Instagram Shopping – The “Checkout” Revolution

By: Christopher Fox

Instagram are currently beta testing their biggest and most game-changing update so far in the US, “Checkout”. “But we’ve been Instagram shopping already” you say? 

Instagram wants your money, and you’re gonna love it!

Yes, since mid-September 2018 users have been able to buy the products they see in the uploads of their favourite brands and businesses. Since this welcome e-commerce tool was launched last year, over 90 million accounts have “tapped to buy”, according to Instagram, making it easier for users to buy what they see without having to jump from app to app to make it happen.

So how exactly does the original Instagram Shopping tool work?

Originally trialled exclusively in Instagram “Stories” and later rolled out across uploads, businesses with products to sell list their products in their Facebook store, a feature that’s been available to brands for a long time. Through Facebook Business Manager, brands can sync their Facebook store to their Instagram page, and tag their products in their pictures. And just like that, Instagram shopping, right from your phone.

So, when Instagram users are scrolling through their feeds, or browsing the “Explore” page to discover new things, white info-bubbles notify the user of a tagged product. Clicking these info-bubbles takes the user to another Instagram page featuring an image of the product itself, the price, a description and a “Shop Now” button, which navigates the user to the brand/company website, where the purchase is made, and all transactions finalised.

Until now! (It would seem)

Currently limited to the US, and initially to 20 brands, including but not limited to fashion labels like Prada, Zara and Burberry, eyewear brand Warby Parker, cosmetics companies MAC and Kylie Cosmetics, big high street sports brands such as Nike and Adidas and more; shopping on Insta just got a lot easier.

And this is just the start!

Introducing Instagram “Checkout”

“Checkout”, the latest Instagram shopping feature, aims to reduce the number of steps users must take to make and complete a purchase, facilitating transactions on the Instagram app, for the first time.

Checkout tags will appear in posts within user’s feeds, in Stories and in Explore content from the brands involved in the US closed beta testing.

Soon to be opened up to brands on a wider scale (one would assume), when users tap an image, they will see a familiar white info-bubble giving some info on the product tagged. Okay, so what’s new?

When clicked, the user is navigated through to a product page, as before, only this time, the “Shop Now” button which would once have taken the user to the brand/company website to complete their transaction, has been replaced with a “Checkout on Instagram” button, enabling purchases to be made directly in the Instagram app.

Payment information is requested the first time a user taps the “Check Out On Instagram” button, saving and collating their information all in one place, for easy, seamless transactions, without the need to log in and out of various apps and screens, entering and re-entering different login and payment details.

Instagram has also revealed that interactions with the “Checkout” feature will be used to augment what content a user sees, further personalising feeds.

This is great news for shoppers right? But what about the brands themselves?

In regard to the feature’s functionality, merchants are spared the frustration of abandoned shopping carts, the bugbears of shoppers now soothed.

According to an Instagram spokesperson, the social media channel has introduced a selling fee for the 20 brands currently involved in “Checkout” beta testing. The fee has not yet been shared, outside of those testing the new feature, but according to Instagram, this fee will not change the price of products for users.

So, what does this mean? It’s hard to say, but it certainly indicates that Instagram is asking merchants to supply the fee in exchange for higher conversion rates, to encourage (rather than penalise) users for the convenience of purchasing directly from Instagram.

Good news for businesses?

Although the amount hasn’t yet been publicly shared, a business having to pay a small fee to reach and sell directly to over 1 billion active users a month on one of the most popular social media channels, with the highest per-post engagement of any social platform, seems perfectly fair enough.

“Checkout” seems to be somewhat similar to the Amazon model, in regard to its process. Transactions are made and completed directly in the Instagram app, completing the customer’s shopping experience, until the product arrives.

So, what’s happening behind the scenes?

When an order is made, Instagram send only your contact info and address to their merchants, (absolutely no payment information), then the brands themselves pack and ship the order.

It’s hard to say for sure at what stage the money is sent to the merchant, but with such high-hitting brands involved, and the feature developed by the fastest growing social media channel (by some margin), it’s bound to have been finalised and agreed upon.

But how does keeping all browsing and purchasing contained within the Instagram app effect businesses?

A businesses website is theirs, it can be designed to function and work exactly as the business requires it to.

For brands with products to sell, the shop or product pages of their websites can be developed to give users the quickest access to the products they desire, or group products into certain collections or product types etc, making products more visible and transactions easy to make.

While the new “Checkout” feature is certainly a break-through in e-commerce for Instagram and its users, the very design of the Instagram platform doesn’t lend itself well to setting out your products in a logical and sensible way.

So yes, users can browse the platform, spot products within the photographs and make easy, safe purchases, but finding a brand you love and viewing all their available products from the Instagram app wouldn’t be very easy. For businesses, this could mean they’re missing out on additional sales, and even point-of-sale marketing, which they can still apply digitally from their own websites.

Furthermore, according to Tech Crunch, only organic posts from their 20 beta testing brands will be “shoppable”, and sponsored posts are not eligible.

What’s the process once a product has been purchased?

For familiarity and ease, payments can be made via PayPal, Mastercard, Visa, American Express and Discover, and according to Instagram, the “Checkout” feature will later support the Shopify, Commerce Hub, Big Commerce and Channel Advisor tools of its merchants.  PayPal are behind payment processing, and its costs are covered by merchant’s fees.

When users make a purchase within Instagram, they’re able to track it via the new “Orders” section of their profile. Here they’ll see the products they’ve ordered, the status of their order, options to cancel, an option to initiate a return, and an option to contact the merchant. Instagram will send users notifications when their order ships but have no plans to incorporate receipts into its messaging, as of yet.

But for now…

We, in the UK, wait, for seamless Instagram shopping, from the edges of our seats.

If you need help with selling on Instagram, or any help with your social media marketing, book a place on our Social Media Masterclass on April 25th at Wizu Workspace’s Leeming Building in Leeds.

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