Editor’s Note: This story was originally published on September 17, 2018.
Instagram has long been a place where people seek fashion inspiration. But it hasn’t always been easy to buy the looks you see.
On Monday, the company announced new e-commerce tools, including the ability to shop items via Stories and the Explore page.
Instagram has been testing the shopping tool in Stories since June, but it’ll roll out globally starting Monday. Brands can add one product tag sticker per Story, and users can tap it to see more information, such as price. On the Explore page – a hub for content recommended for you – a new shopping channel will display tagged shopping posts from brands you follow or may be interested in.
“If you want to shop on Instagram, it’s a lot of work,” said Vishal Shah, product management director at Instagram. “You have to scroll through Feeds, hop from profile to profile.”
But the new channel aims to make it easier for users to shop when they’re in the mood, he said.
This isn’t the first time Instagram has launched shopping features. In recent years, its rolled out ecommerce tools that allow brands to tag their posts with individual products. Users can tap a photo to see details like price, and click out to the brand’s website to buy the item. Earlier this year, the company expanded these shopping tags to more countries, such as the UK and Brazil.
Now, over 90 million accounts tap to see tags in shopping posts on the platform each month, according to the company.
The photo-sharing app’s continued push into online shopping makes sense. People already use the platform to follow trends, and a greater focus on e-commerce could open up new revenue opportunities.
“Instagram is a place where you discover new things, brands, destinations for travel and furniture,” said Jonah Berger, a marketing and social influence expert at the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School. “The challenge at the moment is that discovery is happening, but Instagram isn’t necessarily getting credit.”
“They’re trying to make money off of something that’s already happening on the platform,” he added.
Instagram doesn’t charge businesses for the shopping tools it provides, but it’s exploring sponsored formats, according to an Instagram spokesperson. Instagram’s Shah told CNN advertising continues to be its core business model.
The company’s latest push also taps into social shopping, a concept where consumers are influenced to buy things based on friends, family and celebrities they follow on social media.
“The whole phenomenon is very promising,” said Anindya Ghose, a professor at NYU’s Stern School of Business who teaches a course on e-commerce and social media. “A number of companies have tried it with mixed results. The potential is much higher than what we have seen so far.”
Pinterest has these types of shopping capabilities – called “buyable pins” that include products from major brands like Nordstrom and smaller businesses – on its platform for US users. Meanwhile, Snapchat partners with some brands and celebrities, including Kylie Jenner, to allow users to buy products via the app. For example, users could swipe up on a Kylie Jenner Story and purchase one of her company’s makeup products.
Instagram is also rumored to have plans to launch a standalone e-commerce app, but the company declined to comment. Its parent company, Facebook, has seen success in spinning out some features into their own apps, such as its chat app Messenger, which now has 1.3 billion users. Instagram has also tested another independent messaging app called Direct, and earlier this year, it launched the IGTV app for longer-form video.