Social commerce is driving the future of both shopping and social media. Social media and shopping have become deeply intertwined, changing consumers’ spending and communication. No longer are social platforms just places to share pictures and connect with friends, which is what they were originally launched as. Social commerce has made it so they are the new shopping malls, the places people go to find and purchase the latest fashions, foods, and services.
E-commerce sales have been steadily climbing for years, culminating in 2021, when they hit $870.8 billion, which was a 14% increase from 2020, according to the US Census Bureau. Social media platforms have a lot to do with this. These platforms have billions of active users worldwide that are highly engaged, consistently online, and now, because of how the platforms have become utilized, consistently exposed to new shopping options.
Social media platforms have leaned into e-commerce heavily, arranging new features to appeal to online consumers. Especially in the time of social distancing and brick-and-mortar retail stores shuttering, social commerce is more significant than ever.
Of all the platforms that have leaned into social commerce, Instagram might be doing it most effectively. While Facebook has a much larger active user base and likely draws in more average revenue for social commerce, the visual nature of Instagram makes it perfect for online shopping. They’ve also added several different features to lean into the e-commerce nature of the app. Let’s look at what some of the recent changes have been.
Instagram’s New Features
There are two primary features on Instagram that change how people use the platform, intended to drive people towards more e-commerce transactions. One is a little bit older; the other is extremely recent. Let’s look into what exactly these two features are.
The first is Instagram Shop, launched in 2019 and then refined in 2020. The Instagram Shop features are essentially an online store based on the app. Brands and creators can post products in the shop, and users can purchase them straight from the platform. There are several ways users can browse Instagram Shop, whether based on collections, brands, or a recommended For You page based on your online interactions. Many different online stores don’t even need users to go to their websites. The user can simply click on what they want and checkout on Instagram.
This feature is a game-changer. It showed just how much shopping is becoming a core focus of the Instagram strategy. Another feature was recently added to add to the Instagram shopping experience. This feature has existed for some time but is just now being expanded.
The feature we are talking about here is the ability for social media users to tag products in their posts. This was available to certain users in the past; now, it is available to everyone in the United States. These posts will appear in-feed and link to products on the shopping page. Consumers don’t have to leave the platform for their Instagram Shopping experience and can see a tagged photo of a product, click on it, and arrive right on a shoppable page.
It is now easier than ever for people to purchase from ecommerce businesses while on Instagram. Mark Zuckerberg and the larger Meta team have identified social commerce as the primary driver of their business’s future, and these features show Instagram will be a force to be reckoned with.
The Influencer Marketing Benefits
The way people shop is changing, with social commerce and ecommerce stores the new normal. Physical stores are on the decline, and finding ways to augment your social commerce is important, and that’s why influencer marketing has taken off. People worldwide are swayed by the recommendations and insights of the social media personalities they follow, and lucky for businesses, those recommendations are for sale.
The more convenient Instagram shopping experience for consumers will only make influencer marketing more viable. Now that influencers can directly tag products in their posts and lead consumers to a page where they can purchase the products, it is a more rapid customer experience.
Linking to websites for influencers is how things were previously done, which is still effective and viable. However, making it an even simpler customer journey will only benefit brands. Influencers can still link discount codes for customers to use, so the campaigns will remain trackable, but the overall experience will be much more seamless.
The focus of Instagram on e-commerce makes it all the more viable for influencer marketing. A simplified customer experience and better tools for influencers make Instagram a likely leader in the future of social commerce.
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