Just as the holiday shopping season officially gets underway, Instagram this week became the latest social media platform to throw its hat into the social shopping ring. Its newly-launched shopping feature allows brands to tag products and merchandise, the same way users currently tag their followers in a picture, and that “Tap to view” tag provides product information like price. There is not yet any purchasing from within the app but the company is working with 20 brands, including Kate Spade and J. Crew, and optimistically taking this first step despite previous social shopping failures from Pinterest, Twitter and even Facebook.
Pinterest’s collage boards seemed like a shopper’s (and e-tailer’s) dream until its buyable pins didn’t revolutionize social shopping; Twitter and Facebook’s buy buttons also faced the same fate. Social media’s most recent failed foray into shopping is Facebook’s Marketplace, a buyer/seller bazaar meant to compete with Craigslist launched earlier this year. Numbers from a survey by the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth show that only 35 percent of millennials said they were likely to use a buy button on Facebook, with even dimmer news for Twitter.
Still, Instagram’s optimism has merit and it is well positioned to pioneer the social shopping space. For one, it is a visually-driven application, allowing for brands to showcase products in the most appealing way. It has also become a darling to fashion bloggers and influencers, who have already found bootleg ways to promote products and brands to their followers.
On a larger scale, social media now seems ripe for a successful shopping component, with nearly 65% of U.S. adults now using social media, according to Brandwatch’s Social Outlook Report. Mobile checkouts have become easier and more secure for consumers to use; applications have become hyper-localized, creating a sense of familiarity and trust with their audiences. Brands and companies are also constantly making updates to recreate a seamless customer service and in-store experiences.
Perhaps even more importantly, social media participants seem ready to shop their apps. “Today, consumers increasingly rely on social media to help them gather information along their way to making purchasing decisions,” explains Stacy DeBroff, founder and CEO of social media research firm Influence Central. Its latest study revealed that 96% of female consumers seek out opinions and recommendations before they buy or try new products or services, a function that Instagram’s comment threads and direct message feature does well.
Beyond that, Influence Central’s study found that 86% of women consumers tap members of their social media network for their opinions, advice, and recommendations and use social media and websites to access recommendations they use to make purchases.
While Instagram is now providing a promising platform for brands to see a direct return on investment from their social media efforts, DeBroff cautions that it is up to brands themselves to capitalize on it.
“We know that women consumers have become more and more savvy and conduct significant research before a purchase,” DeBroff continues. “E-tailers have a great opportunity to actively engage with their customers and encourage them to share online their personal storytelling and authentic insights around their purchase, including how it fits into their lifestyle by incorporating visually engaging and sharable photos that will encourage exponential growth.”
One retailer to watch is Amazon, who took the top place in Brandwatch’s study for online and social visibility.