Instagram and Facebook rolled out separate tools this morning, each designed to enhance the social shopping experience, using tactics focused on increasing customer engagement and creating additional opportunities for feedback.
Instagram is adding shoppable content to Stories, after first debuting the feature in regular posts in the U.S. in 2016 and expanding it globally this past March. These ephemeral posts, which disappear after 24 hours, can now include a shopping bag icon that users can tap in order to learn more information about products or be redirected to the an e-commerce site to make a purchase. In its initial stage, only select partner brands, including Adidas, Aritzia, Louis Vuitton and The Kooples, will be able to share Shoppable stories.
In a similar bid to improve e-commerce, parent company Facebook added a function today to gain more intel on the shopping experience from users who purchased products advertised to them on the Facebook site. When a user clicks “Recent Ad Activity” on desktop and mobile, they will continue to see a list of advertisements they previously clicked, a feature that has previously existed on the site. However, now they can share feedback based on purchases they made through these advertisements.
In recent years, social media platforms have made strategic partnerships with brands to collectively cash in on large captive audiences. Following the rise of influencer marketing — which helped retailers tap into the power of social media by using notable personalities to advertise products — platforms began seeking new methods to directly drive conversions. However, while these shoppable tools are intended to increase purchases, they continue to mostly be used for discovery: On Instagram, just 19 percent of users that tapped on a shoppable post actually continued on to the brand website.
Instagram may have more success on Stories, which grows increasingly popular among the platform’s 300 million users — so too does its ability to reach the coveted Gen Z and millennial demographic. Prior to adopting shopping tools, Stories became a helpful resource for retailers to glean quick insights and real-time feedback from audiences, with the help of recent features like polling. According to Instagram, the inspiration to bring shopping to Stories came from a user survey that found that 33 percent of respondents have become more interested in a brand or product after seeing it first on Stories. Much like the main Instagram feed initially served as a vital tool for brand awareness, Stories has become integral to product discovery.
An example of a shoppable Instagram Story (Courtesy of Instagram)
“Retailers have always used Instagram Stories in creative ways, whether they’re building up anticipation for a new product, giving their customers a glimpse into the inspiration behind a new line, or showing how a new item fits different body types,” Susan Rose, Instagram’s director of product marketing wrote in an email. “Bringing shopping into Instagram Stories gives brands a natural extension to their storytelling to easily allow people to learn more about products they discover.”
For Facebook, the update will do more to help brands field direct customer feedback on the platform. Gretchen Sloan, head of communications at Facebook, said the feature is intended to make a larger statement about the platform’s recent efforts to improve third-party marketing and to more closely monitor false advertising. While the addition of the function was separate from recent GDPR policies that are cracking down on the the way brands and media organization mine for data, she said it signifies a push for better feedback loops and transparency.
“What we’ve heard from some people is they make a purchase and then the experience wasn’t great,” said Sloan. “Either the product wasn’t what was expected, the picture wasn’t reflective of the product, shipping times took a long time or maybe customer service wasn’t great. We’re giving people a way to give feedback on those advertisers.”
An example of the new Facebook feedback tool in use on mobile (Photo courtesy of Facebook)
Brands that receive consistent negative reviews — for example, a women’s apparel brand that promotes a style of dress that is actually sold out when a user goes to make a purchase — may be removed altogether from the site. Further, Facebook intends to compile the data and share it with brands to help improve the conversion process and the platform. It will also share tips for consumers on how to navigate possible fraudulent posts, such as those using low-definition photos and or those not listing shipping times.
“We have commerce policies that people have to abide by, and if they don’t, they get kicked off the platform,” Sloan said. “But this is more of a feedback loop for people to ensure the ads they’re showing are reflective of the experience, while giving people another avenue to share that feedback.”
While Sloan said the goal is to make advertisements seem less disruptive as part of the user experience, Mike Froggatt, research director of intelligence at Gartner L2, said it will continue to be challenging to do so in the nascent stages of social shopping.
“Social media platforms like Facebook are still considered a communication platform for and among users, and any ad that appears on a news feed, especially for a brand that a user doesn’t follow, can be considered interruptive,” he said. “If brands decide to go that route, ensuring a smooth purchase and delivery process that meets expectations can be the difference between a happily surprised customer and a negative review.”