From social media to B2C marketplace and B2B analytics – how Instagram is evolving
Adam Mosseri, the newly appointed head of Instagram has made significant announcements that could change the future course of the platform. Users who previously identified the platform as a social media for visual storytelling could look forward to doing some ‘window shopping’ with the new Instagram Shopping feature and the Checkout with Instagram feature that has been released in select countries (currently not available in India).
According to media reports, Mosseri has stated that his ambition for the platform is for it to become a B2C marketplace and a B2B data, analytics and marketing business. Since Instagram already has 1 billion monthly active users (Source: SproutSocial) on the platform, it may already command the user loyalty that platforms such as Amazon, Flipkart are trying to build.
Deep Mehta, Co-Founder, Digichefs, remarked, “Instagram has conveniently shaped itself into a social platform for branded content. Great visuals, supported by the right hashtags, garner a wide organic reach for brands capitalising on the power of Instagram.”
He added, “With Instagram claiming that 60 per cent of its users hunt for products on Instagram, making Shopping an integral part of the app was inevitable. The release of product tagging in posts was a quick thumbs up to the fact that Instagram wants to use its platform as friendly to e-commerce as possible. With product tagging on Instagram stories, the reach for brands to showcase their products only increases further.”
Visual posts on Instagram became the darling of advertisers who wanted to promote branded content.
Sai Sangeeta Israni, GM Makreting, Spykar Lifestyles, too, believes that Instagram has become one of the hottest places to spot trends and inspirations from the daily consumer. “With a consumer base of 60 million+ in India, Instagram is one of the most used social platforms by millennial and Gen Z, which is why it has become essential for brands to maintain a note-worthy feed. The discover page showcases organic content which is relevant to the user, helping brands get in the user’s eye space. Additionally, investing in the ad program increases the brands visibility on this platform further.”
Considering that so many consumers are already ‘window shopping’ on Instagram, it made sense for it to become a portal to purchase products directly from brands. From branded content the platform pivoted to a semi e-commerce/social media platform. Considering that Instagram still acts merely as an intermediary for the consumer to experience the brand, it does not catch flak for a poor customer experience.
For Spykar Instagram serves the purpose of a digital magazine and catalogue. Apparel brands need a lot of media space to showcase collections, several styles and range presentations. Instagram offers that opportunity to present the entire season collections in the right environment with the right set of audiences. “Consumers who actually like our philosophy and designs can just log on to our page and browse through the entire range available,” Israni said.
The real question, however, is how good a job does Instagram as a platform do in aiding product discovery and converting consumers to buyers.
According to Sameer Makani, Co-Founder and Managing Director, Makani Creatives, “With shopping on Instagram, brands can share featured products through organic posts and stories, or have people discover products in Search & Explore. Such features are helping brands in creating maximum impact in the minds of the individuals who later become a consumer from a potential prospect. Remarketing methods helps one to reach every visitor who leaves without converting. Remarketing works as a gentle reminder to encourage people visiting the site to finish what they started, while supporting the branding and messaging to the visitor every time they see you around.”
DigiChefs’ Mehta added here, “We have seen some excellent results of e-commerce purchases for the marketing campaigns run on Instagram compared to most other social platforms. I’d go ahead and say that Instagram is a low hanging fruit to generate transactions by running advertising campaigns on the platform.”
"Instagram marketing has multiple advantages, one it rides on the “Mobile First” strategy, Second, the Instagram Stories is a feature that has made it “must visit” app and almost 60% of the 64 million plus audience would log in daily. The third advantage is the format where the image takes the lead helps showcase brand in most glorified manner and the conversion rate for image driven purchases is much higher than the videos”, says Rishi Sharma, (Assistant Vice-President) AVP and Head Digital Marketing LIVA, P&F Business, Garism Industries.
Checkout with Instagram will take the game a notch higher, opines Mehta. “I wouldn’t be surprised to see users using the Instagram search feature (which now is prominently placed next to home in the app), hit on ‘Shop’ and go forward to seeing the latest collection from their favourite brands they follow, may be check a few products and finish their shopping. Right then and there, in between checking on stories about what their friend did over the weekend!”
Who is leveraging Instagram’s shopping feature to its potential?
Makani pointed out, “Instagram houses a wide range of brands as well as SMEs who showcase their products, ranging from clothes to clothing accessories like belts, watches, etc., to electronic products, gifting products, and so on. It has been observed that small businesses as well as renowned brands are utilising this as a shopping option, given that this feature gives better mileage to the brand in terms of reach with specific interest and audience targeting.”
“Since Instagram Shopping is fairly young, various categories like apparel and other lifestyle related brands like footwear, sneakers, cosmetics, jewellery, etc. are ramping up plans to include Instagram Shopping. Categories catering to young audiences and impulse purchase are significant on the platform,” observed Israni.
Adding the social experience to shopping works in the advertisers’ favour. According to Makani, “Where previously consumers visited e-commerce sites like Flipkart and Amazon now Instagram and Facebook are considered as prominent platforms to purchase similar products. Consumers often discuss about the products on Instagram by either sharing the post or by tagging or direct messaging their friends and family. This not only helps brands in understanding the discussions surrounding their product but it also makes brands understand buyer behaviour.”
He further said, “While the Internet has stripped the ideas of touch and feel based shopping, Instagram has contributed to the rise of experiential retail. Instagram’s ability of having stories and User Generated Content (UGC) provides more creative ways to reach out to consumer increasing their user experience. Impulsive buying is gaining prominence and this feature allows the user to make a purchase instantly. It has enhanced the buying experience of the consumers and brands also get to measure the outreach through Instagram analytics.”
This new direction that Instagram is headed towards is in line with Mark Zuckerberg’s vision. He had announced in Q1 this year that Facebook is look to build more tools for people to buy things directly through the platforms. Or as Mosseri more elaborately put it in an interview with the Financial Times, the platform hopes to connect the dots between shoppers, sellers, manufacturers, and Instagram’s native influencers.
Currently, the Instagram Shopping feature continues to drive traffic towards e-commerce websites. However, the Checkout with Instagram feature is sure to disrupt the playing field in the online retail space.
“Currently, the bigger players in the e-commerce segment have a larger hold over this feature. Building a feature similar or equal to this concept on Instagram will make shopping easier on the platform. The idea of Instagram Checkout presently sees a positive window, but there is a need for some promising measures/ changes to be made along with a secured payment gateway for a secured transaction. Overall, it will provide an ease in shopping and will drive direct sales for brands,” explained Makani.
Ease of usage and user experience will define the future of Checkout with Instagram feature. As Mehta put it, “Exciting times for e-commerce brands ahead!”