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.
 Huffington Post, The Rise of the Social Shopper, 19 October 2016
 Marketing Week, Social Commerce: How willing are consumers to buy through social media?, 23 March 2016
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.
 TechCrunch, Instagram tests shoppable photo tags, 1 November 2016