It’s no surprise to learn that Instagram has changed how many of us shop. Social commerce in general is on the rise, with more and more brands setting up digital storefronts across social media platforms. Yet Instagram has its own unique influence on shopping behavior. The platform has been a hub for product discovery since its launch, and over the last few years, Instagram has become a formidable daily shopping destination. Eighty percent of accounts follow at least one business on Instagram, and more than 200 million accounts visit one or more business profile daily. What’s more, 72% of its users make purchase decisions based on Instagram content, and on average, Instagram yields higher value purchases than other social media platforms.But beyond simply helping users discover and research what to buy, Instagram has had a surprising effect on retail in general—both online and in real life. Here are five ways Instagram continues to change the retail landscape.
As of September 2018, brands can use the “product” sticker in Instagram Stories to tag specific products, just like with regular Instagram shopping posts. Stories has 400 million daily active users, and this latest addition to Instagram’s shopping features gives retailers yet another robust tool for capitalizing on engagement. But all of this could just be a warm up for Instagram, which announced earlier this fall that they’re making a bold new move into ecommerce with an app dedicated exclusively to shopping. While details on the app are still scant, we might see the direct link between Instagram and retail become even tighter in the coming years.
It’s easier than ever for small brands to find big fanbases. Many online-only brands have developed cult followings completely through social media, generating customer demand for physical storefronts. Re:Store, a co-working and co-selling company, is rushing to meet that demand. The startup raised a $1.7 million pre-seed round in September 2018 to open a shared retail space in San Francisco that will bring small indie brands to their Instagram followers. Their tagline, “Your favorite brands, now in the real world,” serves as a potent rebuttal to anyone wondering if brick-and-mortar stores are obsolete and bolsters the argument that far from dying out, brick-and-mortar is in fact evolving.
Brands like Glossier, Timberland, Farfetch, Casper, and more have centered their physical storefronts and pop-up around branded, immersive experiences—with an eye to how those experiences will translate into Instagram posts. Photogenic store displays are optimized to create great Instagram content and often include hashtag suggestions and other tips for broadcasting in-store experiences to social networks. Experiential retail stores are about more than the products they sell. They allow retailers to extend a holistic brand story, and they make shoppers excited to organically share their personal interactions with that retailer.
Ecommerce returns are increasing for a number of reasons—the rise of bracketing being one of them. Another small but growing factor is Instagram: More and more image-conscious Instagrammers are buying clothes just to take photos in them and then return them. There’s pressure to regularly sport a new look for “outfit of the day” photos, and some retailers have been responding by working return policies to their advantage. According to a recent survey, nearly one in 10 UK shoppers admit to buying clothing solely to take a photo for social media and then return it. And for shoppers ages 35–44, the number increased to nearly one in five, with men being more likely to buy clothes just for the hashtag moment than women. Retailers can curb this returns trend by introducing more varied photo content on their websites to show shoppers how items can be styled multiple ways.
Instagram content influences nearly two thirds of user purchasing decisions, so it’s no surprise that the platform can have an outsize effect on holiday revenue. In a recent survey, 50% of shoppers ages 17–22 said they plan to complete all of their holiday shopping using only a smartphone, and 25% said they preferred to find their gifts via shoppable photos on Instagram. The cohort is also more likely to be influenced by social media in general, with 55% percent saying they pay attention to influencers with lifestyles they aspire to, compared to 41% of consumers overall. Instagram has already had immense influence on retail worldwide, and as the platform continues to introduce new tools and channels for retailers, that influence will only continue to grow. Want to learn more about upcoming retail trends? Watch our webinar, Trends Shaping the Future of Retail Customer Communications, featuring Sucharita Kodali, VP & Principal Retail Analyst at Forrester and Andria Tay, Director of Marketing at Narvar.
Tamara is Narvar's Senior Content Marketing Manager, bringing more than 15 years of content creation experience for big brands, including Bright Horizons, Salesforce, and Slack.