Influencer marketing is key to brand perception. When consumers are browsing online for products to purchase, 31% turn to social media making social platforms second only to retailer websites. Of consumers that follow retailers on social media, 56% of them do so to view products and be exposed to new services. This indicates is that despite naysayers’ warnings, social selling is developing its place in the market and gaining ground. While retailers haven’t fully taken advantage of social commerce, the medium is already set to start evolving with the potential advent of taggable products.
Consumer Readiness to Shop Social
Worldwide, social commerce represents a revenue of $30 billion, and the U.S.’s share of that is $14 billion. At first glance, it may seem as though the naysayers are correct: in early 2016, 45% in the US would not want to partake in this kind of social shopping. However, it’s a much more even heat when you realize that not only do 7.3% of consumers that have tried it before want to use the process again (nearly triple the odds of those who have tried and do not want to do it again), but 18.7% want to use this functionality and simply haven’t done so. Furthermore, it’s important to note actual consumer interest. When looking broadly at social shopping, only 19% use Facebook for direct purchases, and a mere 9% are interested in doing so on Instagram. By shifting focus to Millennials and leading-edge Gen Z-ers, you’ll have a completely different perspective: a third want to shop on Facebook while nearly as many want to shop on Instagram (27%).
A primary use for social on the customer journey right now is to find inspiration, especially through visual platforms like Instagram. The breakdown varies a little by age: Millennials inspired by social photos are interested in apparel (66%), gifts (61%), home decor (58%), and food options (58%); Boomers focus on gifts and technology (36% and 33% respectively) as well as holiday destinations (26%). Social is already being used, and taggable products are an innovation set to make a shorter path to purchase with a frictionless and secure way to shop and pay.
Instagram and Taggable Products
At the end of 2016, Instagram began a live beta test of its taggable products option by partnering with 20 major brands, including Target, Warby Parker and JackThreads. This gives the potential feature wide exposure to users who are also customers, thus testing its capabilities and what customers are interested in using.
The feature is intended for native posts that will appear in user feeds, as opposed to being applied to ads. Brands would upload an image, as usual, but in preparing to post, products get tagged, the same way users tag themselves or other users in their photos. When a follower gets to a branded post, they simply hit the tap to view icon featured on the bottom corner of the photo to view the applied tags, which feature the product name and price. If a user taps an item, it brings them to a product page within the Instagram app, which provides complete details, including user ratings. From there, they can tap a shop now link that brings them to the retailer’s site. Eventually, the tagging functionality will be added to video. Given that Facebook has moved its own shopping platform to keep the purchase entirely in-app, the most likely change to the process will be to align Instagram’s checkout to its parent company. This would present a more streamlined process.
Impact to Users
Social selling is another way to have a simple, straightforward brand experience. Because tags are only seen if the user presses the tap to view icon, they won’t be overloaded by this new way to buy. After all, most people exposed to them will be fans of the brand already and thus exposed to native posts regularly. If Instagram offers a sponsored version of these posts, it still won’t interrupt the native experience and won’t interrupt the user’s normal feed any more than sponsored posts and in-feed ads do already. Given the statistics regarding user interest, older users are likely to ignore tagged products (especially if they don’t press the reveal button) and younger users want them, adding value to their discovery process without adding complications.
Impact to Marketers
Quite simply, this will become an extension of their social marketing. Instagram won’t be taking a cut of the purchases; instead, the platform plans to offer a sponsored method to put posts with tagged products into targeted feeds of users that don’t already follow the retailers. It won’t be some new gimmick to add to the list because it will fit seamlessly into the strategies they’re already using on Instagram. Furthermore, it cuts out a middle step that could potentially send users somewhere else: having to leave the app to make the purchase. As the CMO of JackThreads pointed out, “… our customers will be able to shop seamlessly from their social media feeds—allowing us to reach guys where they’re already hunting for what’s new.”
Unfortunately, because Instagram testing taggable products only began late 2016, there isn’t a case study available yet to look at real results. Additionally, it’s not known yet when the feature will roll out to more businesses. Hard numbers are certainly the best foundation for marketing decision, but the prospects are promising.
With social media marketing already a fundamental part of building relationships with customers and crafting frictionless experiences, it’s no wonder that social commerce is gaining traction. Instagram testing taggable products is a great indicator for how the consumer’s path to purchase may be shifting. Social selling needs to be developed and built into a strategy that encompasses all e-commerce channels before brands are left behind.