Is Instagram Shopping what social commerce has been waiting for?

Jessica Chapplow, ecommerce and emerging platforms manager at Wavemaker EMEA, looks at the likely impact of the wider launch of Instagram Shopping

If there’s one thing we know about consumer behaviour in the online environment it’s that the attention span of the average shopper is rapidly moving to zero. Having to take additional steps, or having to wait, are factors that can lead to the consumer deciding that Amazon Prime is just easier. In fact, according to Google, 53 per cent of mobile users abandon a purchase if a website takes over three seconds to load. This highlights the immense pressure on brands to deliver seamless eCommerce experiences.

It’s no surprise then, that the platform launching a formidable attempt to resolve this issue is one of the most consumer-centric ones: Instagram. It has recognized that shoppable content on social platforms which reduces the extra steps consumers have to take is a winning formula. Instagram Shopping was initially launched across the US in March 2017. The rollout to additional countries such as the UK (announced last week) France, Italy, Spain, Canada and Germany, marks a critical moment in the maturity of social commerce and will become a staple feature of owned media.

One pitfall of traditional eCommerce sites is that they take the serendipity out of shopping — that is, they’re good for transacting when you know what you want, but not so good when you don’t. Social platforms lend themselves to eCommerce – if a product appears organically it is more likely to land a soft-sell.

Originating as a social platform is Instagram’s most valuable asset, as it transcends from being predominantly a discovery platform passively used by consumers, to becoming a ‘new storefront’ where consumers can actively look to make purchases directly from the brand in an environment in which they clearly enjoy consuming content. A recent study of UK consumers conducted by Wavemaker reinforces this: 25 per cent of consumers prefer to buy products directly from the brand as opposed to another third-party site or marketplace

Conversion driver
However, Instagram Shopping allows brands to use mobile as a massive conversion driver. The ability for consumers to buy after a single touch of a shoppable tag will accelerate impulse purchasing. Ultimately, this means that brands will need to anticipate the ripple effect on Instagram itself. As news feed content becomes more product focused, the Instagram community will anticipate that some brands will inevitably underestimate the evolving rules of engagement on the social platform.

Despite Instagram Shopping not supporting payments, it is clearly making strides to close the loop between discovery (products) and destination (the checkout page). This points towards a future where Instagram provides an all-in-one transactional platform, which will put it in the same league as leading platforms like WeChat and Line.

Regardless, Instagram Shopping paves the way for brands to reinforce awareness with existing followers and open the door to engage in conversations with potential new customers and drive them to the brand website. This has already been sufficient for brands on WeChat to prosper. Many major brands dont sell directly on WeChat, but use it to seamlessly guide consumers onto their own online eCommerce platform, as Amazon and H&M currently do.

Ultimately this may be a first masterstroke to making Instagram one of the most important platforms for brands: if it can offer a measurable and important business outcome, it forces us to rethink its role in everything from performance plans to influencer marketing.

Are you listening, Snapchat?