How Instagram Shook Up the World of Ecommerce in 2018


By Michael Burke, Brand Manager at SelfMade

It’s no secret that social media is changing quicker than most of us can comprehend, but 2018 stands to live long in social media folklore as the year that saw Instagram establish itself as the number 1 social media platform. In the past year, Instagram reached the 1 billion monthly active users milestone, over 4.2 billion posts are being liked every day on the platform, and 72% of teenagers now use the app on a daily basis.

But how did it reach these numbers so quickly? Well, Instagram’s ability to innovate and iterate is unparalleled, and their knack of building features for both the everyday user and businesses is what has propelled them to the number 1 social media spot.

After looking at Instagram’s releases in 2018, One of the biggest was undoubtedly the launch of shoppable media, which was a big indication of it’s plans to become a significant player in the world of e-commerce. This release started with  “shoppable posts”, which was followed by “shoppable stories”, and finally the announcement that a standalone shopping app called “IG Shopping”, may be just around the corner.

But what do all these features mean for small e-commerce brands that are trying to build a business online? Well, it means that the barriers to creating a powerful brand on Instagram are coming down. And if you can achieve this, you have access to a viable channel that enables you to reach customers, and sell them products that they love.

Let’s start from the beginning. Back in March of this year, Instagram released “shoppable posts”, a feature that allows e-commerce brands tag products within a post, and with 3 clicks, the user can go from the post to the “add to cart” section of that brand’s website. Although it was only released to a select group of retailers in the US initially, it has now been rolled out to brands of all sizes in multiple countries. If you’re reading this and wondering about the criteria to become eligible for tagging products on Instagram, it’s not as strict as you may think. Below I’ve outlined the boxes you need to tick:

  • You have downloaded the most up-to-date version of the Instagram app.

  • You are registered as a business profile on Instagram.

  • Your business sells physical goods and complies with Instagram‘s merchant agreement and commerce policies.

  • You are an admin on a business Facebook page or a business manager account.

  • Your business profile is connected to a Facebook catalog.

Once you satisfy these requirements, you can begin tagging your products. For more detailed information on how to do this, click here.

Soon after shoppable posts, came the ability to shop from Instagram Stories, which is known as “Shoppable Instagram Stories Stickers”. Now ecom brands can use the “product” sticker in stories to tag specific items. Before this, brands with more than 10,000 followers were able to send traffic directly to their websites through the “swipe up” feature. However, the release of shoppable stories stickers has now democratized this feature entirely. Click here to learn more about shopping from your Instagram Stories.

In case the above two features weren’t enough, Instagram then hinted at the possibility of a standalone commerce app, called “IG Shopping”, a story that was broken by The Verge in early September. They noted, “the app will let users browse collections of goods from merchants that they follow and purchase them directly within the app, according to two people familiar with the matter”. When you look at the figures, it makes perfect sense that Instagram want to make headway into the world of e-commerce. At a recent earnings call, Facebook COO, Sheryl Sandberg noted that more than 25 million businesses now use Instagram, with 2 million of those actively using advertising on the platform. When you factor in that 72% of users have recently bought a product that they first saw on Instagram, and that 4 out of every 5 people follow at least one business on the platform, it is no wonder that many are predicting  that Instagram may soon be one of the biggest players in the e-commerce industry.

Shoppable media on Instagram is a new concept, but like anything, there are always early adopters. So, who are the brands that are capitalizing on these features? Well, below are listed the ones that are doing it right. They are not only killing it creatively on Instagram, but also maximizing it as a sales and revenue generation channel. If you’re looking for a good starting point, check out Away, Gap, Nordstrom, and Glossier.

About Michael Burke

Michael is a Brand Manager at SelfMade, a New York City Instagram Marketing startup, where he helps e-commerce companies create a powerful and cohesive brand on Instagram and generate revenue from the platform. When he is not helping e-commerce companies scale their businesses, he is writing for Irish Tech News, The Sociable, and running the Talk Show Entertainment Instagram account, @talkhowents.


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