If your company has been slow to adapt to Instagram's Shopping feature, it's time to act, fast, before every business starts using the latest version.

Instagram now lets brands link to products that appear in Instagram Stories--videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours--allowing users to purchase specific items directly from the app. The click-and-shop feature allows the 300 million daily active users of Instagram Stories to instantly buy individual products, rather than having to search for items they see on the platform. The move could also help connect brands with younger audiences, who spend more time on Instagram than almost any other social media app.

Instagram is the second most popular social media platform among U.S. teens between the ages of 13 and 17, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center. About 72 percent of respondents said they used the app--behind only YouTube at 85 percent and more than the 69 percent who use Snapchat. Instagram users aren't just scrolling through pretty pictures, either. About 80 percent of users choose to connect with companies so they can shop and become familiar with the brand, Instagram chief operating officer Marne Levine said at Inc.'s GrowCo conference in May.

"People are looking to follow businesses on the platform--there are 200 million Instagrammers who visit a business profile every day," Levine said. "Two-thirds of those are nonfollowers, someone who is looking around wanting to learn about new businesses. If businesses are looking for customers, they are here." 

Instagram had been strengthening its position in the e-commerce market by allowing brands to put links in their stories, but those items couldn't be tagged and purchased directly. Companies from Adidas to Louis Vuitton and Aritzia have already been marketing their products through Instagram, but will now have an even more direct route to consumers.

"Instagram shopping has been an added bonus to our online shopping strategy with no added tech expense," said Alex Faherty, co-founder of New York City-based clothing line Faherty Brand. "We can leverage Instagram's organic lifestyle vibe while still offering an easy, highly efficient shopping experience."

The new feature is free to use, but the buy links are available only to businesses, not individual sellers, and companies can't sell through a third-party retailer currently.

Published on: Jun 13, 2018