Instagram

On Tuesday, Instagram’s shopping powers graduated from inspiration resource to genuine shopping destination, thanks to the addition of native checkout.

It’s no secret that the photo-sharing network has been focused on the shopping experience. The platform has allowed retailers to connect their inventories and product catalogues to the platform, show pricing and link their product pages and carts to Instagram Stories since last year. Brands and retailers could add the shopping stickers and tags, and users could search items and tap the tags to learn more or add them to a shopping cart. But the actual purchase took place outside Instagram.

“To make things easier for people who love to shop, we’ve introduced a number of updates in the last year including product tags in Feed, product stickers in Stories and a shopping destination in Explore,” Instagram said on its blog. “People told us that they wanted more time and space before buying so we made it easy to save and share products.”

Meanwhile, the social media company also has been dabbling in payments, though mainly for concert tickets or reservations. Now with native checkout, all the dots are connecting within Instagram’s walls, so consumers can find, track and purchase items without leaving the app.

The news arrives at a key moment for online shopping, as politicians call to break up the e-commerce giant Amazon. Few could compete with a marketplace that heaves with more than 100 million Prime members, and the company’s drive to crack the apparel space — with a bustling basics business, white label products and growing partnerships — has the fashion sector waiting to exhale.

But Instagram, which broke a billion active users last year, has been cultivating its own shopping powers. The Facebook-owned platform now brims with more than 130 million users who engage with its shopping posts every month, according to the company.

The ability to pay for goods without leaving the app could see those numbers grow.

“People no longer have to navigate to the browser when they want to buy. And with their protected payment information in one place, they can shop their favorite brands without needing to log in and enter their information multiple times,“ the company wrote.

Instagram’s native checkout 

Shoppers will be able to pay with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal, which is a key partner that will be handling the transactions. According to the payments company, its latest full-stack processing platform, PayPal for Partners, will handle the whole “end-to-end” commerce process for both buyers and sellers.

“PayPal is enabling the next generation of commerce experiences for partners, while making the onboarding process seamless with new One Touch Seller Signup,” PayPal’s Bill Ready wrote in the company blog.

Shoppers will know which items can be purchased in the platform when they see the “Checkout on Instagram” option. They’ll be able to securely store payment options — like PayPal — for future purchases. The Instagram app also lets users check order status, estimated delivery and tracking number, as well as cancel orders, start a return, or seek customer support.

For now, the feature remains a closed beta or testing period. Initial brand partners include Revolve, Nike and Burberry, and many more are on the way, including Adidas, Anastasia Beverly Hills, Balmain, ColourPop, Dior, Huda Beauty, H&M, KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, MAC Cosmetics, Michael Kors, NARS, NYX Cosmetics, Oscar de la Renta, Outdoor Voices, Ouai Hair, Prada, Uniqlo, Warby Parker and Zara.

“We’re excited to partner with Instagram to make it even easier for our consumers to access Nike products through our @nikewomen and @niketraining handles, ultimately shortening the path from inspiration to purchase,” said Nike’s Daniel Heaf, vice president and general manager of Nike Global Digital Commerce, by way of Instagram’s business blog.

Native checkouts are just the beginning, the blog teased. “Checkout is just one part of our long-term investment in shopping. We’re excited to introduce even more ways for people to enjoy shopping on Instagram this year,” it said.

Eventually, when the company officially launches checkouts, brands will be able to integrate with it directly or rely on Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CommerceHub, and others to support the feature.

“The ability to go all the way through the social commerce journey and complete a purchase right there in the app makes its evolution to a vibrant next-generation marketplace complete,” said Jimmy Duvall, chief product officer at BigCommerce. “We’re thrilled to be working closely with Instagram — just as we have for every Shopping on Instagram step, from shoppable posts to international availability to shoppable Stories — and delivering the combined power of our platforms to all our merchants.

“Our merchants have seen incredible success using integrations with Shopping on Instagram to convert fans and followers into loyal customers,” he added. “This latest capability allows brands to continue doing just that, without the risk of losing sales by asking consumers to shift to another platform to check out.”

That holistic experience is key for any online platform wading into Amazon’s neck of the woods.

Experts say its marketplace works well when shoppers know what they want, but comes up short for product discovery. Instagram was built for discovery, and now that it has added the transaction piece, it may become a literal one-stop shop for fashion-conscious consumers.