“You can’t wait for customers to come to you. You have to figure out where they are, and go and drag them back to your store.”
— Paul Graham, the founder of Y Combinator and Viaweb.
Truer words have never been spoken and true to form, this philosophy has characterized eCommerce in the past decade or so. Increased use of social media made business entities realize that potential customers resided on social media. The business world, therefore, took the necessary steps to ensure they reached and engaged these customers by using social media as a marketing tool.
According to Statista, approximately 1.66 billion people purchased goods online in 2017 for a total global e-retail sales of 2.23 trillion US dollars. It is estimated that by 2021, the global e-retail sales will amount to 4.48 trillion dollars.
Facebook and Instagram are the two social media platforms that contributed greatly to the observed online business activity. Actually, reports suggest that stores that have a social presence on these two platforms have 32% more sales on average than stores that do not have a social presence.
That is why there was such an excitement when Instagram widely launched shoppable Instagram in March of this year. The feature was trialed in the United States in 2016, and by 2017 it was rolled out nationwide in the US. In an interview with Marketing Week, Amy Cole the head of Instagram’s business development said that a popular brand in the US recorded an 8% increase in revenue thanks to the feature.
With the second rollout, the feature is now available in the UK, Australia, Brazil, Canada, France, Italy, Spain, Germany. Let us digress for a minute though and first determine what the feature is all about.
What is Shoppable Instagram?
Shoppable Instagram is a feature that allows businesses and brands to tag products in an organic post. Using the feature, a business selects a photo they would like to feature, if it is a single photo then they are able to tag up to five products.
As a follower browses, if they click on a post, then they are able to immediately see the name and price of the product tagged. When a follower goes step further and clicks on aparticular tag, they are able to view
- The image of the product.
- Similar products available in the shop.
- Other shoppable posts from that particular brand.
- The price of the product.
- A comprehensive product description.
- A link to the product on the official website.
Note that a customer is able to access all the pertinent information while still on the Instagram app and only leaves the app when they decide on the product to purchase and they have to click on the link to the website. Additionally, for a multi-photo, an entity can tag up to twenty products.
In essence, the shopping feature re-imagines Instagram as a giant shop window. Instagram users can then access information about what is displayed on the window without having to jump from app to app or leave the app to do further research.
How is this an improvement?
Initially, the only way enterprises could attract traffic to their website and allow potential customers to access more information and potentially buy a product was through a link in the bio or through the clickable Instagram stories.
While the methods were effective in their own way, most noted that users did not like leaving the app every time they encountered something they liked. Hence, Instagram shoppable posts.
Pre-requirements of Setting Up Shoppable Instagram Posts
First, you need to be located in the eight countries mentioned above where this feature has been rolled out.
Second, you need to have an Instagram business account. An Instagram business profile is a public account with access to business features and Instagram insights. Setting up the account is similar to setting up a personal one with the only difference being that you declare it as a business account. It is also possible to switch a personal account to a business one simply by going to your profile and selecting “switch to a business profile.”
Third, ensure you have the latest version of the Instagram app either on Android or iOS.
Fourth, your business must comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and policies. That means the goods that your business sells must be approved in accordance with these policies.
Finally, and arguably the most important, your Instagram profile must be linked to a Facebook catalog. Why? Because the shoppable Instagram feature will pull product information from the catalog. A Facebook catalog is a list of items you would like to advertise on Facebook complete with all the pertinent information such as description and price.
A catalog is usually created and managed on your official Facebook business page or sometimes through a third party like Shopify if you so desire.
Setting Up the Actual Feature
This is the easy part, with the pre-requirements in place,
Voila! You are now ready to start tagging products with your posts.
The Reaction So Far
Some big brands, especially in the United States,have already incorporated this feature and they have reported a positive impact. Shopify, BigCommerce, Natori,and Native Union, for instance, have incorporated the feature.
Natori is a company that sells women clothing, luxury lingerie,and home décor. The company has reported an increased Instagram traffic of 1,416% thanks to the feature.
Similarly, Native Union a tech accessories shop has reported a 2,666% increase in Instagram traffic after installing the feature.
Shopify and BigCommerce have gone a step further and incorporated a cart that allows customers to complete their shopping without leaving Instagram.
With such numbers from respected brands, it is clear that the Instagram shoppable feature is not just a fad but something that will revolutionize how business entities interact and reach customers. Most importantly, this feature is proving to be one that can actually convert social media use to sales.
Expected Impact and Benefits
In Australia, for instance, Australians spent $10 billion in online purchasing in 2017 and they reported a 52% increase in mobile shopping. These statistics are replicated across the world in terms of online business activity.
With the global rollout, it is expected that more businesses will rush to incorporate this feature in a bid to gain competitive advantage. As businesses all over the world start using shoppable Instagram, online purchasing and online business activities will see exponential growth worldwide.
Second, an average person spends approximately two hours on social media according to reports. Teens, on the other hand, spend close to nine hours on social media per day on average.
By taking the product directly where the consumer spends the majority of their time, then it follows that SMEs and business owners will see increased traffic and increased revenues.
Next, we have to consider how easy this feature will make shopping. Within a single platform, a potential customer can browse as many products as desired, make comparisons, select the best possible product and finally purchase the product.
Think especially about the comparison factor. Initially, before purchasing a product one had to list all the possible stores that stocked the product, go online and research the prices from each store individually then finally make a decision.
With shoppable Instagram, a consumer only has to follow all the stores that stock the desired product. Then within the Instagram app compare prices, learn more about the product, differentiate between the various products and when satisfied make the purchase.
The feature simplifies the shopping process for a consumer and potentially increases revenue for business owners. Even more important, enterprises can take advantage of impulse buyers.
It is normal that when boredom sets in, Instagram users scroll through Instagram. Such users can come across a product they did not expect to purchase and end up buying it.
The jury is still out on the exact impact that this feature will have on businesses especially small to medium-sized businesses. However, till then, here are a few tips that can help you and your business take advantage of shoppable Instagram
Because the feature is only applicable to organic posts and not sponsored ones, there are some simple things you can do to ensure the feature maximizes the potential of your Instagram followers.
➜ Post consistently; probably 3 days per week as the minimum. Frequent posting will guarantee that the majority of your followers see the post.
➜ Engage with your potential customers. Gary Vaynerchuk says, he did not grow his wine business from a $3 million business to a $60 million business because of the advertisements on social media, but because of the hours he spent replying to every email, every Instagram review, and every Facebook comment. Engaging cannot be emphasized enough.
➜ Share a variety of content.
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