SUPER INFLUENCERS JOIN INSTAGRAM CHECKOUT
Even before the wave of headlines around Instagram’s brand spanking new Checkout feature had subsided, at F8 (Facebook’s developer conference), CEO Mark Zuckerberg announced further changes. Following on from the launch of Checkout on Instagram, where 23 approved brands are able to sell their products, the natural extension is for Influencers to be able to tag products in their own posts, and directly point followers towards the closest POS – without ever leaving the app.
Users are now able to shop the posts of around 50 ‘creators’ (mostly big-name Influencers, like Chiara Ferragni and Gigi Hadid, and publishers, among them GQ and Vogue). Closing the gap between brands, products and consumers, Instagram claims this move will minimise the need for Influencers to repeatedly link or respond to DMs and comments about what they’re wearing and using – and really it makes total sense. Why only target brands to incentivise them to advertise products on Instagram when the platform could reap the rewards of the captive attention of 1 billion users (and their wallets)?
While shopping tags on Instagram have existed since 2016, this move to directly integrating social sharing and e-Comm gives us an insight into the company’s plan for the not-too-distant future. To gain access to Instagram Shopping today (where you can share product names and prices, as well as link to your purchase site) all you need as a brand is a business account – a function that 130 million people engage with every month. So it’s no stretch of the imagination to think that in three years time we might be able to shop any brand on Instagram, from Acne to Zara.
Facebook’s pivot towards a privacy-focused social platform, which Mark Zuckerberg also announced in the keynote speech at F8, could be interpreted as a way to reassure users that they are formulating a safe, secure platform for users to shop, in reaction to the data privacy failures that plagued the company in 2018.
The full list of creators joining Checkout is as follows:
Aimee Song, Alissa Ashley, Alondra Ortiz, Alyssa Coscarelli, Annabelle Fleur, Ashley Strong, Blair Eadie, Brittany Xavier, Camila Coelho, Candace Parker, Chriselle Lim, Cole Carrigan, Chiara Ferragni, Dave Gilboa, Devin Brugman, Diana Saldana, Dylana Lim Suarez, Elle USA, Ellen V Lora, Gigi Hadid, GQ, Hannah Bronfman, Huda Kattan, HypeBeast, Isabel Bedoya, Jaleesa Moses, Jen Atkin, Jenny Cipoletti, Juju Smith-Schuster, Karen Gonzalez, Kathleen Fuentes, Katie Sturino, Kevin Ninh, Kimberly Drew, Kim Kardashian West, Kris Jenner, Kylie Jenner, Laura Kim, Madelynn Furlong, Mary Lawless Lee, Mona Kattan, Natalie Lim Suarez, Negin Mirsalehi, Neil Blumenthal, Nikita Dragun, Nicole Warne, Parker Kit Hill, Refinery29, Romero Jennings, Ronnie Fieg, Rosy McMichael, Stephanie Ann Shepherd, Tyler Haney, Vogue and Yovanna Ventura.
And that’s it – for now! Instagram has said that this group will be increased soon, but no concrete dates or expansion plans have been outlined, although we do know that the roster will be expanded to include more public figures, athletes and artists.
Though it’s easy to see why the names above were selected for the Beta rollout. They are the digital natives whose content has been optimised for Instagram almost since the beginning. Extending Checkout to Influencers is the natural progression of monetising the content already posted freely all over social media.
PARTNERS IN CRIME
While the jury is still out on how exactly followers will receive this new development, the future is looking bright according to outside commentators and Deutsche Bank’s analysts predict that Checkout will generate $10 billion in revenue in 2021.
This figure reflects how Instagram have levelled-up the effectiveness of advertising on the platform, improving the possibility of converting likes into revenue. The feature is designed not only to make the lives of creators and Instagram users easier, but it’s also revolutionary for their ad partners – meaning dollars, pounds or yen spent advertising on the platform could see greatly increased ROI.
We don’t know exactly when the next rounds of brands and creators will be added to Checkout, but doubtless they’ll be high profile accounts with high engagement to maximize the potential for e-Comm success.
So what does this mean for brands and Influencers? Not to mention users? Integration of shopping into social media is hopefully good news for brand/Influencer relationships, where creating content that taps into specialised followings will have results that brands can tangibly see and grow to understand. This shared data around transactions means brand-new metrics for measuring how successfully an Influencer campaign can work, and what ROI each account stands to produce.
Rather than just acting as the funnel for incentivised followers to buy, Instagram have now positioned themselves as the inextricable link between vendors and consumers. Product tags and in-app checkout makes the user journey shorter, but initially there won’t be an option to aggregate products from different brands into a single basket. This may change quickly, but once the initial novelty wears off, it will be interesting to see whether this is a stumbling block for followers buying though Instagram.
SHOW ME THE MONEY
For the moment, Instagram takes commission on each sale made as the facilitator, but Influencers aren’t necessarily compensated for assisting the process. It is a pretty amazing way for brands to test the waters before they do campaigns with Influencers, or work with new talent – by seeing how followers receive a product or offering, brands could effectively conduct a test case before investing in creating bespoke content. How this will function for Influencers in the future remains to be seen, as affiliate earnings (the bread-and-butter for many content creators online) aren’t currently supported.
This development will give much deeper insight into how shopping posts perform, as well as shared analytics that both brand and Influencer can access. We eagerly await more information on the reality of how likes will really convert to purchases, as well as when rollout of the function will extend beyond the US. This selection of Influencers, publishers and brands are a test case for Instagram too, and the insights into how people can be motivated to purchase through social media will be invaluable to them. That data will come to inform the ads that users are served in the app and try to optimise the paid content they’re targeted with.
A TASTE OF THINGS TO COME
Eva Chen, Instagram’s director of fashion partnerships,has described the addition of Influencers to Checkout as “just the beginning of innovation for Instagram in terms of shopping”, so it sounds like we should expect lots more changes and developments in the near future. By diversifying into e-Commerce, Instagram has taken note of the thousands of cottage businesses and industries that sprung up off the back of the platform, from slime to clothing, so no doubt this approach means they will continue to pay close attention to making the user experience a copacetic one.
While (successfully) expanding Instagram’s offering as an e-Commerce platform will continue to encourage advertisers to invest, given the outcries of scepticism and ad fatigue from followers, along with objection to the increasing commercialisation of free content and the huge fees charged by some Influencers, we predict that authenticity will continue to become all the more important to users in view of this new way of monetising their feeds. Considering that Instagram’s ad revenue is already around the $9 billion mark, building in another way for followers to spend their money could mean that consumers get turned off – and don’t engage.
BRAVE NEW WORLD
While the impact of Checkout and the Shopping From Creators feature will have massive implications across the world of social media, ultimately it’s just another way for some brands to shine, rather than the be-all and end-all across every sector.
For both marketing and e-Comm teams, we still see social media as just a branch of a brand’s overall strategy – engaging too strongly with a single sector or focusing too closely on new user acquisition runs the risk of alienating a loyal segment of consumers that it should be easy to retain. Now that the process of buying on Instagram has been streamlined means that brand websites will have to work harder to attract their customers off social media – they aren’t redundant, but like Facebook, the environment and user requirements means that they’ll have to adapt.
The brands that have successfully built followings on social media may find it easier to transition into using Checkout (when it rolls out to the wider user base), but it doesn’t mean that there won’t be space in the wider landscape for all the brands we love to follow on Instagram. If that’s the case, window shopping online is about to get a whole lot more tempting…