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Instagram plans to “unlock the value of customers, sellers and influencers” as it pledges to make the site shoppable

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Instagram is getting serious about shopping, aiming to “connect the dots thoughtfully” between shoppers, sellers and influencers, with native checkout and shopping bags all set to be added soon.

So says the social sites head, Adam Mosseri in a Financial Times interview, which suggests that the company is looking to turn all that window shopping that takes place on social media into a cold, hard channel to market for retailers. Analysts at Deutsche Bank believe that Instagram could make $10bn in shopping revenues as early as 2021.

It also looks set to kick off a move to making everywhere shoppable – extending the reach of VR, AR, voice assistants, video, TV, advertising and more.

Part of the plan is to add native checkout that would see shoppers able to buy what they see on the site without having to click out of the stream and into a retailer website. It also wants to allow users to drop things they see into a shopping bag as they go, so that they can continue to enjoy being social and purchase when they are ready – again keeping them in-stream.

The plan is aimed at making Instagram compete directly with Amazon and Alibaba et al globally and would be a revolutionary step for Instagram, taking it very deeply into the retail space. It would also have massive implications for online retail, brands, marketplaces and the whole ecommerce ecosystem as we know it today.

“Instagram’s plans to integrate online shopping into its app is another sign of the changing nature of the shopping experience,” says Kees Jacobs, Vice President, Global Consumer Products and Retail Sector at Capgemini. “Everything – from video content to social media – will become directly shoppable everywhere – from mirrors to VR, multiplying frictionless opportunities for purchase and embedding shopping into day-to-day activities and routines. If the customer is willing to allow access to the relevant data, this offers brands the opportunity to interact with customers in new and innovative ways. “

Mobile momentum

“Our research suggests that 85% of millennials reach for their smartphones first when making purchases via the internet and, with 1 billion people using Instagram every month, the market potential for retailers to capitalise on this move is huge,” comments Andy Burton, CEO of Tryzens. “By working with Instagram, retailers will be able to reach the largest possible audience, who can purchase an item in a matter of seconds due to advancements in simplified payments on websites from the likes of Apple Pay, Android Pay, and PayPal.”

Burton continues: ““There is logical excitement around Instagram’s ’shoppable’ content and I am sure we will see further advances in the market as a whole as additional ways to connect user and brand generated content with an intuitive, immersive and efficient shopping experience come to the fore.  Making the social commerce experience as easy and seamless as possible is critical to increasing conversions.”

Instagram has already dabbled in retail, with M&S pioneering some early work in allowing users of the social site to buy things back in March 2018. In March 2019 it introduced Instagram Checkout in a limited way with the launch on in-app checkout for Adidas, Anastasia Beverly Hills, ColourPop, Huda Beauty, KKW Beauty, Kylie Cosmetics, Nike and Ouai Hair as part of a trial.

Now Mosseri wants to open this up. In the interview he stresses that shopping was a long-term plan that would require significant infrastructure investment for payments in each country, buyer protection, inventory management and more.

“So it’s a very, very long lead time. This isn’t a one year thing, this is like a five to 10-year project,” he told the FT.

Tryzen’s Burton has a similar note of caution for retailers: “Retailers need to ensure that their support systems and back end operations are fit for the social media revolution – by which I mean being able to respond to enquiries in near real time, engage with consumers in the right tone of voice, and, able ensure orders are fulfilled effectively requiring a single view of customer, single view of stock and single view of inventory to be truly agile.”

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