This is a post by Inez Zimakowski

There’s been a fair bit of buzz recently around Facebook’s move into e-commerce, with The Verge breaking the news that Instagram is looking to launch a standalone shopping app, to be aptly titled ‘IG Shopping’.

Before we all get excited about a new e-comm platform, I’ll caveat that this rumour is unconfirmed, there’s no launch date mentioned, and a chance the project will be scrapped. That said, I love the old rumour mill, so let’s explore what this app could potentially look like.

Why build a separate app in the first place?

Instagram has a huge number of businesses already on the platform, with 25 million globally, and two million of these being advertisers. More importantly, Instagram’s one billion worldwide users seem to have no issue with brands being on the platform, considering four in five users follow at least one brand.

The platform has also long been an effective sales tactic, and is now used as a launch platform for online fashion retailers and indie makeup brands, that have seen products, along with posts, go viral for all the right reasons. You just have to look at @storybookcosmetics for a case study in social media marketing. Here’s one that Refinery29 prepared earlier.

Given all this, one has to question why Instagram would make the move to separate shopping functionality entirely, rather than improving its existing functionality. I imagine the thinking is similar to Facebook’s thinking when it comes to product development, they are after all, the same company. When Facebook launches a new business feature, paid or otherwise, it knows that brands will use it – and therefore revenue will follow – because odds are it’s something its heavyweight advertisers have been requesting for months, if not years. I can’t think of the last time that I read about a new Facebook or Instagram rollout without rolling my eyes and thinking ‘fiiiiiiiinally’. So I’d imagine that Instagram have simply looked at the revenue opportunity and followed the dollars.

What about a Facebook shopping app?

The choice to focus on Instagram may come from the platform’s audience. While Facebook’s global user base is 53% female, Instagram boasts an audience that is 68% female. Why does that matter? Like with (almost) everything else, there is a clear gender gap in ecommerce. Research conducted by Critical Mass suggests that buying behaviour differences between men and women go beyond categories, with men being more needs-focused and less interested in the discovery phase, while women are more socially-influenced and more likely to engage with editorial content. Given that men are less likely to be influenced by social content and lifestyle imagery showcasing product, it makes sense to focus on the female audience and build on the success of the Instagram aesthetic.

Is there room in the market?

Shopping apps are becoming increasingly popular thanks to the absolute domination of our lives by mobile devices. Aside from the fact that Instagram will be competing with retail monolith Amazon, they’ll also be going up against Shopify, Asos, Wish, Zara, The Iconic, Shopbop, SHEIN – just to name a few. The retail app market is still quite new, with most brands and department stores lagging in development, particularly in Australia. Online-only retailers have been quicker off the mark, though in many cases the apps are a slower, more-likely-to-crash-in-the-middle-of-checkout experience compared to their desktop and mobile sites.

If the team gets the features right, IG Shopping could represent a new revenue stream and sales channel for all the retailers listed above. And at the end of the day, that’s what it’s all about – sales. Assuming the release is global, it could certainly become a big player in the market, particularly if they’re able to integrate multi-retailer purchases.

Features we’d like to see included

One-Click Payments

Mobile shopping can be a nightmare, aside from the slow load times for product pages and sometimes limited functionality, completing a 4-step checkout process where you’re often forced to create an account is a pain in the ass. A report from Digiday confirms what we’ve always suspected, one-click checkout helps alleviate cart abandonment, historically a huge problem for online retailers.  

Stored payment/shipping details across multiple brands

I envisage IG Shopping being a somewhat high-end Amazon, where you can pop in your payment info and use it across multiple retailers. And in that same vein…

Multi-store single purchases

One of the things I love about Wish is that I can buy 20 different products across basically any category, from 20 different sellers, and checkout once. It’s so convenient. I can also add things to my cart throughout the week or month and just do a single checkout.

Product selection personalisation and curation

Another one that Amazon does really well (at least for me), is the product recommendations. Facebook and Instagram’s advertising… not so much. Still don’t have a baby guys, please stop serving me ads for daycare, toys, clothing and parenting tips. Here’s hoping the shopping app does better and uses your purchase history to serve complementary products.

‘As seen on…’ but for regular people

When online shopping, I kind of love seeing the influencer photos of outfits, partly for the styling inspiration and partly for the ‘what it looks like on a real person’ factor – but let’s be honest most influencers don’t look like regular people. I would love to see Insta posts from regular humans included as reviews or as product photos.

Which brands would sign on for launch?

Like with most product trials and launches, it’s likely we’ll see the big brands and department stores go first. Here in Australia, I suspect David Jones, Witchery, Country Road, Lorna Jane, Sephora (or Mecca), and Showpo will lead the launch, with many of these brands already active in Instagram advertising and often serving as the guinea pigs for new ad products.

What would you love to see from IG Shopping? Let us know in the comments below!