• Anne Heaney, Director

Instagram is expanding its shopping service to the UK

Instagram's shopping service is expanding into the UK, letting retailers tag their products in images to sell directly to people on the social network.

The launch in the UK follows a small-scale beta trial with Marks & Spencer, Heidi Klein and Mahabis. Amy Cole, head of product development at Instagram, says the shopping tool aims to bring the “mindset of discovery” to businesses looking to sell their products online.

Successfully introduced in the US in October 2017, the new ‘Shop’ interface simplifies onsite buying, enabling retailers to link to the product on their own sites, and to list information such as cost. Previously sellers had to make do with a clunky “link in bio”, with Instagram refusing to allow links in captions.

Now sellers can tag up to five products per single image post or 20 products per multi-image post. At present, Insta-shopping is only for physical items such as clothes and beauty items. After an account has posted nine times, the option to Shop becomes available, letting users scroll through all tagged for-sale items. Instagram will not be charging businesses or consumers for the service, and at present it only applies to organic rather than sponsored content.

"Insta-shopping" softly introduces a whole new audience to a retailer's e-commerce site and expands their potential customer base.

The real draw for Facebook-owned Instagram, however, is in acquiring data about people’s purchasing habits to better target advertising. "Apart from generating revenues from advertising, the one thing they are really building up is data. They understand people’s habits, what people do, what people think, they can build up more and more accurate profiles about individuals,” says Feng Li, chair of information management at Cass Business School.

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