Retailers hope new Instagram “product tagging” feature will get more users shopping

How to not make a hash of hashtags on Instagram

Instagram revealed yesterday that it is trialing more features for in-app product purchasing in a continued effort to improve the platform for retailers.

In a post on the company’s business blog, the photo-sharing social media giant explained the new features will allow retailers to tag products in photos. This will be done in a similar manner to how users can already tag friends in their photos.

“While browsing and discovery is easy on mobile, finding more information about the specific products you see isn’t always as simple,” the company writes on its blog.

“On a platform known for its power of mobile discovery, today we’re excited to announce an easier experience to shop the products you love on Instagram.”

The feature will let retailers identify products in their photos so that customers can purchase them, and will add a “tap to view products” button on the bottom left corner of the image. When tapped, the products and their prices will be highlighted.

On clicking the highlighted product, another Instagram window is opened with more information on the product, and consumers wanting to buy the product are then redirected to the company website.

Kate Spade from Instagram for Business on Vimeo.

The feature is being trialed over the next week with 20 prominent US retailers jumping on board, including Kate Spade, JackThreads, and Target. There’s no news yet on whether the service will expand worldwide, but the blog post mentions global expansion.

“With this seamless shopping experience launching on Instagram, the possibilities for selling our products are endless,” says Mary Beech, executive vice President and chief marketing officer at Kate Spade, in a blog post.

Chief executive of fashion retailer Showpo Jane Lu told SmartCompany she would “absolutely” use the service if it came to Australia, and that it will be “really powerful” for Instagram. Showpo currently has 1.1 million followers on the service.

“I think it would be so helpful for our customers for when they see a product but don’t know where to get it from,” Lu says.

“The only way we can do retail currently is through your account’s bio, it’s the only place you can put clickable links.”

Lu does hold her reservations about the new features, worrying the service may look more and more like a catalogue “in the long term”.

“I think that it’s already going that way a bit,” she says.

She also believes the platform should not become a “super app”, because having different apps with different features is beneficial for a lot of retailers.

“I like having different apps for different things. When Instagram introduced Stories I thought ‘oh not another thing to keep track of’”, Lu says.

Lu thinks that to reduce the risk of Instagram becoming like a catalogue, the function should only be made available to retail brands, believing that “retailers are smarter than that”.

Despite this, Lu believes Instagram is “definitely the right place to do retail”.

Instagram’s new feature was devised in a mega brainstorming session at a rented house in California, reports Bloomberg. The company’s designers, product managers, and engineers met to come up with ideas on how to better integrate retail into the photo-sharing app.

The team came up with 150 different ideas, each of which was run through individually in a process of elimination. Through this, the team came up with the tagging idea revealed yesterday.

One of the test brands for the features, J. Crew, hopes the new buying functionalities will fill a gap in in its e-commerce offerings. J. Crew’s president and creative director Jenna Lyons told Bloomberg the image-based nature of the platform makes users much more likely to purchase products.

“It’s been a little frustrating to us in the past to not be able to have people purchase on Instagram. Not only has it become a place for people to get influenced by their friends, but they’re walking into our stores with their phones and saying, ‘do you have this?’” Lyons told Bloomberg.

“I really hope it works.”


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