- Instagram created a special account called @shop that brings together posts from online merchants that sell products through the image-sharing app, according to an announcement from the Facebook-owned company.
- The curated account aims to showcase top shopping categories including fashion, beauty and home decor. Feel jeans, Glossier Play Colorslide and Mented Cosmetics are among the "emerging brands" that Instagram seeks to highlight with the new account.
- Every product shown in the @shop account will have shopping tags that let Instagram users make a direct purchase without leaving the app. The @shop account had around 46,000 followers as of press time.
Instagram's introduction of its new @shop account is the latest sign that the image-sharing app seeks to build itself out as an e-commerce platform to supplement ad sales. By relying on a team of curators to highlight emerging brands, Instagram can alleviate the "filter bubble" that happens when websites try to personalize the user experience, but end up showing consumers more of the same stuff they've liked in the past. The @shop account gives Instagram greater flexibility to behave more like a social influencer in highlighting undiscovered brands, while also driving direct-to-consumers transactions.
Instagram in the past year has accelerated its e-commerce development to leverage its reach among its more than 1 billion users worldwide. The app in September introduced a dedicated shopping channel in its Explore tab and added it to Stories, the popular feature that strings together several images into a single post that disappears after 24 hours. In November, Instagram added a collection tab to let users save products tagged in Stories and posts, shoppable videos and a shop tab on business pages to showcase all the products from a single brand or merchandiser. Instagram in March rolled out a native checkout feature with 23 U.S. brands that let shoppers pay for products without leaving the app, and extended the tool to 55 creators and five publishers for testing last month.
The e-commerce features are working for some marketers. Adidas CEO Kasper Rorsted said in a quarterly conference call that the brand's 40% jump in online sales in Q1 2019 from a year earlier can be largely attributed to Instagram's direct-selling features. Adidas in the past year has been active on several social media platforms, including Twitter and Snapchat, but Instagram has had the biggest effect on driving its direct sales this year.
Social media platforms like Instagram are becoming powerful tools for direct selling, not just advertising. Of the nearly two-thirds (63%) of online shoppers who have ever clicked on a social media ad, 33% made a direct purchase, per a survey by cloud computing company Episerver. Meanwhile, just over half (52%) of online shoppers who also use social media have clicked on an influencer's post, and 31% of them made a direct purchase after viewing the post. The percentage of shoppers who said social media "is quickly becoming my most important shopping tool" surged to 45% last year from 29% in 2015, as tech-savvy millennials and Gen Zers began to embrace social commerce, according to a separate study by GfK.