As Instagram Shopping goes global, brands look to optimize mobile commerce strategies

March 20, 2018

A year after Instagram launched shoppable posts in the U.S., the platform is going global by expanding the capability to eight additional countries. Beginning today, users in the U.K., Canada, France, Germany, Australia, Italy, Spain and Brazil will be able to make purchases directly from unpaid brand posts on their feeds.

In the past year, shoppable posts — which include tags on featured products that provide access to additional information and redirect users to e-commerce sites — have served as a valuable tool for brands looking to capitalize on the rise of mobile commerce. The international expansion will help drive conversions from a wider international audience and allow retailers to reach a larger percentage of Instagram’s 800 million active users.

While fashion and lifestyle brands have traditionally experienced high engagement rates on Instagram, translating that momentum to conversions has been challenging in the absence of features like shoppable tags. In the past year, the function has proven helpful in allowing brands to more directly drive traffic to e-commerce sites while also tracking the efficacy of posts in attracting new and existing shoppers. According to data from Instagram, 60 percent of users find new products on Instagram. Further, a study by Global Web Index found that users are 70 percent more likely to make mobile purchases after seeing a product of interest on Instagram.

In advance of the global expansion, brand leaders from companies including denim company AYR, e-commerce plant brand The Sill and luggage brand Away gathered at Instagram’s Manhattan office on Monday to discuss how Instagram Shopping has impacted business. Here are the main ways the feature has helped propel sales, according to the brands.

Tracking mobile sales
Much like Glossier, AYR developed a following on Instagram before it even began selling product, providing an audience for its shoppable posts. Nina Wheeler, brand director at AYR, said part of what makes Instagram Shopping effective is it helps brands maintain authenticity by giving consumers the choice to tap for more information rather than get product details pushed down their throats.

More importantly, shoppable posts help the company see what’s working by providing data on who is clicking which posts and what products are driving mobile sales, both of which can help improve social commerce strategy. “One of the greatest gifts of Instagram Shopping is we have dedicated so much time and made such an investment in Instagram as a platform, that now we’re able to actually see some ROI and make more data-driven decisions,” Wheeler said.

Enter The Shade🖤

A post shared by AYR (@ayr) on

A recent AYR post on Instagram

For Away, shoppable posts have allowed the company to more efficiently engage with consumers by paring down the resources required to respond to individual questions about price and product details. Kelsey Vanderlip, senior manager of brand product strategy at Away, said as a result, the company has more time to experiment with content.

“Tagging the product has much higher engagement than when we don’t tag it,” she said. “It’s another touch point for the consumer to see in a more realistic setting how a bag could work.”

Making customer service more like ‘texting a friend’
The introduction of features like Instagram Stories and the ability to direct-message between accounts has further helped retailers drive sales by cultivating a more conversational approach to customer service. Wheeler, who operates the AYR Instagram account along with CEO Maggie Winter, said she is constantly fielding queries about products, which helps create loyalty with the end goal of driving customers to the product page.

“It allows me to connect with customers, and I can be a lot more casual than in a traditional customer-service sense. It’s more like texting a friend than emailing [AYR customer service]”, she said.

For companies that offer a slightly more complex business model, Instagram Stories and Instagram Live have also served as vehicles to sharing more in-depth information to educate consumers without clogging up the main feed. At The Sill, which sells potted plants online, they use Stories and Live to teach followers about plant care and answer questions from consumers as they arise.

“We like the posts to be more succinct and about the product, and on Stories, we can share more in-depth information and have back-and-forths with the consumers,” said Erin Marino, director of brand marketing at The Sill. “With Instagram Stories and Instagram Live, we can answer questions in real time.”

The Sill on Instagram

Gathering real-time insights
Beyond adding an additional pathway to purchase, the integration of Instagram tools like shoppable posts and Stories has also opened a portal for valuable feedback. Wheeler said consumer comments requesting size and race diversity has directly informed marketing and design strategy, and the company recently launched plus-size and environmentally friendly denim styles in direct response to user comments. Instagram Shopping helps further these insights by providing data on conversion rates for specific products to see how they’re performing.

Additionally, Instagram data related to regional followers helped AYR select geographic locations for its brick-and-mortar expansion, Wheeler said. When eyeing a spot for its first West Coast pop-up, AYR knew the majority of its e-commerce sales came from San Francisco. However, because it had more Instagram followers in Los Angeles, it decided to open up shop there and communicate about the opening exclusively on Instagram and email.

“We base a lot of our decisions based on what’s happening on Instagram,” Wheeler said.