If you’re like me, keeping up with the latest fashion trends and must-have looks in your Instagram feed has become a part of your daily routine. The only thing missing from the experience is a seamless path to purchase the items you love most.

But not any longer. Instagram recently announced a new feature to make the shopping experience frictionless. Whether you’re admiring curated ensembles on influencer feeds like Song of Style or checking out the latest collections from Bloomingdale’s or Nordstrom, you will soon be able to purchase items in just a few clicks.


Source: Instagram

The history of Insta-retail

When you think about how consumers interact with brands, and in particular with fashion designers, there’s no denying that Instagram has inexplicably reinvented the industry. The most successful brands are those creating powerful presences where their consumers spend time online. And when it comes to Instagram, that’s more than 500 million users every month.

Scrappy retailers have been using Instagram for years to sell their products. For example, Painted Bird, a vintage clothing store with retail outlets in San Francisco and Los Angeles, posts images of new items on its Instagram feed and urges followers to call the store or include “RING ME” in a comment if they discover something they want. The process works, but it requires a lot of back and forth between the retailer and the customer (What’s the fabric? Do you have it in my size? Do we have your account on file?).

Other retail brands like Here / Now Shop, a shoe retailer based in Seoul, South Korea, have learned to adapt using third-party apps, direct messaging and the ubiquitous “purchase link in bio” as part of their strategy.

It’s clear that consumers are using mobile devices to browse products and compare prices, but researching and purchasing require extra steps. Instagram was ripe for an innovation that would make it easier for retailers to turn their Instagram feeds into functional retail spaces.

Instagram’s new shoppable tags

Instagram’s announcement is great news for retailers as the new feature creates a seamless path to purchase for customers, where and when they are online.

The new functionality allows brands to tag products in their photos, the same way users can tag their friends. The tags present product details and a “Shop Now” link that users can tap to go directly to the brand’s website to make a purchase.

To roll out the new feature, Instagram launched a beta program with a select group of iOS users and 20 U.S.-based retail brands including Kate Spade, JackThreads and Warby Parker. These brands will share posts with in-depth information, making it easier for Instagrammers to review, learn about and consider items of interest. Future rollouts may include expanding to shoppable tags that link to video and product carousels.


Source: Instagram

Next generation functionality for next generation shoppers

Retailers can’t afford to ignore the impact of Instagram, not only on fashion but on the retail industry as a whole. The most obvious impact is the role bloggers are playing in engaging consumers on the platform and driving retail traffic both online and offline.

Retailers have invested in learning about and marketing to millennials, and many are taking steps to revamp branding and marketing efforts to reach this fickle audience. But it’s the next wave of consumers who will define the future of the retail industry.

Generation Z or Founders (as they prefer to be called) are now entering college and the workforce. They are discerning social media multitaskers who favor personal, immediate, visual mediums like Instagram, Snapchat and WeChat. This generation thrives on interactive participation from smartphones to touch screens to artificial intelligence (AI). Instagram’s shoppable tags will enable retailers to cater to this cohort in a way that naturally aligns with the social nature of their preferred shopping journey.

Between apps, bots and other services, it’s clear that emerging technologies and concepts are making online shopping even more engaging. Retailers simply must find a way to make the most of these changes… while also anticipating what comes next.

Because who knows—maybe one day you will be able to take a photo on your phone of someone’s outfit and quickly hit “purchase” to snap up the ensemble for yourself. That would certainly elevate the Pokémon phenomenon!

Anjee continues to be an insatiable collector of all things retail. She’s a student of culture living next door to future shoppers, whose fleeting trends constantly change the retail landscape … driving retailers, landlords and developers crazy!