‘Instagram shopping’ and the future of e-commerce

Instagram is slowly becoming this generation’s fashion haven. Brands, big and small, take to the visual-focused app to expose their brands. The consumer has become tech-savvy, and, while a lot of people still enjoy a tangible shopping experience before purchasing, there has been a steady growth in online sales. Of Instagram’s 600 million users, 80% follow at least one business account.

Research shows that from 7.4% in 2016, global online retail spending is estimated to reach a whopping 8.8% come 2018. On top of this, a 2016 survey found out that shoppers now make 51% of their purchases online, as opposed to 48% in 2015 and 47% in 2014.

The survey’s key findings showed that 78% of their global sample are influenced in some way by social media, and 46% have turned to their mobile devices as purchasing tools. Social media, being a big part of the current generation’s daily life, is expected to play a big role on e-commerce in the next few years.


Kate Spade is one of the brands testing Instagram’s new shopping tools


While Facebook has already churned out an option to shop in its business pages, Instagram has yet to follow in its footsteps. Last November, they provided a peek at what shopping on Instagram will be like. Partnering with 20 brands to test out their beta shopping tools, the app allowed users to click through photos for the price tags and open a catalog of the chosen item. The full list of participating brands included Abercrombie & Fitch, Bauble Bar, Coach, Hollister, Jack Threads, J. Crew, Kate Spade, Levi’s, Lulus, Macy’s, Michael Kors, MVMT Watches, Tory Burch, Warby Parker, and Shopbop.

In the testing period, 4% of users who encountered product tags tapped for more information and 19% of people that tapped the tag clicked on the “Shop Now” link.

“We have seen that once our user discovers the product detail view, the percentage that then go to our e-commerce page directly is extremely high — double digits compared to what we normally see on an average social click through,” said Mary Beech, chief marketing officer of Kate Spade, one of the pilot program brands.

Following this breakthrough, Instagram decided to expand its tap-to-view shopping function to more businesses. In its blog post, the company said that they will be rolling out these shopping features to thousands of businesses that sell apparel, jewelry, or beauty products in the coming weeks. This new shopping function will allow businesses to link products to their site as easily as tagging another user.



Insights will also be added to Instagram shopping soon, allowing users to see the click-through rate of their posts. Instagram states that this is all part of their continuing efforts to strengthen relationships between people and the brands they love, by creating more opportunities—and simpler ways—to discover and explore products on Instagram.

Instagram’s vice president of monetization James Quarles said in an interview with Forbes that the new shopping features reflect an internal study that found that the vast majority Instagram users prefer to spend more than a day mulling over a potential purchase, making only 21% of purchases within a day. As a result, Instagram wanted to focus on making product research less complicated, Quarles said.

“Mobile is changing shopping, but mobile today can feel like going from a shop window to the cash register, missing the whole experience of browsing and trying things on,” Quarles said. “Businesses and people are looking to fuel that initial spark.”



Indeed, more and more users are trying to find authenticity in brands. This is why brands have been tapping micro-influencers instead of the top influencers. Because these micro-influencers have less followers, people think they are more credible and personal, and they garner a bigger proportion of engagement than what the top bloggers get.

Beech said consumers react more positively to images of product “in situ” on a model or influencer. The brand’s best posts to date have been of handbags with some novelty element, including one shaped like a rabbit from the holiday collection.

Over time, Instagram plans to expand their shopping feature into more brands and countries. Its shopping expansion is definitely a game-changer in online commerce, marking the great heights that social shopping can reach in the near future.



Abercombie & Fitch

James Quarles


Bauble Bar

Mary Beech



Jack Threads

J. Crew

Kate Spade




Michael Kors

MVMT Watches

Tory Burch

Warby Parker