In attempts to continue its worldwide digital domination, Instagram recently announced the closed beta rollout of “Checkout on Instagram” – a long-overdue feature
that social media marketers have been forecasting since the app’s purchase by Facebook in 2012.
Like its powerhouse parent, Instagram will soon allow mobile users to complete and track purchases without having to leave the app, taking them from browse to buy in fewer steps than ever.
To digital marketers, this adaptation should come as no surprise. In 2016, Instagram introduced product tagging for brands both in Instagram Stories and feed posts, making direct in-app purchasing capabilities a natural, intuitive next step.
And it’s a step that’s poised to pay off handsomely. It’s estimated that 70% of shopping enthusiasts in the U.S. turn to Instagram for product discovery and, each month, over 130 million Instagram accounts tap on a shopping post to learn more about products. If you manage an e-commerce brand on Instagram, allow us to wipe the drool from your chin as you imagine the potential you’re about to unleash.
How will it work?
While “Checkout on Instagram” is not yet available to the masses, you can experience the new feature by checking out (no pun intended) Instagram’s list of beta partners.
On such merchant pages as H&M and adidas, you’ll notice organic Instagram feed posts, Stories and Explore content with product checkout tags. When users tap the posts to reveal and open product tags, they’ll be met with a “Checkout with Instagram” button rather than the old “View on Website” button.
During a customer’s first visit to a brand’s Checkout page, they’ll enter their payment information, which is then stored for future purchases – a dangerous game for shopping fiends, we agree.
After an order is placed, consumers will be able to track their purchase from a new “Orders” section of their profile showing order status, options to cancel and shipping information. Unlike Facebook and Messenger, Instagram isn’t dipping its toes into the DM function for receipts.
What does this mean for the future of Instagram?
At TBA, we like to prophesize on the likely effects of shiny new social media updates based on experience, trends and good, old-fashioned research. Here’s how we think this new in-app feature will transform Instagram:
As if marketing your brand on social media wasn’t already cutthroat enough, brands will have to fight even harder for user attention if they want to make the most of the new Checkout feature.
But, if we’ve learned anything from Facebook, an increase in competition between brands creates dollar signs in the pupils of these app executives. We anticipate an eventual shift in Instagram’s algorithm mirroring Facebook’s adjustments to brand posts in a user’s feed. Essentially, your organic content may reach even less of your Instagram audience. This will cause frustration, thus Instagram will eventually introduce paid placements to support “Checkout” posts. The APPle doesn’t fall from the tree, after all. More on this later …
More Influencers Influencing
We also expect an even higher priority to be placed on authentic influencer marketing. Facebook and Instagram have made incredible strides to weed out “influencer imposters” and provide full transparency to consumers when certain users are being paid for their endorsements. Recently, Instagram revealed the capability to make saved Instagram posts or “Collections” public. (Pinterest, much?) Imagine an influencer partnering with a major brand and creating sponsored and, better yet, shoppable “Collections” exclusively for that brand. Big money, folks.
How should brands prepare?
Instagram, like Facebook, rarely makes grandiose product-update announcements; with this in mind, brands need to prepare NOW for when “Checkout for Instagram” goes global. Here’s TBA’s take on how to prepare:
Polish Your Product Catalog
If you manage an e-commerce brand and its product catalog is not synced with its Facebook Ad Account, call us immediately at 843-916-2000 – we need to have a serious talk. Otherwise, assuming it’s set up, the next step is to make your brand’s Instagram Business account “shoppable” by connecting your product catalog to your account. This will allow you to tag products in your Instagram posts and Stories and land potential consumers on your website to purchase. That is, of course, until Checkout becomes available. We’re just giving you a strong foundation to stand on here.
If connected correctly, product catalogs will auto-generate any price changes or new products you add to your website dynamically every 24 hours.
Be Ready to Pay
Back to the money thing. TechCrunch chatted with an Instagram spokesperson recently who confirmed there would be a selling fee within “Checkout” to help fund programs and products that help make the feature possible. Instagram does not have a set fee in mind, as it is currently testing a fee during its closed beta. This selling fee will not change the price of items for consumers, so no need to worry about inconsistent pricing.
As mentioned earlier, with the increased competition and branded content, be prepared to pay to reach your audience. Fewer steps before purchase means a better return on investment, and Instagram knows this. For now, only organic posts from beta partners feature “Checkout” buttons, but let’s get real – introducing “Checkout” ads is a no-brainer for the app and is the next intuitive update.
This one is great life advice in general, but we’ll make it apply specifically to this article. First, be patient with the new feature rollout timeline. When major brands update product infrastructure, they put beta testing through its paces. We recommend keeping a pulse on your Instagram Business accounts, but also finding and following a knowledgeable social media guru for rollout information. At TBA, we always have our thumbs to the screen and probably get too excited when new toys become available.
More importantly, be patient about tracking conversions with the new feature. With Instagram’s “Save” feature, often brands don’t report conversions until days or even weeks later. Give the customer purchase journey a break – they may be waiting to circle back to your “Checkout” post on payday.
Instagram has fiercely protected the right to link out of its app in order to keep you steadily consuming its content. Slowly but surely, Instagram has contained people’s attention within its wall, and it’s finally ready sell to that captive audience.
Upon the “Checkout” feature’s rollout, the TBA Social Media team will conduct thorough testing and submit a full update on our thoughts, including the pros, cons and potential applications of the feature. Stay tuned, and make sure you’re following us on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and LinkedIn for the latest and greatest!