Not only does Instagram want to remain a source of style inspiration, it wants to go a step further by extending its shopping features into Stories, the company said Tuesday.
The photo-sharing network’s users can already buy things through the main feed, thanks to shoppable tags. Now, the decision to bring purchasing power to Stories was a natural evolution, Susan Rose, Instagram’s head of product marketing for business, told WWD.
“The growth in Stories, and the creativity and the way that people are using them to express themselves has certainly played a part. Now brands are expressing themselves,” she said of the ephemeral feed, which disappears after 24 hours. “So for businesses, we see that 50 percent of businesses have posted a story in the last month. They use it to give a lot more context and a holistic perspective around the products that they have.”
The process to enable shopping begins with cataloging product on the platform. Stores can connect existing product catalogues to Instagram, through the platform’s interface or plug-in with a third-party vendor to do the heavy lifting. Rose points to Shopify as an example: “They can manage clients’ product catalogue across their own web site, across Instagram, Facebook and other places where they want to have a consistent view of their inventory — pricing, the product descriptions, all of that — so they don’t need to re-create that.”
An Instagram spokeswoman said users wanting to tap into the new service need to:
- Ensure their profile is converted into a business profile
- Be an admin on a page or Business Manager account
- Have a shop on Facebook or a product catalogue within Business Manager
Businesses can control which items to feature in a given Instagram Story and establish links back to the relevant pages on their sites. Although Instagram has been dabbling in payments for ticket purchases and reservations, it plays no part here in the actual transaction. The retail partners handle the credit card processing and shipping details, with the platform merely connecting the dots. The goal is to remove friction from people’s path from inspiration and aspiration to purchasing.
All they have to do is tap a Story’s shopping bag sticker to see product information and quickly snag their object of desire, before diving back into their feeds or Story flow for more inspiration.
Its lightweight, casual format is “playful,” Rose continued, and the company has noticed how brands use it to show more angles of a given product. “We see things like the tutorials, whether it’s makeup tutorials, or ‘This is how I would try on a pair of jeans’ and ‘How that looks on me’ tutorials,” she said. Going the next step and making it easy to snag those items was a no-brainer.
Kamiu Lee, chief executive officer of influencer marketing network Activate agrees. “Stories [is] not permanent and, as such, it brings a sense of urgency and exclusivity for consumer audiences.” Given her line of work, Lee is also eager to see what this update could mean for her work with influencers.
As it stands, the feature is aimed solely at brands and retailers. But the marketing executive sees potential there.
“Down the line, brands looking to increase conversion could partner with influencers, using Stories to not only promote the sale, but also provide a quick a convenient path to purchase,” she said. “Not only will the tactic be effective for sales directly through the platform, but will be effective for launch strategies and pre-orders as well.”
Lee notes Nike’s success in using a similar approach on Snapchat, which also offers shopping and whose own Stories is widely credited as the mold for Instagram’s version. She believes other brands will try to replicate the footwear company’s success, but on Instagram Stories now.
There’s plenty of incentive. Instagram serves 800 million people, and its version of Stories swells with 300 million users. Now brands, from Adidas and Aritzia to Louis Vuitton, are taking advantage of the update to tap into those potential customers.