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IKEA melds digital catalogs, Instagram for unique social merchandising strategy

Using one of the largest social sharing services to launch a Web-based catalog, IKEA’s new use-case for Instagram may help the photo-centric hub emerge from being a repository for selfies and gain steam as a digital marketplace

To showcase its annual PS line geared towards millennials, IKEA has opted for an approach to Instagram that epitomizes the brand’s forward-thinking approach for home décor. Partnering with Moscow-based agency Instinct, the Russian division of IKEA has hacked Instagram to create a pseudo-site catalog within the platform’s grid.

“The currency of social media is sharing and Ikea has created a new offering on Instagram that’s perfectly crafted to initiate this action,” said Lawrence Herman, CEO of BlueLink Marketing, New York.

“It’s highly suited for mobile. The ability to tag, identify, and remember specific products in your own environment is extremely unique and compelling.”

“But it’s not about the reach of the channel. Rather, it’s all about the brand awareness and attention of this concept and the utility of Instagram to influence shoppers by helping them discover new products to buy – leveraging social engagement to drive purchases,” he said.

IKEA did not respond to press inquiry.

Tag, you’re it
Users who search and browse the ikea_ps_2014 account on mobile will be met with a segmented homepage displayed similar to a typical IKEA catalog, where each main post represents a categorized collection of items.

Leveraging Instagram’s tagging system, when a product type is tapped, hidden links to additional photos of specifics in that category become opened and allow for itemized navigation. Within each product’s own account, interested users can view video demonstrations, more photos, detailed information and pricing, though no purchases can be made.

Because there are no status updates and profiles are minimal with a single stream of images, Instagram works well for this context as the emphasis remains on the photos. While using its native app to promote the collection may come to mind as the best channel for awareness, integrating into a network where most of its target audience thrives allows for consumers to more easily interact with IKEA by allowing fans to be a part of the conversation without having to download an app.

International acclaim
Unconventional uses of Instagram are evident in campaigns from other brands as well.

Spanning from December 2013 to March of this year, Mazda and JWT Canada used the carmaker’s Instagram feed to chart the course of a Mazda in an interactive “Long Drive Home” road trip, replacing stagnant images and regurgitated videos with an adventurous episodic story. By the end of the campaign, the brand had grown its following by 302 percent.

Similarly, during this year’s Toronto Silent Film Festival, the event celebrated Charlie Chaplin’s centenary by transforming its Instagram page into a time machine where a series of linked images could be activated into a flowing, responsive timeline of Chaplin’s accomplishments via factoids and film clips.

During last month’s Mcommerce Summit: State of Mobile Commerce 2014, Sephora execs pinpointed loyalty and content as two of the biggest priorities underpinning its current mobile strategy. Most recently, the Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy-owned brand rolled out a mobile and Web feature called Beauty Board that was largely fueled by the rise in mobile photo-sharing and shopping on platforms including Pinterest and Instagram (see story).

Sephora’s Beauty Board, adapted from Instagram success

Since launching in March, 47 percent of visits and 33 percent of uploads are from a smartphone. Tablets bring in 9 percent of visits and 23 percent of uploads. Desktops make up the remaining 44 percent of traffic and photo uploads. Forty-six percent of Beauty Board photos are tagged with at least one product.

Beauty Board fits into a bigger mobile and social strategy for Sephora that is heavy on visual platforms including Instagram and Pinterest. Sephora uses Pinterest for trend stories, which include how-to’s and products. On the other hand, Instagram is used to give fans a behind-the-scenes look at all of the brand’s happenings.

As brands explore ways to put the most relevant content in front of customers, marketers are increasingly turning to popular applications to leverage the convergence of mobile and social as an avenue to place content in front of consumers during their daily engagements.

Although the mobile initiative is not commerce-enabled, IKEA is relying on mobile to drive user engagement and brand awareness.

“The reach as a standalone isn’t inclusive enough to cast a wide net and make a difference for a major retailer today, however by integrating Instagram with a retailer’s other social media networks and online presence, a significant reach can be achieved,” said Djamel Agaoua, CEO of MobPartner, Boston.

Final Take
Michelle is editorial assistant on Mobile Commerce Daily, New York