Instagram shopping is here: How can businesses take advantage?

In a world where the consumer expects a more seamless shopping experience than ever before, shopping directly via social media, such as Instagram shopping, is the natural next step from buying through a retailer’s website or mobile app.

While social media has long been viewed as invaluable brand awareness and an engagement tool, conversion is a recurrent issue; how to successfully turn likes and retweets into measurable sales?

Instagram may have brought UK retailers a solution to this problem with shoppable posts, which take customers from post to purchase in just two taps.

While Instagram previously did not allow links to be placed in pictures or captions, a recent update now will enable products to be “tagged” in posts.

>See also: How augmented reality is transforming e-commerce

Tapping a tag brings up essential product information such as brand names and prices, and a further tap takes users straight through to the associated product page on a retailer’s website, where they can make a direct purchase.

Considering that UK retailers have an average Instagram reach of 2.25 million, Instagram shopping creates tremendous growth opportunities for businesses that can take full advantage of this new trend.

Let’s look at how to utilise this tool to grow sales.

Optimise mobile site speed

The UK is already the world leader in online sales driven through social media; a figure that has increased by over 300% since 2016. This number is likely to increase as consumers become more accustomed to the idea of

Instagram as a virtual storefront, highlighting how important it is to embrace social as an integral part of the purchase journey.

>See also: 15 Technologies that Empower Ecommerce Stores

Once users arrive on site via shoppable posts, it’s critically important for brands to ensure that their site loads quickly to maximise conversion rates. Indeed, one in two consumers now expect a mobile site to load in less than two seconds, and conversions can drop by up to 20% for every additional second.

To increase site speed, there are a number of quick-win tactics that can be employed, such as optimising resource-heavy product images, structuring the HTML to load visible “above the fold” content first, and reducing server response times to under 200ms.

Checkout is crucial to conversion

Considering Instagram shopping takes users directly to the product purchase page, it is imperative to ensure that the checkout process is fully optimised to limit basket abandonment; an issue which affects almost three quarters (74%) of online retail sales.

While many best-practice principles for traditional desktop checkout design will also apply to mobile – for example prioritising speed, simplicity, and security – mobile checkout design also brings extra design considerations.

>See also: What does the future hold for the e-commerce market? 

Businesses should opt for a vertically-stacked checkout page which fits comfortably within the confines of a mobile screen and allows for easy scrolling, keep checkout forms simple, and make buttons and text fields as large as possible to cut down on potentially imprecise mobile inputs.

Never “overload” customers

Instagram allows retailers to tag up to five products in posts with a single photo, and up to 20 tags for multi-image posts. While it may be tempting to include as many products as possible in each post, this can have an adverse effect on sales by making posts look unattractively cluttered.

Messy posts will fracture browsers’ attention and cause them to scroll away, perhaps in search of a competitor’s feed.

Businesses should consider including fewer product tags in each post, and instead publish posts more frequently throughout the week to maximise customer engagement.

Image is everything

Online shopping has always been a visual medium. In the absence of being able to interact with products physically, customers rely upon strong product imagery when deciding whether to make a purchase – as the saying goes, “a picture is worth a thousand words”.

Therefore, businesses should ensure all product images posted to Instagram are at least 72 dpi, and approximately 1,000px x 1,000px.

Products should be shown from multiple angles where possible, as well as “in use”. Show any clothing products on a model, and any non-clothing items should also be shown in context. A homeware retailer, for instance, could show how their products might fit into a home setting – Ikea does this very effectively.

>See also: Using AI to transform e-commerce

A new era for online shopping

Overall, Instagram shopping is a tremendously exciting development in the rapidly-growing world of mobile commerce. While the feature is still in its infancy, early adopters have thrived, reporting increases in traffic as high as 1,416%, and up to 20% on-the-spot revenue boosts.

As the ongoing high street “crisis” – House of Fraser being just the latest casualty of this – increases competition in the online retail arena, untapped growth avenues such as Instagram shopping could make or break businesses looking to survive in a saturated marketplace.

The question now is not whether businesses should be embracing Instagram and social commerce, but whether they can really afford not to?

By Gianni Casagrande, social media strategist, at e-commerce digital marketing agency, Visualsoft.