As more consumers turn to smartphones to shop, brands of all sizes are thinking about mobile commerce strategies — specifically. how to take advantage of shopping features on popular platforms like Instagram.
For emerging DTC brands, using Instagram Shopping is an easy way to increase the likelihood that a customer will convert. However, those brands, which often have small follower counts, are seeing limitations, considering the number of big brands competing on the platform.
As mobile commerce continues to rise, social media platforms like Instagram and TikTok continue to inch into the world of commerce by rolling out new features for brands. Instagram has been a big draw for brands big and small, driven in part by the new Checkout feature, allowing customers to buy things directly in the Instagram app. That feature is still in closed beta, open only to a select group of brands. However, any business account can use Instagram to create shoppable posts, which rolled out broadly in March 2017: The posts take the customer from the app to the brand’s website to complete a purchase.
For a number of smaller direct-to-consumer companies that are just starting out, the ability to sell through Instagram has a lot of benefits. Plus, it’s easy to integrate and upload their product catalog to Instagram through a variety of platforms, including Shopify and CommerceHub, said Audria Brumberg, founder of silk scarf company Manner Market.
“It’s a nice addition to my sales channels,” said Brumberg. “People can find me organically and see how the scarves are styled and worn, which can inspire them to purchase.” Bumberg did not share specifics around how much Instagram is driving sales for the company.
By 2021, retail commerce sales on mobile are expected to reach $345 billion in the United States, up from $148 billion in 2018, according to Statista.
While some of the smaller DTC players are testing shopping by simply setting up a shop, they’re not necessarily pouring in a ton of resources — from money to hiring new staff — into the idea just yet.
“It does turn Instagram into less of a content or community resource, and it distracts from a brand’s [authentic] engagement with its audience. You cannot promote a tagged product, which sometimes defeats the purpose. On the actual shop feed, there are so many products, and for your product to even be seen seems almost impossible without enough engagement, which is difficult for a new brand,” said Daniella Mizrahi, founder of Yella Activewear.
Some are seeing success early on, and working with Instagram to take advantage of the new features. Nearly all of Manner Market’s recent Instagram posts include shoppable product tags, denoted by a small shopping bag icon in the top right corner of an in-feed post. The company was featured on Instagram’s @shop account in November, which boosted awareness for the company. Manner Market first started testing shopping on Instagram in June 2018, after launching in late 2017.
Flooding the Instagram feed with shopping-enabled posts is a strategy plenty of brands use, beyond just Manner Market. For some, it gets the customer accustomed to the idea of shopping the brand through Instagram, while for others, it’s more about getting followers familiar with the product.
“[Instagram Shopping] creates another channel for a potential consumer to access information about [the brand],” said Mizrahi. “It provides easier access to your product and limits the number of steps a consumer has to take to access information about the product. It creates one big catalog of goods.”
However, one of the big challenges for these smaller players is finding ways to stand out on the platform, which is already crowded with apparel and accessories companies.
“There are not enough eyes on your brand when you’re just starting out,” said Brumberg. “You are competing with very established brands when you’re in the shopping [tab], so as a small brand you can get lost in the shuffle.”
Shoppable items pop up on fitting users’ explore page, depending on their engagement history. There is also a specific “Shop” tab, where all shoppable posts are tagged into categories like women’s clothing and accessories, and into more specific segments such as dresses, jeans, activewear and sweaters.
Most big names in the fashion and apparel market have a presence on Instagram and are using the platform to test shopping — they include Banana Republic, Pacsun, American Eagle and ModCloth.