How To Use Instagram's Shoppable Photos: A Guide For Online Retailers

By P2P Mailing

Image credit: Igor Ovsyannykov

Paul Galpin - Managing Director at P2P Mailing

The boundaries between social media and ecommerce are becoming increasingly blurred. There are over 2.5 billion users between Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and Snapchat, and this represents a huge potential market place for retailers. Indeed, a recent study has revealed that nearly a third of online shoppers (31%) are already using social media networks to browse for new items to buy. Essentially, technology is changing the face of shopping, and social media networks are tapping into these trends, from ‘buy now’ buttons on Twitter through to ‘buyable pins’ on Pinterest.

Instagram is the latest name to raise the ‘social commerce’ stakes, having recently trialled a new platform which allows a select group of retailers to tag product photos with pricing information and descriptions. These ‘shoppable photos’ link directly to the retailers’ websites, paving the way for a simple purchase process. The trial, which began in November 2016, involves 20 US-based retailers including Kate Spade, Jack Threads and Warby Parker.   

This article looks at what Instagram’s Shoppable Photos mean for online retailers.

How it works

The thinking behind shoppable photos is that they’ll make it easier for users to find and purchase products. This new platform enables retailers to showcase up to five products that are clickable in a single shoppable photo. In each shoppable photo there is a ‘tap to view’ icon. When users engage with this icon, tags appear on the various products shown in the post. 

Selecting an individual tag will take users to a product details page on Instagram which includes the product’s price, description, additional photos and a ‘Shop Now’ link.  When the consumer taps the ‘Shop Now’ link it takes them directly to the product on the business’s website, effectively making it easier for them to buy the product that they want via the social network site. And if the details on the product page don’t interest the user, they can swiftly tap back to their Instagram feed. 

Since the product details page loads inside Instagram, it keeps Instagram users on the social media network for longer. In a study run by the social giant, 60% of Instagrammers say they learn about products and services on the app, while 75% say they take actions like visiting sites, searching, or telling a friend after being influenced by a post on Instagram. With shoppable photos, users will no longer have to close the app, open the browser, and track down the product they were just looking at. The beauty of this new technology is that it is designed to reflect existing user behaviour on Instagram, and it makes the social shopping experience seamless.  Instagram plans to monetise the feature by offering brands the opportunity to pay to share their shoppable photos with people who don’t already follow them on the social media site.

The bigger picture

It’s easy to understand the hype around shoppable photos – Instagram users now number more than 500 million. If retailers have a high level of customer engagement on Instagram, then this new channel could drive sales. However, it is important to look at how this this new channel impacts other parts of the purchasing process. 

Increased sales mean more deliveries. However, research shows that 59% of consumers would not shop with a retailer again if they failed to deliver on time. Therefore it is essential for retailers to have an effective delivery infrastructure in place as a precursor to embracing the latest ecommerce developments. As shoppable photos come into sharper focus, what are the delivery factors retailers need to consider?       

Get Flexible

Traditionally, offering a sole, standard delivery service may have been sufficient, but as the retail landscape has evolved so too has the consumer. Today consumers want more choice about how they receive their goods. The key with any delivery option is to focus on customer experience; this means offering convenience for the consumer. For example, parcel collection shops are now a common sight across major railway stations in the UK.  

Keeping Track 

Not only do consumers want the choose how they receive their goods, but they also want to decide when they receive their goods. One way to improve delivery systems is to offer consumers the option to track their delivery. Trackable delivery has previously been an expensive choice, but the rise of online shopping and the subsequent power this has given the consumer has created demand for affordable trackable delivery options. 

Coping With Increased Demand

It is essential that retailers manage their customers’ expectations from the outset in terms of setting their delivery aims. Retailers must strike a delicate balance between taking on extra orders without compromising the overall quality of their delivery service. Slow or disrupted delivery can cost retailers custom, so it is crucial that firms understand the capacity of their delivery services and are able to cope when facing a spike in orders.

Remembering Returns

Offering a great returns service is crucial for retailers in establishing repeat custom and a good relationship with their customer. Research by Harris Interactive shows that 85% of customers say they will stop buying from a retailer if the returns process is a hassle and, conversely, 95% will return to the same catalogue or internet retailer if the process is convenient. The returns process can be a massive deterrent for online shoppers if not handled correctly. A successful returns service should be simple to operate and inexpensive.

With the development of new platforms such as shoppable photos it is important that retailers not only keep up to date with these latest innovations, but also judge which platforms might fit their business and how their delivery and fulfilment process will be affected. A third-party expert with the necessary knowledge, contacts and expertise, can help retailers develop a delivery system that is flexible and efficient, tailored to the particular requirements of the business and equipped to deal with the challenges of today and beyond.


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