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BizReport : Social Marketing : October 03, 2018

Experts weigh in on Instagram shopping engine

With the release of Instagram Explore, which includes expanded shopping abilities within the social network, many brands are wondering exactly how to capitalize on these new abilities. We asked several digital experts how they believe this Instagram move could change ecommerce.

by Kristina Knight

First, these experts believe merchants need to look at the Explore option as an extension of what Instagram was already doing: allowing brands to tag stories as well as individual images. The big change is in the shortened path to purchase, which could become a game-changer for small and medium sized merchants.

"With the ability to shorten the path to purchase and directly attribute revenue, we see spends on Instagram ads growing as more merchant partners gain accessibility. This will also put a damper on inventory and cause, the already high prices, to skyrocket even more. So, for companies still looking at just awareness generation, without direct ecommerce ties, influencer marketing will become even more important," said Leah Logan, VP Media Products and Community Growth, Collective Bias, an Inmar Company. "If the capability actually adds shopability to individual posts, similar to how you can tag a brand or place with your post, we believe this will become a new way to measure influencer performance and reflect in payments as affiliate members vs just brand awareness generation."

Also, because hubs like Facebook and Google are already at the saturation point, this new offering from Instagram could somewhat level the playing field for merchants in the digital space.

"These shopping updates from Instagram demonstrate Facebook's intent to take a piece of that e-commerce pie. As the triopoly rises to the top and competes with each other for ad dollars, the worlds of search, social and e-commerce will continue to blend together. Amazon is essentially a massive search engine now, Google has seen great success with Shopping Ads and now Facebook, through Instagram, is heading in the direction of becoming a major player in e-commerce. Marketers will need to work hard to connect the dots across all these different channels and seek out an independent view of the entire customer journey, especially as lines are blurring," said Wes MacLaggan, SVP of Marketing, Marin Software.

"The recent updates from Instagram represent yet another customer touchpoint that retailers need to consider for their omnichannel strategy. As the number of possible customer touchpoints continues to increase - not just on Instagram, but anywhere online, on Amazon, in-store, through connected devices  and beyond - the data that fuels customer experiences only becomes more siloed," said John Nash, Chief Marketing and Strategy Officer, RedPoint Global. "This leads to fragmented experiences full of friction, rather than the highly personalized, real-time interactions that consumers crave across all points of their customer journey. Instagram getting into the e-commerce game only validates the argument that marketers need a single point of control to connect all customer data, determine next best actions in real time, and orchestrate interactions across all touch-points."

"Instagram making moves into e-commerce will be a game-changer for retailers, especially smaller or direct-to-consumer brands that are usually fighting for attention on some of the more mainstream and saturated channels like Google and Facebook. Instagram is tailor-made for shopping, with hundreds of millions of daily active users heading to the app for inspiration from peers, influencers and brands, often ready to make a purchase when something catches their eye. The new Explore tab with personalized shopping suggestions and the shoppable posts on Stories will undoubtedly lead to an uptick in e-commerce sales coming from the app. The updates may even present some great co-marketing opportunities for likeminded brands willing to partner up for promotions," said Ryan Millman, co-founder and CEO, UnDigital.

But, while the Instagram updates and expansions may change ecommerce, and could potentially make it simpler for consumers to buy products through social selling, there are still areas in which merchants need to improve their consumer connection - chief among those areas: customer experience.

"[This] is a huge win for ecommerce companies. But it still has downsides. Companies need to connect with customers on a one-to-one level. This update lets them do that--but it isn't a silver bullet. It's a call for brands to step up their game across the board. Instagram is just another way to reach customers--it's part of a larger experience--and a larger set of expectations customers have for their experiences. If ecommerce companies really want to make the most of this improvement, then need to be working on upping their personalization game everywhere--not just Instagram. Better experiences on Instagram demand better experiences everywhere," said Ross Paquette, Chairman and CEO, Maropost. "Brands need to think about the experience as a whole, and take news like this as an opportunity to improve every part of how they handle personalization and the customer data behind it."

Tags: Collective Bias, ecommerce, Instagram ecommerce, Instagram Explore, Marin Software, Maropost, RedPoint Global, social commerce, social marketing, social shopping trends, Undigital

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