Web browsing in 2015 is an increasingly mobile and visual experience. Social networks such as Pinterest and Instagram, which are primarily designed to offer media-rich content, have reaped the benefits of these trends in form of significant spikes in user growth. For brands, the news is also good—their customers’ preferences for mobile and visual mean new advertising avenues; and with social media, these opportunities can also be very budget-friendly.
Both Pinterest and Instagram have been rolling out features for sponsored content over the past year, but the changes have been slow—in the case of Instagram, this was a deliberate choice to avoid disrupting a familiar browsing flow with branded content. Last week, both platforms announced their newest e-commerce features, and they’re really good. If you haven’t had a chance to check what the fuss is all about, here’s what you need to know.
Pinterest’s Buy It button
Pinterest was a bit of an underdog of social networks: it popularized the concept of social scrapbooking, which took advantage of users’ existing browsing and bookmarking habits, and swept the marketing world away with its huge e-commerce potential. In fact, a Shopify study found that an average price of purchase made through Pinterest is $50—that’s higher than any other major social platform.
Most avid Pinterest users (a stereotype that has been broken in the recent months) are usually portrayed as searching for the next dinner recipe, planning their wedding, or searching inspiration for the next craft project. But it turns out they’re doing a lot more than just organizing pretty pictures and daydreaming—they’re planning for their next shopping trip. Shopify reported as many as 93% of Pinterests users plan their purchases with the platform. And this week, Pinterest has decided to cut out the middle man and let users shop directly from their Pins.
Users will be able to filter their products by price and even color, and pay for the purchase using Apple Pay or credit card. Buyable Pins are expected to roll out to US users first; interestingly enough, the feature will be available to iOS mobile and tablet users first, and rolled out to Android and desktop afterwards. This is undoubtedly telling of Pinterests’ user behavior trends that may be relevant for your brand.
In the first few weeks, only a select few retailers—big names such as Macy’s, Nordstrom and Michaels—will offer their products for purchase through buyable Pins. However, the platform is promising to speed up the e-commerce process for other brands, especially those who use the online commerce platform. Finally, since the feature is launching on mobile first, check out how your Pins stack up against others on a smartphone screen—you may be surprised at what you see.
Instagram’s Shop Now button
From the early days of Instagram, the biggest hurdle for e-commerce on the platform was lack of functionality which would allow for clickable links in photo captions. What motivated Instagram to keep links away from captions is clear: the network’s main focus is sharing visual content, not URLs. Soon enough, users and advertisers found a way around this by placing links in bio descriptions and directing their audience there. But it still added an unnecessary step to the conversion process. Instagram’s developers found themselves between a rock and a hard place: on one side, the network’s skyrocketing user base made Instagram the natural place to go for social media marketers, and the focus on visual media made it an attractive network for advertisers. On the other hand, Instagram has striven to maintain its seamless browsing experience.
The new call-to-action buttons, shown for the first time on Instagram’s official blog, are a win-win for the network and its advertisers. The actionable buttons fit right in to the familiar interface. The mock-up design revealed a variety of choices for calls to action, from ‘Shop Now’ to buttons directing users to install an app, sign up for a service, or simply ‘Learn more’.
In addition to the new ad format, Instagram is promising brands enhanced targeting based on the users’ demographics and interests. It’s not difficult to imagine how this feature will play out, knowing the robust analytics available for Facebook advertisers. However, Instagram’s official statement hints on features that will be uniquely tailored to Instagram’s functionalities: “Advertisers also want to target their messages in more effective ways and reach people not just because of their age, location and gender, but because of the people, places and things they love.” If you’re wondering where Instagram would learn about the users’ interests, Instagram’s global head of business and brand development James Quarles told Adweek that the network will also be relying on its parent company, Facebook, for that information.
Another challenge standing in the way of most brands was the exclusive nature of the opportunity to advertise with Instagram. When the Sponsored posts were first rolled out to US users, the network only allowed a select few certain brands to take advantage of Instagram ads. Now, with the new ad format and API changes, Instagram is promising businesses of all sizes an opportunity to promote their posts—also using Facebook’s existing ad buying infrastructure to accommodate the demand. And with the reported results from Instagram ads, the feature is sure to be popular among brands: according to a Nielsen Brand Effect survey cited on Instagram’s blog, ad recall from sponsored posts on Instagram was almost 3 times higher than Nielsen’s norms for online advertising.
So what can your brand do to prepare for the investment into advertising on Instagram? Grow your follower base for increased reach right out of the gate, learn from successful advertisers on the network, and keep an eye out for the official launch date.