Instagram expands shopping capabilities

Instagram on Tuesday introduced major changes to the way businesses alert users to new products on the social media platform.

The platform has expanded its Shopping ad format to Stories for businesses in 46 countries around the world, including Australia, and launched a new shopping channel in the Explore tab.

“We’re thrilled to announce these new shopping updates to Instagram today,” Facebook ANZ group industry director Naomi Shepherd said.

“Over half of young Australians have bought something through Instagram stories before, and nearly two thirds of Aussie small businesses say the platform has helped them increase sales.”

According to Instagram, more than 400 million accounts use the Stories function on a daily basis, and one third of the most viewed stories come from businesses.

The expansion of the Shopping ad format to Stories aims to make it easier for businesses to drive their followers to make a purchase by allowing users to tap on a image to see the items that are available for purchase.

Lauren Skora, head of content at Australian online footwear retailer Stylerunner, said that Instagram’s Shopping tool has helped the business understand what customers want to see.

“The action of tapping the products, seeing prices and shopping all within Instagram stories creates a more seamless experience for the customer, as opposed to clicking a link to be navigated away from the space,” Skora said.

The Iconic’s chief marketing officer, Alexander Meyer, noted that the ad format has led to increased engagement and discussion within post comments.

“Our customer’s love being able to connect with our product faster than ever before,” Meyer said.

E-commerce platform BigCommerce has already extended its support for the new ad format to all businesses on its platform, following its trial with certain merchants earlier this year.

“BigCommerce merchants were some of the first to get access to shopping on Instagram functionality, and after seeing the immediate impact it had on customer engagement and sales growth, they have been anxiously awaiting the opportunity to extend that product tagging to Instagram Stories,” BigCommerce chief product officer Jimmy Duvall said.

Instagram has also added a shopping channel to its Explore tab, which is personalised to the more than 200 million users who visit the tab every day.

“Shopping is more than an errand – it’s also about what you discover along the way,” the company said in a statement.

“For many people on Instagram, shopping is an entertaining way to get inspired and connect with new and interesting brands.”

Hubspot director of APAC James Gilbert noted that Instagram has reached a point where any feature it rolls out is guaranteed to be a hit, and is no longer just a place to share selfies and photos of picturesque food.

“Instagram has long been the best platform for brands to work with their customers to promote word of mouth marketing,” Gilbert said.

“These features will enable them to not only promote their brand but is another avenue to entice users to make more in-the-moment purchases.”

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