You Can Now Shop Directly From Your Instagram Feed

Instagram Shop Feature - Publicity - H 2016
Courtesy of Instagram

"Link in bio" captions be gone. The new feature could transform the fashion industry.

Since Instagram's inception in 2013, stylishly-curated posts have inspired a unique frenzy to buy things — from the perfect shade of brown lipstick for the fall to the uber-flattering off-the-shoulder top worn by your favorite social media influencer that promises to be the solution to all your wardrobe woes.

And the fashion industry has taken to Instagram like no other. You only have to look at the trajectory of Eva Chen as an example: She went from Lucky magazine editor to Instagram head of fashion partnerships and 'grams her handbag and shoes nearly every morning to her 600,000-plus followers. Imagine if they could also buy them with a click?

Instagram is finally making a move to capitalize on its fashionable position by testing out a new shopping feature, rolling out next week, which narrows the gap between seeing a product and buying it. 

The Facebook-owned social platform has partnered with 20 brands, including Kate Spade, J. Crew, JackThreads and Warby Parker to test the new component which allows users to tap to view a specific product within the brand's post, in the same way that one can "tap for credits."

Users can then click on the product they wish to see, which opens a detailed view of the specific item — all within the app itself — which includes information like price and product description. If users wish to purchase the product, they can simply click the "Shop Now" button, which redirects to the brand's website. Up to five products within the brand's post will be shoppable.

Warby Parker from Instagram for Business on Vimeo.

Brands have made several prior attempts to make the shopping process easier for customers on Instagram — first listing full HTML links (which had to be copied and pasted into a browser), then product name codes, then "link in bio" captions. There also have been third-party options such as Like to Know It, a service which emailed users product information with a double tap.

But this new shopping feature is different in that it allows users to explore the products without leaving the app — or worse, losing their place in their scroll. 

Though it's only available for a few brand partners to start, the feature eliminates the hassle of opening a separate browser app, which often takes a great deal of time to load, simply to view the product.

And while it's only active for brands so far, it's conceivable the power could be put in the hands of Instagram influencers, too, who are already being paid to wear and share.

"This test is going to change the scope of what we, as retailers, are capable of offering on mobile," says Ryan McIntyre, CMO of JackThreads. "Instead of having to transition over to the JackThreads app, our customers will be able to shop seamlessly from their social media feeds — allowing us to reach guys where they’re already hunting for what’s new.”

Adds Dave Gilboa, co-CEO of Warby Parker, "Customers often have to ask us [for details of products in posts], which creates a bulky experience on both sides. We love how seamlessly integrated and consumer-centric this new experience is.” 

The experience is similar to Instagram's sponsored posts, in which brands pay to market their goods on a special horizontal carousel platform which allows more than one image to be shown at a time. However, with the new feature, brands won't need to pay to showcase their goods; it simply allows a more comprehensive experience for the posts the brand already uploads on their feed. 

The update is especially significant for the fashion industry, which already relies so heavily on social media (and Instagram specifically) as a marketing tool. Considering 84 percent of smartphone users use phones to discover or shop for new products (according to Instagram), the added shoppability will surely have implications for the next fashion season, now that so many labels (Tommy Hilfiger, Tom Ford) are testing out the "see-now, buy-now" model. 

With the rise of Snapchat as Gen Z's social app du jour, we wonder if this is Instagram's play to distinguish itself as something more than just a sharing social media platform. It's a long time coming, after all.