It’s clear. Instagram is quickly transitioning into a comprehensive social shopping app, covering the journey from product discovery, nurturing, ads, and to checkout.
The platform has been going through radical changes in the recent year. Three of the biggest changes have been:
The shopping feature that allows users to shop products tagged in an image, released in March 2018
Shopping in Stories through stickers and the ‘Shopping’ channel in Explore, launched in September 2018
Launching the checkout with Instagram beta test for businesses in March 2019, and extending the use of checkouts to influencers and creators in May 2019
Instagram is gradually shifting from a social media network for keeping friends and family up to date, to a social shopping platform that allows native checkouts. With rumors that Instagram is removing ‘like’ counts on images swirling around since April 2019, there’s no doubt that Instagram is changing its focus to shopping and removing any distractions.
The first big question is “Can I start using this now?” While Instagram will likely change their rules for who can and who can’t start using Instagram shopping, right now, Instagram shopping is only available for brands which meet the following conditions:
1. Your brand is located in a supported market.
Instagram and many tech companies limit big feature releases to a few chosen markets. Major markets such as the United States, Canada, and Australia are on the list. View the full list here.
2. Your brand sells physical goods.
Given the reliance of Instagram Shopping on image/video-based product tags, your brand has to be selling physical goods to use the feature. Service-based businesses can look forward to other features such as appointment bookings to be rolled out in the future.
3. Your Instagram account is set up as a business profile
Instagram seems to be pretty strict with releasing specific features for business and personal accounts respectively. Business accounts, for instance, can include links in their stories after reaching the 10,000 follower mark, and can advertise on Instagram–personal accounts tend to have more basic features. It is unsurprising that the Instagram Shopping and Checkout feature is limited to business accounts.
4. Your brand complies with Instagram’s commerce policies
Instagram (and Facebook alike) has detailed policies for products and services sold on the platform. The policy prevents certain expected categories of products from being sold on Instagram, such as animals, weapons, illegal drugs, alcohol, and so on. For a more extensive list, check out the official policy page.
5. Your Instagram account is connected to a Facebook page
Catalogue management for Instagram’s Shopping feature is done through Facebook. So you wouldn’t be managing your products on Instagram itself. This makes a lot of sense as the Instagram is more of an app-based rather than desktop-based platform. This also ensures your products can be sold on both Instagram and Facebook without you having to do any duplicate work.
At Facebook’s annual development conference just over a week ago, it was announced that creators and influencers will soon be able to use the product tagging feature to sell products directly to people viewing their posts and stories. While creators and influencers currently cannot make money from anyone clicking on links from their posts, the analytics from product tagging can help them negotiate with brands about their ability to sell products.
How do I start using Instagram Shop?
If you are eligible for Instagram Shop, you can follow these steps to start using Instagram’s Shopping feature.
1. Connect your Instagram business profile to a Facebook catalog.
You can create a catalog of your own products from scratch through Facebook’s catalog manager. Alternatively, for those of you using Shopify or BigCommerce, you can set up a shop on Facebook within these platforms.
2. Sign up within the Instagram app.
Within the Instagram app, head to ‘Settings’ > ‘Business’ and tap ‘Shopping on Instagram’. Follow the steps to submit your account for review. Your account can be approved in just a few days. Visit the ‘Shopping on Instagram’ page to check your account status.
Once your profile is approved, you will receive notifications from Instagram to complete setup and to start tagging products.
3. Start adding product tags and stickers to your posts and stories
To add product tags to your post, create your post and tap ‘Tag Products’ to add a product from your catalog. Instagram has some (reasonable) limits on the number of products you can tag in an Instagram post. Feature up to five products per image or video post, and up 20 products on multi-image posts. Each story can feature only one product sticker.
4. View insights from your shopping posts and stories
Once you’ve enabled the Instagram Shopping feature and have added product tags and stickers, you can start monitoring the performance of your shopping posts and stories under Instagram Insights.
Do note that you can only tag products in organic posts and stories. You cannot advertise shopping posts or stories on Instagram yet.
Five tips for optimizing your Instagram Shop (with examples)
To help you set up an awesome Instagram Shop, we’ve gathered best practices from our Ampjar community members.
1. Mix it up
For Paul La Rosa–the founder of Croft Shoes, a Melbourne-based men’s footwear brand–Instagram as a whole is a key driver of growth. And his recommendation to win at Instagram Shop? “Variety is key. Instagram is still all about lifestyle and great content, so maintaining those as well as implementing product tags is a good strategy. Try to mix it up with influencer tags as well as strong video content and people will stay engaged and be more likely to click on your products when they do get posted!”
Miranda, founder of edible art eCommerce store Sweet Sticks, agrees. A whopping 90% of her retail orders are driven from Instagram. As a prime example of finding success with Instagram, she advises against making Instagram Shop your only focus. As a rule of thumb, she makes every fifth post a product post. After all, “people want to follow the person behind the brand and connect on different levels”–they’re not just on Instagram to shop!
2. Think of Instagram as a visual showroom
Are you a product or service-based business with an Instagram Shop? One way of thinking about the Shop feature is treating it like a visual showroom, or gallery. Imagine how people would think about your offerings and what questions they would ask if you were greeting them in person.
Celia Crawford, founder of China Clay, is a florist turned entrepreneur. She operates a retail store, while maintaining a Shopify eCommerce store that delivers flowers and ceramics. On her online store, she easily tracks sales that come from Instagram. For a design-driven business like China Clay, Instagram functions more as a virtual showroom for her. She “often has people come and look at things they’ve seen on my Instagram, or enquire about them over the phone,” but thinks that Instagram Shop is more effective at opening a dialogue than producing sales. This approach is effective for higher ticket items such as art, fine jewelry, or design services.
Carly Mill, jewelry designer and entrepreneur, recommends “engaging more than you post and always posting value content”. The founder of statement jewelry brand Gorgeous by Carly thinks that you should never post just for the sake of posting. At Ampjar, we stick to this rule as well–every piece of content is crafted with our followers and users in mind.
She recommends that entrepreneurs or social media managers should do their best to preserve the quality of their feeds (through using quality photos, great copywriting, etc), to ensure products are well represented. Additionally, she suggests: “don’t be too sales-y. Instagram is a handy application, but I know that customers won’t respond well to aggressive marketing so I would hold off making every post an Instagram Shop post.”
Is my brand eligible for Instagram Checkout?
In an official blog post, Instagram announced:
“Since our earliest days, people on Instagram have loved to shop. They revel in the joy of discovering those perfect suede boots, obsessing over beauty tutorials or snatching up one-of-a-kind trainers from an exclusive drop. Instagram is a place for people to treat themselves with inspiration, not a place to tax themselves with errands. It’s a place to experience the pleasure of shopping over the chore of buying. We build everything with this in mind.”
Since releasing the shopping feature, 130 million users are tapping to reveal product tags in shopping posts every month. The Checkout feature is a natural extension of that. Checkout was recently launched in March 2019 with more than 20 major brands, including Huda Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics and Nike. Customers will no longer have to head to the brand’s website to complete their purchase, making shopping on Instagram a completely frictionless experience.
This is the future for Instagram, so get used to it!
In Instagram’s first foray into the payments space, customers will be able to pay with Visa, Mastercard, American Express, Discover and PayPal. By saving customers’ payment details and allowing customers to purchase in-app, Instagram enables impulse buys. If this is effective for brands, boosting shoppable posts and spending more money on Instagram ads becomes an even more attractive option for brands. Instagram has even recently added donation stickers in stories, signaling its renewed focus on accepting payments.
As with Instagram Shopping, Instagram has announced that businesses will be able to integrate directly with partners including Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, and CommerceHub once the Instagram Checkout feature has been fully rolled out.
As Instagram Checkout is still in closed beta testing, only a limited selection of brands can offer checkouts for their followers within the Instagram app. However, if you are interested to start offering checkouts, Instagram has a sign-up form for you to fill out.
Does Instagram take a commission for the Shopping feature?
While adding your products to the Facebook catalog and setting up Instagram Shopping is completely free for your brand, it is expected that Instagram will take a commission from brands using Checkout, once the feature is fully launched.
How Instagram Shopping and Checkout Affects Brands
Beyond Checkouts, Instagram is planning to roll out more features to enhance the in-app shopping experience for users. In the past year, platforms such as Shopify, BigCommerce, and Magento have been able to fill in the gaps to the limited shopping features of Instagram. Moving forward, however, it’s likely that Instagram will call into question the necessity of alternative platforms for smaller businesses and creators. In just a year’s time, the social shopping landscape will look very different from the way it does now.
Brands of all sizes can leverage the Instagram Shopping feature as an additional channel for sales, and for now, use Instagram as an additional channel to draw traffic to their website. Complement your use of Instagram Shopping by linking buttons in your Ampjar campaign to your Instagram post. Preview your email campaign with us here.
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