Instagram has long been a favorite social media platform among fashion and beauty brands, due to its aspirational, visual-first model. Since Instagram rolled out shoppable posts in March — which allows brands to tag unpaid posts with product details and a link to buy so users to purchase in feed — the social platform found that people who shopped on the platform viewed two times more content on average than non-shoppers. This highly engaged cohort of Instagrammers is turning to the app for product discovery, and becoming an increasingly valuable captive audience.

At least, that’s Instagram’s pitch.

“People are going to businesses’ profiles to get a really crisp, clean snapshot of what a business, brand or retailer is about,” said Susan Buckner Rose, Instagram’s product marketing director, at the eTail East conference in Boston on Thursday. “That’s one of the real beauties of the way that Instagram is designed — its profile is so simplistic. It’s so image forward.”

Bringing physical retail to mobile 
Today, 80 percent of Instagram users follow at least one of the 15 million total brands active on the platform. Buckner Rose said as its shopping features continue to evolve, Instagram has been particularly focused on integrating the physical retail experience into a mobile framework. Specifically, Instagram has done this through implementing features like the “save” button that allows users to store posts and then organize them by category for future viewing. This was in large part catered to shoppers, 50 percent of which take at least 24 hours to make a decision on a purchase on mobile (fashion buyers are at an even higher rate, at 63 percent.) 

“On mobile or online, consumers aren’t always ready to make a purchase,” she said. “[The key is] understanding the mindset on mobile and how can you get your brand and your product in front of that person in the moment they’re ready to make a purchase.”

Additionally, the rise of Instagram Stories has served as another outlet for brands to experiment with shoppable posts, this time through delivering ephemeral content to the 250 million people using Stories each day. Buckner Rose mentioned a handful of brands that have delved into this feature particularly well, such as Kate Spade, one of Instagram’s first collaborators on shoppable posts, and J.Crew which successfully used Stories to promote and sell a limited edition sunglasses product last August.

Wooing mass retailers 
Instagram’s shoppable elements have also provided opportunities for retailers to experiment with marketing techniques. Take Nordstrom, which recently tested the performance of shoppable posts that mix brands and price point, versus those that include just one brand, said Buckner Rose. Retargeting using sponsored shoppable posts has also been a rising trend, a move used recently by MeUndies, which places content in the feeds of users who recently visited the brand’s website but didn’t make a purchase.

The platform has also been well-received for its non-intrusive approach to shoppable content. Dots on items and a shopping bag logo on the bottom left side of the screen indicate items can be purchased through the post, and interested users can tap for more information. If not, Instagram browsers can just swipe on by, without being inundated with marketing material.


Kate Spade using Instagram’s shoppable feature on Apple iOS

Helping luxury brands reach new demographics
Buckner Rose said that for legacy brands like Louis Vuitton, Stories have been helpful to engage younger shoppers. Since Stories uses the entirety of a mobile screen, its also particularly conducive to vertical video that allows for full-body action shots, which Louis Vuitton used in a recent campaign that drove a 28-point increase in ad recall, a metric that measures the efficacy of an advertisement.

“It’s kind of like window shopping, seeing a product in the shop window and then being asked to make a purchase right then and there,” Buckner Rose said. “It’s going straight from the shop window to the checkout. There’s a lot that can happen between those two steps. We want to consider the shopping experience, and how can we take what retailers have been perfecting for years from the brick and mortar perspective.”