Instagram is no longer just a place for celebrity selfies and FOMO-inducing travel snaps, and even companies like The Financial Times are finding success on the platform, which now counts 500m monthly active users.

Now, the Facebook-owned service is looking to support brands that want to use Instagram to sell their wares.

Last week, Instagram announced new functionality that aims to give brands the ability to more effectively promote their products in their Instagram posts.

Here's what marketers need to know about the new functionality.

How it works

Instagram's shopping functionality aims to aid product discovery and allow brands to help their Instagram followers "better understand the products they’re interested in."

Brands can tag products in their Instagram posts, and when these tags are present, users will see a tap to view icon in the bottom left corner of the post. When a user clicks on this icon, the tagged products will be highlighted, along with their price.

Clicking on a product will enable the user to view more detailed information, and those interested in making a purchase can click on a Shop Now link that takes the user to the brand's website.

Brands can tag up to five products in a single post.

Why Instagram is getting into the shopping game

Instagram is launching shopping functionality because it recognizes that "mobile has changed the way people shop" and sees the potential for its platform to play a bigger role in the mobile shopping ecosystem.

"You browse products while waiting to be seated for dinner, make purchases on your commute into work, and compare prices online when you’re at a store to see what’s the better deal.

"In fact, more than 84% of smartphone users in the US browse, research or compare products via a web browser or mobile app," the company explained.

"While browsing and discovery is easy on mobile, finding more information about the specific products you see isn’t always as simple."

By allowing brands to embed detailed product information in their Instagram posts, Instagram is clearly hoping to change that.

Availability

Instagram's new shopping functionality is being tested by 20 US retail brands, including Kate Spade, Warby Parker and JackThreads, and these brands have high hopes for what it can help them accomplish.

For example, JackThreads CMO Ryan McIntyre stated, "This test is going to change the scope of what we, as retailers, are capable of offering on mobile.

"Instead of having to transition over to the JackThreads app, our customers will be able to shop seamlessly from their social media feeds—allowing us to reach guys where they’re already hunting for what’s new."

If Instagram's test with brands like JackThreads proves successful, expect to see Instagram offer the functionality more broadly, possibly as a part of a new ad product.

Patricio Robles

Published 7 November, 2016 by Patricio Robles

Patricio Robles is a tech reporter at Econsultancy. Follow him on Twitter.

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