Instagram Has New Shopping Features Just in Time for the Holidays — Here’s What That Means for Retail

Retailers want to meet shoppers where they are during the holiday season — and increasingly, that means on Instagram.

The Facebook-owned social media app recently announced a host of new features designed to make it easier for its billion users to shop the brands they follow, the latest evidence of its push into commerce.

One new tool targets the all-important holiday wish list, allowing users to save shoppable products together in a collection in their Saved tab, a bookmarking feature the company introduced last year. With Shopping collections, Instagram hopes, users will be able to curate products they want as well as gifts they plan to give others, and won’t lose track of items they spot while browsing the app.

A second feature gives brands the option of making video posts shoppable so users who follow them can tap the shopping icon in the bottom left corner of the post when it comes up in their feed and see what products in it are available to buy. Instagram already rolled out shopping via Stories in the fall and launched a standalone long-form video app, IGTV, earlier this year, so it’s no surprise that the company wants to keep ramping up its video offerings.

Finally, users can now go to business profiles and tap the Shop tab below their story highlights to see all product posts in one place, rather than scrolling down their feeds to find posts with shopping tags.

According to Instagram’s own data, 90 million accounts per month were using the app’s basic shopping features — tapping posts to reveal product information — as of April 2018, a number that’s likely to get bigger as more users get in the habit of doing so. To be sure, it hasn’t worked out all of the kinks: Users are still redirected to brands’ sites to complete their purchases, and Instagram doesn’t give them the option of navigating away from its in-app browser (say, to Chrome or Safari) to do so. One complaint some users have expressed is that if they leave the app, even for a short period of time, they tend to lose their page (and, with it, their cart) when their feed refreshes.

Still, while the company has yet to reveal any numbers around how many purchases it has driven, an increasing number of brands are at least experimenting with the features, and the holiday season should be a fertile testing ground as they use the app to advertise Black Friday sales and holiday promotions to consumers who are primed to shop.

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