Instagram reveals plans for in-app appointment booking: Will the platform eventually kill off business websites?

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Social-savvy businesses could soon have another way to engage customers on Instagram, after the platform revealed plans to launch an in-app appointment booking function.

The Facebook-owned photo-sharing platform revealed in a blog post yesterday it will be rolling out a feature that allows users to book appointments with businesses via their Instagram profiles.

The option will be shown under a company’s bio, and will allow users to pick the type and time of an appointment. It’s not clear when the new feature will come into play, with Instagram only saying at this stage it will roll it out “later this year”.

Read more: Instagram introduces ads on its Stories video feature, giving Snapchat a run for its money

The example of a hairdressing salon was used as a business that could benefit from the new function, but the feature could apply to any business that takes bookings.

Marketing expert and founder of Marketing Angels Michelle Gamble labelled the function a “game changer” and believes it could entice businesses without Instagram profiles to sign up to use the service.

“This works for hairdressers, beauty salons, restaurants, personal trainers, and even places like physiotherapist and chiropractors,” Gamble told SmartCompany.

“It’s an incentive for those businesses, and it can drive them to set up an Instagram profile and start throwing money at advertising.”

Gamble commends the feature’s development, believing it will remove hassle for smaller businesses that haven’t set up “expensive” online booking systems.

Advertising on Instagram “hugely effective”

Gamble also claims in-app bookings will drive more businesses to advertise on Instagram, which she says can be “hugely effective”.

“It depends on the type of business you run, and your target market,” she says.

In conjunction with the reveal of its booking feature, Instagram announced in a blog post it had reached more than one million active monthly advertisers, attributing the growth to an increasing number of businesses using the platform.

“People come to Instagram to follow their passions – from travel and fashion to food, entertainment and everything in between. And those passions extend to brands, with 80% of Instagrammers following a business today,” the company said in a statement.

There are over eight million business profiles on Instagram and reported over 120 million users interacted with those profiles, either receiving directions, visiting websites, or calling for information.

Will the company website live on?

Despite the game-changing nature of the new booking feature, Gamble thinks social media hasn’t killed off businesses websites just yet.

“From an SME’s point of view, having a website gives you the opportunity to showcase more about your business,” she says.

“Also, people in ‘buying mode’ tend to go straight to Google, so your Instagram page might not come up in a search. Having a website can capture those impulsive buyers.”

Despite this, Gamble says Instagram’s business-focused development will help more SMEs turn clicks into dollars.

“The failing for Instagram was that you couldn’t have a strong call to action, but now you will be able to go through a post and book an appointment which makes calls to action much more effective at turning clicks into sales,” she says.

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