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Getting the Picture: Instagram’s New E-commerce Updates

Social media is shaping the world of e-commerce at a rapid rate, and businesses are taking note – not only of the marketing potential offered by the platforms, but also of their value as places where customers can directly communicate with, and make payments to online businesses.

Instagram has taken the lead in shifting social media from a place where users share their pictures and thoughts, into an e-commerce force through direct messaging updates, ‘Shoppable Tags‘ and the new trial of their in-platform payment system.  In this blog, I will explore Instagram’s new e-commerce updates and look at how businesses can best utilise them in reaching their customers.

Instagram has become a leader

Instagram currently boasts 800 million active users, with 500 million of those using the app daily.  This number demonstrates the enormous potential reach that businesses can have through Instagram.

Businesses are able to advertise products and services alike, not only through creating their own page, but also through the ‘influencer’ system.  The influencer system is where brands advertise their products through paying to direct the content in posts made by celebrities or social media influencers in order to make their products more mainstream.

Simplified Inboxes 

Instagram has rolled out a new update for business inboxes.  Inboxes are now simplified with new customers appearing in the main inbox as opposed to the pending folder.  This means that important queries are far less likely to be missed.  Additionally, conversations can be flagged with a reminder to follow up at a later date.  Instagram will also be testing ‘quick replies’ so that businesses can respond to questions with common replies.

All of these updates are designed to ensure that businesses have a more seamless and efficient experience with regard to customer interaction, a change which is likely to impact positively on their overall customer service.  If your business hasn’t already, it could be useful to go through your inbox and determine what your most common queries are and whether a quick template reply can be devised in order to respond them more effectively.

‘Shoppable’ Tags

An update allowing businesses to tag featured products in their posts was also recently rolled out by Instagram.  This tag is a pop up which appears when users tap the post – it includes the name and price of the product, and directs users to the business’ website when tapped.

Businesses can utilise this feature to entice users to purchase their products as it creates a quick and highly accessible way to do so.  In turn, this feature creates a streamlined process between the advertisement and the purchase point.  This update is likely to make it possible for businesses to increase their revenue by a significant amount, as it will not only give their products more reach, but encourages customers to purchase the product with no real disconnect between advertisement and the purchase point.

In-app payments

The most recent update currently being trialled by Instagram is their in-app payment system.  This feature allows users to link their credit or debit cards to their profile with a security pin.  These details then allow users to purchase products directly from an Instagram page.  This feature demonstrates an additional method of payment which businesses can incorporate into their page.  In the lead up to this feature being universally rolled out, businesses can plan on which products or services they wish to allow customers to purchase through the app.

What businesses need to know

Whilst these updates can be an effective way for businesses to increase both customer reach and sales revenue, it is crucial that businesses are aware of the potential problems that the increased commercial nature of Instagram can create, such as oversaturation.  If businesses are oversharing their products and services, their followers will eventually lose interest in the brand and hit the ‘unfollow’ button.

With this in mind, it is important for companies to effectively moderate the number of advertisements put forward at any one time.  A great way to give your followers updates without oversharing is through the ‘swipeable’ post feature, which allows users to include multiple photos within the one post.

It is also important to ensure that your page doesn’t become too commercial, even if at the crux of it, your page is in place for commercial use.  Connecting with your followers is key.  A great way to ensure this connection is through the inclusion of creative and relatable captions to accompany the advertising of your products.

The Iconic, a Sydney-based online clothing retailer, has found the perfect balance between including shoppable tags and keeping their content relatable.  The company has done this through implementing a strong mix of general posts, such as the below – and more commercially-focused posts where they push their products in a more obvious way.

The Iconic also includes creative captions within posts that feature their products.  They do this through relatability and the use of emojis, as seen in the below post:

Businesses must also use caution when advertising through influencers.  Instagram users are more aware than ever, so it is easy for them to spot disingenuous advertising.  It is therefore important for brands to choose influencers who truly represent their brand, so that any advertising feels authentic.
As with everything else, slip ups must also be avoided when using influencers.  The infamous Scott Disick fail provides a great warning that mistakes can be dangerous for your brand, as they truly do leave a bad taste in the mouths of potential customers.

Main Takeaway 

The new e-commerce updates recently rolled out by Instagram can provide a great opportunity for brands to both effectively reach their customers and create a more seamless link between advertisement and purchase.  However, as Instagram users are now more aware than ever, it is important that businesses advertise in a meaningful way.  This will ensure that your business’ online presence does not feel too forced or commercial, despite the new updates.

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