Over the last two years, platforms such as Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest began developing some variation of the "buy button", a tool that's designed to encourage people to make in-the-moment purchases on social media. While Twitter's ecommerce plans have since faltered, the concept is still very much alive across the social web.
Today, Instagram announced that it is testing a feature that will make it easier for brands to direct shoppers to products they see and like in an Instagram photo. These "shoppable" photos will have a shopping tag next to items to identify the product as available for purchase. Once clicked, the tag redirects to a product page for more item details as well as links to the actual store website where it can be purchased.
Initially, the shopping tag features will be available only to a group of people on iOS devices within the US.
Most of the early shop tags are from retail brands like Kate Spade, Target, Shopbop, Macy's, and Warby Parker. Instagram says it will eventually expand the feature to Android, video ads, and other countries as it figures out how the best ways to showcase and recommend products.
"As we roll out further, we'll explore product recommendations, ways products are showcased to shoppers, global expansion and the ability to save content so Instagrammers can take an action later," the company wrote in a blog post. "We want to understand how to deliver the most seamless shopping experience for consumers and businesses on Instagram, and ultimately mobile."
Looking at the bigger picture, Instagram's entrance into ecommerce was inevitable. Buy buttons (and the equally buzzword term 'contextual commerce') have been closing the gap between social media and online retail, which has led merchants, tech providers, and social media companies to experiment with how to use the technology to increase digital sales.
The technology is still relatively new and the longterm impact it could have on ecommerce is unclear. Nevertheless, it will be interesting to see how buy buttons play out across the social media landscape and change consumer shopping habits.