How Instagram Is Easing the Consumer Path from Engagement to Purchase

September 9, 2020

You’ve undoubtedly experienced it yourself: Consumers are spending ever-increasing time on social media, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. While social media usage was expected to rise in 2020, daily time spent has seen an even larger rise from forecasts than expected: U.S. adults will spend on average seven more minutes per day on social media compared to 2019.

With so much time being spent on social media platforms, it’s no surprise that tech companies are rolling out innovations to help brands take advantage of this spike in attention, transforming users’ feeds into shoppable experiences to drive engagement, site traffic and sales.

Instagram in particular has made some key updates to its Shopping feature, which gives businesses an immersive storefront for people to explore their products, as well as supporting featured products through organic posts and Stories or through the Search & Explore function. Here are a few of the changes that can help brands better leverage the exploding social landscape.

Introducing Checkout

Launched to select brands in a 2019 closed beta, Instagram Checkout has just been made available to all eligible businesses and creators in the U.S. to sell their products directly on Instagram without ever leaving the site. Checkout closes the loop on the Shopping experience, allowing consumers to select their shipping and payment options and complete their purchase directly within the post where they discovered the product in the first place. Once the first order is complete, consumers’ personal information is saved to make for an increasingly seamless experience moving forward.

This new feature opens up creative possibilities for brands to integrate engagement with sales. One way to show its potential is through the way it allows brands to set up a product launch on Instagram, allowing people to preview details and set reminders to buy as soon as the product is available. For an Instagram exclusive launch (which we recommend for maximum impact), Checkout can provide a differentiated shopping experience and reward followers who stay up to date on a brand’s latest content by giving them early access to key product details, as well as push reminders 24 hours and 15 minutes ahead of launch.

Other Shopping Features

Checkout isn’t the only valuable development Instagram recently announced. Other new enhancements include:

  • Creator Integration: New features that allow consumers to shop inspiring looks and products directly from the creators they love. So long as Checkout is enabled and being used by a business, creators who feature their products will provide consumers with the same seamless shopping experience they can get through brand pages. Additionally, if a creator goes live, they can also announce and sell products through live-streamed shopping.
  • Amplifying to More Users: A new feature that allows advertisers to use Shopping posts as ads for campaigns created in Ads Manager. Shoppers that tap on these posts will be taken to a product description page within Instagram and can proceed to purchase from a brand’s mobile site or purchase directly within Instagram, if Checkout is enabled. When you run a Shopping post as an ad, the ad will show the products that were originally tagged in the organic media. With these ads, businesses can reach their target audience and scale, showcase products through the shopping format and move people through the path to purchase with an experience that is familiar to many Instagrammers .
  • Retail Options: The ability to utilize Instagram Shopping with products sold at retailers, simply by redirecting product catalog inventory links to the retailer’s product description page.

Why Does This Matter?

In the digital world, every second counts. Brands that can provide extra convenience by letting consumers make purchases without interrupting their scrolling will have an advantage over those that require additional steps. That’s why these new features — particularly Checkout — are such game-changers.

While these Instagram features may be new to many U.S. consumers, Ketchum’s teams in China have been working for years to directly influence business results by driving traffic and transactions within China-based social platforms such as WeChat, which has just upgraded its own commerce offerings. The trend continues to rise during COVID-19: Social commerce is expected to account for 11.6% of total retail ecommerce sales in China this year, up to $242 billion from $186 billion in 2019, with that sum expected to nearly double by 2023. Comparable numbers in the U.S. would signal a significant shift in the way consumers interact with brands on our preferred platforms.

If you’d like to discuss how the details of these innovations, and how we can help you get started using them, just reach out.

Amit is senior vice president, Digital Strategy, for Ketchum in the Chicago office. He works closely with teams on all aspects digital and social strategy. He’s an aspiring amateur softball player and dreams of making it on the Champions Golf Tour. You can connect with him on Twitter @aw