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  • Writer's pictureChris Bowler

Instagram Ecommerce

Should you jump in? 5 factors to consider

Instagram is now an ecommerce platform. According to The Drum:

Instagram today launched its Checkout feature, a function that will allow users to buy products directly from a brand's shoppable post without leaving the app.
Instagram has picked 23 brands – including Adidas, Dior, Kylie Cosmetics, MAC and Zara – to beta test the e-commerce integration, and it will be available in the US only.
Prospective buyers can tap on the "Checkout on Instagram" button to purchase an item; they are then taken through the requisite steps of completing the transaction.

So, if you are an ecommerce retailer, do you jump into the pool? Here are five ways to look before you leap.

1. Instagram's dominance

Let's face it: Instagram already was an ecommerce platform up until now, just a clunky one. Users would see a product that they liked, search for the brand site (or Amazon) and then make their purchase. Now, Instagram is just creating a faster ecommerce bridge to what these customers already like. And the first thing to consider is the scale. According to MediaPost, 'On a monthly basis, more than 130 million users tap to reveal product tags in shopping posts, according to internal figures. That’s up substantially from the 90 million taps that Instagram recorded last September.'

That's huge - and growing. So the default position might very well be a must-test on Instagram.

2. Distribution is King - to a point

Sure, the first rule of marketing is to be where your customers are. And I would argue that if you sell a very visual product, such as fashion, you simply need to be there. Look at the beta-testing brands - almost all are leaders in the fashion or beauty category. Perfect for Instagram.

But what if you are a B2B parts retailer? This might not be a good platform to invest in.

3. Discovery versus Utility

Let’s go further. Recode makes an interesting argument that Instagram has a rare opportunity to capitalize on where Amazon has failed. Namely, ‘Discovery Commerce’. The idea here is that the surprise and delight of the Instagram platform can light up a new kind of ecommerce where the user is intrigued first. Amazon operates on the model of search first – meaning, you already know what you are looking to purchase. It's all about utility and search. Instagram is about discovery. In other words, Instagram is just bridging the gap between what you impulsively desire and getting the product in your hands.

Is your product more 'utility' or 'discovery'? The answer should help inform your priorities for either platform.

4. The Data Quandary

It’s worth stepping back and asking why Instagram is ecommerce-forward. That’s simple. As MediaPost states, “the system will require users to enter their name, email, billing information and shipping address the first time they check out.” That’s a tremendous amount of data that Instagram will capture about their user base. Data that can be used to further target these buyers (through advertising or ecommerce functionality). And this leads to the endless trap: because they are checking out on Instagram (versus your site), you lose the opportunity to capture that data yourself. Instagram benefits more than you do (beyond the sales revenue that is). What's important to consider, then, are ways to re-capture this customer data. Feedback forms in the product shipment, perhaps? Think about all of the workarounds here to avoid data loss.

5. Re-think your Instagram Posting Strategy

So, let's say you want to dive in and test Instagram ecommerce. You will need to rethink your strategy and content marketing approach to Instagram. Consider: how will your posts change to promote product sales? How much will you reduce brand focus versus product focus? Will you introduce offers? Will this diminish your visual branding that your followers expect? You really must re-jigger your content strategy and walk this tightrope. Given the newness of the Instagram ecommerce, tread lightly here. While all of the marketing world might be focused on Instagram ecommerce, the average user is not. Certainly you want to test and learn what works in this new arena. Done right, you might be able to chart new territory for your eommerce business.

These are just five factors. No doubt there are more. What have I missed? Feel free to leave a comment.

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