Plenty of brands advertise on Instagram. Now some will sell on the app too.
story by Gaby Del Valle
Instagram is somewhere between a social media app and an advertising platform. Regardless of how you’ve chosen to curate your feed, you’re guaranteed to see ads in between meme posts and pictures posted by your friends.
Now Instagram is making it even easier for brands to advertise to its users: Starting Tuesday, Instagram users in the US can buy products from more than 20 brands without ever leaving the app.
The Facebook-owned platform has given brands the option to include “product tags” on their posts since 2017, which give users — i.e., potential customers — information on items that appear in posts and Stories, as well as the option to buy the products from the brand’s website. Now instead of redirecting users off the platform, Instagram is letting users shop directly through the app.
Here’s how it works: When users tap on a product to look at the details, they’ll see the option to “Checkout on Instagram.” From there, they can enter their billing and shipping information, which is stored for future purchases, and track their order. That’s basically it. It’s designed to be easy and, presumably, to enable impulse shopping.
For now, the feature is only enabled for 22 brands. It’s a mix of really high-end stuff — Prada, Balmain, Oscar de la Renta — and fast-fashion companies like H&M and Zara.
This is a natural move for Instagram, a platform whose users have become accustomed to being advertised to left and right. Brand posts are advertisements, as are many posts by influencers and micro-influencers, even when they don’t bear the requisite #ad tag.
According to Instagram’s own metrics, 80 percent of users follow at least one business account. And brand accounts are a vital source of revenue for Instagram: As of 2018, there were more than 25 million businesses on the app, 2 million of which used its ad functions. The Motley Fool reported last week that the app could bring in more than $2 million in ad revenue in 2019 alone. According to a spokesperson, Instagram will introduce a “selling fee” to fund the checkout process and to “offset transaction-related expenses.”
Of course, even if you don’t follow a single business, brand, or influencer on Instagram, the products you do see aren’t just shown to you by happenstance — the ads you’re served are the result of sophisticated data collection algorithms that know literally everything about you, including what kinds of ads you’re most likely to click. By letting brands advertise and sell to consumers directly, Instagram is cutting out the middleman even further.