Instagram is stepping up its efforts to bring commerce onto its social media network. The platform is rolling out features that include a new shopping channel within its "Explore" tab, where consumers can see posts from brands they currently follow, as well as other recommended brands. That feature, Instagram said, is slated to launch on Monday (Sept. 17) and “expand globally over the coming weeks.” (Already, Instagram users can tune into other channels, such as art and travel.)
The social media platform is also expanding shopping options within its Stories feature. The relatively new functionality, which the company began piloting in June, is now being rolled out to 46 countries. Users who are watching behind-the-scenes Stories can tap on a product that is shown within the experience to learn more. The platform claims that over 400 million accounts use the Stories feature each day: "With one-third of the most-viewed Stories coming from businesses, we’re excited to see how Shopping in Stories enables brands to tell an even deeper story about what’s behind their products," Instagram said in a statement.
Instagram’s venture into commerce is a natural extension for a platform geared toward discovery of brands and new things, according to University of Pennsylvania's Wharton School Marketing and Social Influence Expert Jonah Berger. "The challenge at the moment is that discovery is happening, but Instagram isn't necessarily getting credit,” Berger told CNN Money.
Commerce is already a popular use case for Instagram. Already, 90 million of its users click on posts to look for shopping tags on a monthly basis, according to The Verge, and a whopping 25 million businesses have accounts on the platform. Two million of those companies use Facebook, which owns Instagram, for advertising.
Platform for Social Commerce
In June, Instagram announced that it was expanding shopping beyond its feed to Stories. In a press release at the time, the company said that Instagram is not only a place of inspiration, but also avenue for action, hence the shopping expansion. On Instagram Stories, users see a sticker with a shopping bag icon, and can tap to get more details about the product.
Overall, Instagram noted that the platform serves all sorts of brands, from makers of athletic goods to purveyors of luxury products. "From Adidas and Aritzia to Louis Vuitton, people have been able to shop from their favorite brands around the world, and now you can shop these businesses in Instagram Stories. Shoppers on Instagram are savvy. They visit Instagram looking for the latest trends and style.”
In June, the company noted that a recent survey found that Instagrammers often watch Stories to stay in the know with brands they are interested in, as well as to get an insider view of products and discover new items.
Beyond the shopping platform, Instagram quietly introduced a native payments feature earlier this year. Users can register a credit or debit card and make payments within the social media platform after setting up a security PIN, according to reports. According to a spokesperson for Instagram, users can now make payments to a limited number of businesses, such as restaurants and salons.
Heading in to the future, the social media platform may be developing a shopping app that could be called IG Shopping. The Verge, citing two people familiar with the matter, reported in September that the app will enable users to browse items for sale from merchants they follow and make purchases from the app. The report noted that it’s not clear when or if the shopping app will be rolled out, leaving it a bit of a mystery as to whether Instagram may point its lens on an app in the future.