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WGSN bets on third-party vendors to introduce ecommerce on Instagram

Services such as Chirpify, Soldsie and Like To Know It have emerged to allow consumer to make transactions by tagging, liking or commenting on Instagram photos, providing new sales opportunities for brands and retailers. While the direct equation for social commerce has yet to be solved, these third-party businesses could serve as an entry point in the meantime.

“Instagram isn’t built for commerce, so it wasn’t the most obvious decision to make three or four years ago,” said Aria Hughes, associate retail editor at WGSN, New York. “As Instagram has not yet enabled the clickable links essential for shopping over the platform, third-party tech providers are finding ways to work around it.”

Finding a loophole
Chirpify allows retailers using Instagram to connect with potential consumers by utilizing action tags such as #InstaSale when posting photos of products. Users can comment on the photo using hashtag #buy to directly trigger a sales function.

The action tags transport users to Chirpify’s secure payment platform, where they can register their credit card information and complete a transaction.

Similarly, Soldsie allows users to comment with the word “sold” and provide their email address, size and color for the product they want, in the comment section of a registered item. Then, Soldsie uses online payment system PayPal to send an email invoice and payment instructions to the user.

Like To Know It emails users the product details of photos they like on Instagram. Only photos or products that are tagged by Like To Know It are available for purchase.

While it is unlikely that all three vendors will survive equally in this industry, there is a potential for brands and retailers to accrue sales from social buying. Given the existing presence that consumers maintain on platforms such as Instagram, incorporating a more direct route to sales could lend a profitable outcome.

When consumers are met with free time, they browse the Instagram accounts of their favorite brands, but do not have a direct way to buy the products they see. Registering with one of the aforementioned third-party vendors gives consumers and brands a way to incorporate sales into the social realm while Instagram navigates the social buying atmosphere itself.

Commerce: the next level
Thus far, social campaigns have aimed to establish a community between brands and their consumers.

While fashion brands have embraced Instagram in a big way this year by targeting millennials to spark conversation and maintain brand awareness and loyalty, many of these efforts could go to the next level utilizing a multichannel, personalized approach.

From Kate Spade to Coach, brands are relentlessly turning to Instagram to promote some type of product, cause or occasion and in turn offering coupons, prizes or recognition from the brand. Revamping these campaigns with a few techniques can likely better the overall consumer experience and furthermore indirectly drive sales (see story).

Vendors have begun tiptoeing around the idea of social commerce for the past few months.

There have been numerous predictions around social media’s potential to drive commerce sales but with a growing number of merchants adding transactional capabilities to their social media content, this could be the year that potential is finally realized.

Social is certainly an increasingly important way that merchants drive interest around their products and brand as well as traffic to their ecommerce sites but, so far, driving actual transactions from social media has been limited, with some early attempts even abandoned by merchants. However, more recent strategies such as social shopping carts point to the ongoing attempts to make social commerce a reality (see story).

Ultimately, brands are likely to delve into these endeavors if it seems worthwhile.

“Before retailers invest in commerce on Instagram, they want to ensure their customer is inclined to shop over the platform,” Ms. Hughes said. “Most retailers begin these social shopping initiatives as a direct result of customer behavior.”

Final Take
Caitlyn Bohannon, editorial assistant for Mobile Commerce Daily, New York