Instagram shopping

Instagram Shop: What it is & what’s the future?

Read time: 3.5 minutes

It was mid of pandemic in 2020 when Adam Mosseri (Head of Instagram) launched ‘Shops’ — an in-app shopping feature that enticed consumers to shop as they scrolled. 

It looked like this:

Instagram shopping has the following features:

  • Shoppable tags
  • An image of the product
  • A description of the product
  • Product Cost
  • A link that takes them directly to your website, where they can purchase the product
  • Related products

When IG shop was announced, there was a huge hubbub among e-commerce players.

Everyone wanted to try it, but very few knew how to set it up and even fewer saw sales happening.

But like anything new that’s born out of Digital (Vine, Crypto, metaverse) people were excited to get their hands on it.

I was working at Future group at that time, managing Digital spending for more than 10+ brands & suddenly every brand saw IG shop as their go-to sales channel.

And rightly so, Content-to-Commerce, all on one platform. Isn’t that what all of us want?

Webinars, Clubhouse chats, Twitter space conversations, and Podcasts were all on IG shop and its rise.

People called it the future of social commerce.

I too implemented it for 3 brands at Future Group and waited for metrics to improve.

Some of the internal metrics we were tracking after implementing IG shop were:

  • Number of Clicks on the shopping tags
  • CTR of different categories & products
  • Delta in the sale-thru rate of the products that were listed on IG shop
  • Conversions
  • Conversion rate
  • Traffic on PDPs (Product description pages)

We waited for a week for the campaign to stabilize, and a week turned into a month, a month to 2 months but none, I repeat NONE of the above metrics had considerable growth.

IG shop was not contributing more than 1% of the overall sales from the website.

Later, post talking to a few more marketers and agencies, I realized, there was a lot of faff around the topic. People are talking about it but very few merchants/brands were adopting it.

Today, while some brands have enabled IG shop on their Instagram handles, only a handful of brands use the feature in India to push products.

And there have been no used cases or organic case studies of brands seeing success.

So, what exactly went wrong with IG shop? And is there a future for it in India and the world?

IG Shopping was the darling of the 2020 era – the future of social commerce, changing the game for social platforms as we know it by implementing a tap-to-shop feature on top of images or videos.

Driving visual inspiration, top-to-bottom funnel conversion, etc etc. 

IG Shopping was the prettiest product at the party because the idea of the “Superapp” was just gaining traction, thanks to inspo from China’s WeChat.

And IG Shopping was the perfect implementation of the Superapp – taking Instagram’s core capability (photo/video sharing) and building a new potential revenue stream from it.

What could go wrong! 

Well, plenty. 

There are a host of product and market value reasons- the product broke a ton, users weren’t using, merchants weren’t adopting…

But I think there’s something more foundational here that’s worth addressing. 

There is a famous thesis on Job-to-be-done by Harvard business school that says: Customers “hire” a product to do a job; and if that job isn’t performed by the product, it simply gets “fired.”

Instagram Shopping was trying to do too much, too soon: change consumer behavior, drive merchant value, and build an entire shopping engine on top of a photo-sharing platform.

And it got fired for it.

Herein lies the issue with the theoretical Superapps – they lose track of their job-to-be-done.

By trying to do it all moderately well, they stop doing the thing that they’re super at. 

Truly, the supposed Superapps aren’t superapp’ing.

Instead of cultivating organic products like IG Shopping and focusing on iteration until product market fit, the platforms are doing what they know best: slapping ye old ads machine on not-yet-fully-baked products to get some quick revenue hits in a down market.

It’s demonstrative of a lack of patience, product investment, and followthrough. 

Is there a future for Instagram Shopping?

Well, Instagram has changed the course. Feb onwards, the ‘Shop’ tab will be removed from Instagram handles.

However businesses will still be able to set up shop but people will discover products from posts, stories, and reels. Not by going on their handle and clicking on ‘view shop’.

I do believe that Meta will re-calibrate ‘Shop’ as a feature on the meta family of apps. And will launch a renewed version of the same. But I do not see it happening anytime soon.

I will leave you today with this thought: “To do two things at once is to do neither.

And IG shop clearly tried to do too many things at the same time and paid the price for it.

That’s it for today, folks! 

By the way, Did you check out my original content on the only dumb-down version of ChatGPT, OpenAI that you need to know?

Do comment and let me know if it was useful to cut the faff around ChatGPT.


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