With over 9 million monthly active users, Instagram has become one of the most popular photo sharing, social media applications amongst consumers and businesses alike.

Since the company’s launch in October 2010, the platform has continuously evolved with features that the digital marketing industry could have only previously dreamed of. Most recently, the long-awaited and heavily requested addition of Instagram Shopping has finally launched for Australian businesses, helping consumers discover, experience and purchase products in a less fragmented and more user-friendly way.

After observing the way mobile has influenced and altered the shopping experience in today’s society, Instagram began testing ways in which consumers could locate and purchase the products featured in a brand’s post. In late 2016, they launched a pilot program in the United States which involved 20 local retail brands including Kate Spade, Jack Threads and Warby Parker. The test allowed the brands to make their posts more valuable and informative for the consumer by adding a tap-to-view feature, which tagged the products in the image and provided product information and specifications along with a direct link to purchase. The addition of such features makes the all too familiar ‘link in bio’ call to action captions and third-party, semi-direct shopping applications such as ‘Like 2 Buy’ that many brands have relied on, obsolete.

Undoubtedly, while it’s parent company Facebook recently implemented algorithms that have made social media a challenge for retail brands and marketers, Instagram’s new shopping capability will alter the heavily visual platform into one that is used by brands for sales-driven purposes. In fact, the shoppable product tags have seen great benefit in the United States market, with the Australian Financial Review citing US clothing retailer Lulus and their successes with the feature. By adding the tags to their posts, Lulu’s identified an additional 100,000 website visits and over 1200 purchases, resulting in a conversion rate of 1.2%.

Although Google analytics is currently unable to isolate the specific metrics that can be attributed to the product tag links, studies suggest this will be fully measurable in the future as the Instagram Shopping feature solidifies. This highlights the opportunity social media will have for digital marketers as the time, money and resources spent on organic content creation will become more measurable, and therefore proven as a viable and necessary online marketing service.

After being available to all consumers in the United States for some time, and even been trialled in Australia by brands such as Myer and Country Road, approved Australian businesses finally have the opportunity to apply the feature to their posts and are the first country in the Asia-pacific region to do so. The much-anticipated wait for the feature in Australia has already proved a success with several local brands of various sizes already integrating the feature to promote a more seamless and cohesive mobile experience for their consumers. Shoppable Instagram tags also allow businesses to capitalise on a lucrative opportunity in an environment where consumers are highly active and open to discovery by minimising barriers and simplifying the path to purchase to captivate potential customers while they’re deeply engaged. Ultimately, the feature shortens the consumer journey and allows a smooth transition from discovery, to consideration and finally a purchase resulting in boosted e-commerce sales from only a few clicks.

While the new Shoppable Instagram tags will place a greater emphasis on selling products, brands need to ensure they remain authentic and focused on driving engagement to continually captivate audiences in the first place. In fact, as a result of the new update, Instagram is increasingly becoming a more powerful communication tool, making it all the more important for captivating content to be created.

It should also be noted that Shoppable Instagram tags are not currently available for sponsored posts, advertisements and Instagram influencers, however, it is expected that it is only a matter of time before the feature will evolve and be added. Tags added onto advertisements will again help simplify the path to purchase, while Instagram influencers will be able to provide links that relate to the products for the brands they collaborate with. Again this will provide brands more direct and conclusive data that will substantiate the value and worth of the brand ambassadors they work with.

In case you missed it, Australian retail brands who wish to begin to incorporate Instagram’s latest feature into their marketing and advertising services, first need to ensure their account is approved by the platform by following a few easy steps. In order to be approved, brands must have a business account on both Instagram and Facebook and sell physical goods that complies with the merchant agreement and commerce policies the platforms have set. Brands are then required to connect a Facebook catalogue which can be managed via Business Manager, Shopify and BigCommerce platforms. Upon completing the steps, Instagram will review the profile, which may take a few days. Once approved, brands will be able to go into their settings via Instagram and manually tag items that are available in the product catalogue they have uploaded. Brands have the ability to tag a maximum of 5 products per single image post or up to 20 for a carousel. They may also apply these tags to posts that already exist on their Instagram feed.

Instagram has long been a virtual platform that allows consumers to discover brands and their products. However, the ability to transform consumers from their passive interactions to purchasers and convert images into sales has long been a difficult barrier that marketers have tried to overcome. The rollout of the Instagram Shopping feature provides brands with the ability to create a fully integrated retail environment and allows consumers to purchase products in a more simplified way.

RGC Digital Marketing is a full-service digital marketing agency based in Sydney that proudly has 20 years of online marketing experience. Our reputable and passionate social media marketing agency develops campaigns and utilises various content marketing services in order to connect consumers to brands through relevant platforms. To learn more about beneficial social media strategies for your brand, please contact Richard on (02) 8883 2988 or email richard@rgcadvertising.com.au