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Instagram Shopping: Using the platform’s new tools to increase online sales

Businesses selling on Instagram are now able to tag products in their organic posts, as the platform introduces its new Shopping tool to the UK.
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From 20 March, Instagram Shopping will enable UK users of the picture-sharing platform to shop online for items with far greater ease, marking one of the most significant updates to the platform since the launch of Instagram for Business in 2016.

At an unveiling of Instagram Shopping at the platform’s central London headquarters, Real Business was given an exclusive first-look at what the update will mean for businesses and their customers.

From now on, shoppers on Instagram will be able to tap on a tagged post within their feed to buy a specific item directly from a brand’s website, without having to search for it. Users are promised easier access to product details and pricing, and a more intuitive “visual storefront” to explore new products from brands they follow.

Businesses will only be able to sell goods via Instagram Shopping, as opposed to services. The tool is therefore expected to be most useful to firms selling things like clothing, jewellery or home wares, for example. For companies selling services on Instagram, like delivery or hospitality firms, the functionality to tag shopping posts will not be available.

Welcoming the new tool, Instagram’s head of business, Jim Squires, said: “People come to Instagram every day to discover and buy products from their favourite businesses. We want that to be a seamless experience. Whether it’s a local artisan, florist or clothing store, shopping directly on Instagram has never been easier.”

The platform confirmed its Shopping tool will enable brands to tag up to five products per single-image post, or 20 products per multi-image post. It will also give businesses access to shopper insights, including a “tap to reveal” function and “shop now” click data for every post.

The UK launch follows last year’s introduction of Instagram Shopping in the US, where the platform claims the new features have been a great success. According to Instagram, Lulus – a US-based online clothing retailer, attributed over 1,200 new orders and 100,000 website visits as a result of the new functions.

Amber Spencer-Holmes, the head of marketing at swimwear brand Heidi Klein – a UK retailer given special access to the new tools before its official launch, said that Shopping was “exactly what we’ve been waiting for,” from Instagram.

She added: “The interface is simple and intuitive, and we’ve already seen encouraging customer engagement over the beta period. We’re super-excited to experiment further and Shopping will undoubtedly be a priority for us as we ramp up into the summer season.”

In Britain, the number of Instagram users now amounts to 23m, including both individual users and businesses. Just seven years-old, the platform boasts over 800m users globally, including 25m businesses and two million advertisers.

Spencer-Holmes went on to say: “Instagram, both paid and organic, is a very central part of how we bring the Heidi Klein story to life, and Shopping feels like the missing piece in our digital strategy.”

Five tips for getting the most out of Instagram Shopping

    • Create at least nine Shopping posts on an Instagram business profile to activate the Shop tab for audiences
    • Tag multiple products to help audiences explore and browse
    • Use Stories to show your audience that they can now shop your posts – around 250m people use Stories every day and a third of the most viewed Stories are from businesses, so it’s one of the best ways to get your business seen
    • Leverage different Shopping formats – tag a single image or a use the carousel for multiple product shots
    • Make sure each tag touches the correct product, so shoppers know which product the tag refers to

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About Author

Fred Heritage

Fred Heritage is the deputy editor of Real Business. He is the former deputy editor of sister title Business Advice, and has previously worked as a reporter for magazines including the Global Trade Review. Fred has a MA in international conflict studies from Kings College London, and a BA in politics and international relations from the University of Kent.

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