and shop a variety of brands and categories of goods all under one roof. And this proved successful – for many decades.
The shoppable Instagram scenario shares some of these elements with the traditional mall. The social aspect is present; Instagram is a social media app, after all. It has the potential to supersede even the e-commerce store, if it can evolve to the point where consumers can shop the dress they saw on their favorite influencer’s account without even having to leave the app. It is likely here that Instagram stands to make the most waves.
Next up (probably): Completing all of our shopping transactions - from garments and accessories to home goods and cosmetics - entirely within the Instagram app.