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Instagram and Pinterest Show Future of Shopping is Social

Instagram and Pinterest Show Future of Shopping is Social

Technology has set retail on an ever-evolving path from e-commerce to mobile commerce and now social commerce and in-app shopping are among the next burgeoning trends. That’s due in part to the fact that being inspired on social media then having to change apps to learn more about products and make a purchase is a clunky process at best. Today’s post offers an overview of how Pinterest and Instagram are both leading the way with tactics that allow users to stay inside the social platform when they want to make a purchase.

Social Connects Consumers to More than Their Friends

The days when social media was simply a way to connect with friends is long gone, and most marketers and business owners know that social is a critical channel for connecting with customers. However, it’s important to get a clear picture about how customers are using it to explore brands. According to a survey from Aimia, 56% of the consumers who follow brands on social media do so to view products, followed by looking at new collections when launched (41%) and to get ideas for the next shopping trip (35%). Inasmuch as this shows the underlying potential behind this sort of social commerce, the survey also revealed that younger generations are likely to be driving social in-app shopping: of adults 18 to 24, 33% said they would like to be able to make purchases directly through Facebook, with nearly as many wanting to shop through Instagram (27%) and a sizable number preferring Pinterest (17%).

Currently, social commerce represents $9 billion in revenue in the US. Even so, despite the growing interest, nearly 60% of businesses weren’t deploying in-app buy-now options as of 2015. This may be due to how new the format is; after all, only 1 in 10 consumers have even tried social buy buttons, despite the fact that 75% of consumers know about them. But 1 in 5 simply haven’t had the chance to try them, and of those who do, 73% said they’d do so again. That means businesses that adopt this strategy could have a strong competitive edge.

Benefits to Consumer and Retailer

As mentioned, the path from the inspiration of social media to actually making a purchase is clunky and often drives customers to make purchases somewhere else, potentially with a competitor. The friction only increases if the customer has to change devices to complete the purchase. By taking advantage of social in-app purchasing, brands can shorten the path to purchase and tap into a captive audience that becomes more likely to buy right there and then inside the app. Many platforms also provide ways to save posts, so it becomes that much easier to remember what they wanted and make a hassle-free purchase later. This can also expedite the data brands need in order to personalize marketing and engagement. Meanwhile, consumers have a secure way to pay, either through the social app they already trust or through highly secure payment platforms like Apple Pay. The process is simplified, and checkout is easy.

Exploring Shoppable Features

Every channel is different, even when they approach the same problem in the same sort of way. Here’s a snapshot of how Instagram and Pinterest are handling social commerce.


Although the taggable products on Instagram are only available to a restricted number of brands right now (20, including Kate Spade, Coach, and Warby Parker), it’s working on opening that to more businesses. Recently, it enabled US jewelry and beauty businesses that uploaded their catalogs to Facebook to apply to Instagram shopping, and it’s in the process of releasing a self-serve tool to make posting shoppable photos easier.

Shoppable photos will feature an indicator on the bottom to signify that it includes products for purchase. This reveals tags, including the product name and price. If a user taps through, they’re taken to an in-app catalog page with complete details about the product, and if they’re interested in making a purchase, users can tap a link that will take them to the brand’s e-commerce site.


Despite the fact that Pinterest has the smallest share of users and interest in in-app purchases, the channel has arguably created the most successful format with its buyable pins. The brand was built on sharing inspiration and creativity, so it was a natural fit for brands to be found there and eventually be able to sell there. Buyable pins feature a “Buy It” button, which initiates an entirely in-app checkout process. Payments are made either with saved credit card information or via Apple Pay. If a buyable pin is Pinned rather than purchased, Pinterest also notifies the user about price drops. This format also makes the ROI for the platform quite clear.

The success of this approach was best seen during the Christmas holidays of 2015. During Black Friday, many users that had pinned a buyable pin came back to the app to purchase those items. Online merchant FlyAway BlueJay saw 20% of sales during the holiday season come from buyable pins. What’s more, reportedly all of those purchases were from new customers, meaning the brand was able to reach a whole new audience through this platform. Major brands are also getting on board, including Nordstrom and Neiman Marcus.

As consumer behavior continues to evolve, we can expect to see more in-app shopping. Pinterest’s buyable pins and the taggable products on Instagram are leading the way, giving brands new, frictionless and secure ways to meet customer needs in the moment without forcing them to stop what they’re doing and change apps. It only makes sense that brands take full advantage of this simple way to shop.