Bridging the Gap between “Like & Share” to “Order Now”

Facebook has been making large strides recently to turn its social media channels into avenues of purchase. Starting with Instagram, they have expanded their “shoppable” post feature to now allow any company using the BigCommerce e-commerce platform to tag their products. This feature was first shown off last November and was originally only available to 20 select brands including Kate Spade, JackThreads, & Warby Parker.

When users click a shoppable post, a “Tap to View Products” tagline shows up in the bottom left corner of the photo. A small white circle then appears over the product in question after a few seconds. If users tap the image anywhere, a tag with the name & price of the product shows up. When clicked, with the ability to be clicked and give more detailed information and a “shop now” link.

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This is all in an effort to encourage users to make more spontaneous, in-the-moment purchases while scrolling through their feed. There was much need for this feature, due to the fact that Instagram does not allow clickable links in their captions. The majority of Instagram users, 72%, say they have purchased a product they saw on the app according to Business Insider. Luxury brands have also taken a liking to the app, making Instagram the leading social media app for luxury shoppers. This feature also helps improve the experience for all users, as users are not suddenly force-launched into a new app while trying to get more product info. Instead, the shoppable feature gently guides the users into a new pane with more information, before leaving it up to them to click the “Shop Now” button or return to their feed.

Instagram has made major strides to make this feature an asset for retailers. During the beginning phases, companies had to work with Instagram every time to tag pictures with shoppable links. That means that brands had to coordinate with Instagram engineers to re-do the coding of the picture on the back-end for every new shoppable post. This lack of a self-service option left some brands like Lulu’s weary of using the feature. “The main reason we haven’t been doing it for every single [post] is it’s very time consuming to do it because they haven’t created a tool for it yet,” said Noelle Sadler, VP of marketing at Lulu’s. Now, brands have been given the tools so it’s as easy to tag their products themselves like how we tag our friends in pictures.

In addition, Instagram has made it possible for brands to now access an insights tool. This will allow them to see analytics on things like how many shoppers go through a product page or how many clicks a tag receives. During the test phase, brands needed to reach out to Instagram themselves to get analytical data.

With over 800 million active users on the site and nearly 5 million active business profiles, Instagram’s platform for connecting user and brand presents an exciting possibility. Currently, Instagram’s hand is removed from the money exchange part of transactions. Users still will make the final purchase on the retailers own website. 

Facebook has also just released a new feature two days ago also centered on the theme of transactional social media. Now, Facebook users in the United States can order food using the Facebook website and mobile app. Facebook began testing this feature in 2016, but it is now a fully-baked part of the “Explore” section.

To start, users go to the “Explore” heading on the left side of their webpage, then click “Order Food”. From there users will see a list of options. Facebook has partnered with a plethora of food delivery services like DoorDash, ChowNow, Delivery.com, Zuppler, EatStreet, Slice, and Olo as well as food outlets like TGI Friday’s, Denny’s, El Pollo Loco, Papa John’s, Wingstop, Panera Bread, Jack in the Box, Five Guys Jimmy John’s.

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What’s interesting is that Facebook hasn’t built the food ordering into its website/app, but merely provided a page with the ability to search, filter, and find a restaurant. Basically, it outsourced the actual food ordering platform to the many existing companies who do that while simply providing a new page for all of them to be listed on. Instead of trying to compete with them, Facebook partnered with them. Facebook will also allow the user to choose which food-ordering website to go through if the restaurant has multiple delivery service options. Facebook’s angle is the fact that if you are on Facebook mobile, a browser tab opens up in-app so that when you are done with your order you swipe down and return to Facebook.

Alex Himel of Facebook explained, “People already go to Facebook to figure out what to eat by reading about nearby restaurants, and seeing what their friends say about them. So, we’re making it even easier.” Facebook’s goal is to do anything that keeps people on its apps for longer periods of time. We have seen Facebook aggressively pursue this goal in recent months, with the rollout of new features like tabs for weather information, instant games, jobs boards, “Facebook Watch”, movie listings, and more. Facebook has also integrated features for users to get quotes from businesses or buy tickets for events. Like in the case with Instagram, Facebook is not receiving any revenue from these transactions as it will not charge any fees or take any part of the profits from orders that started through their app.

It’s incredibly interesting and a bit scary to see this convergence of social media websites/apps being used as a path for purchases. While I already spend a ridiculous amount of time on these apps, Facebook’s goal is to ensure people like me almost never have a reason to leave them. It seems only time will tell just how integrated our transactions and our social media become.

7 comments

  1. It’s really interesting to learn more about how Facebook has made it easier for companies to get people to buy – I’ve definitely bought things I’ve seen on Facebook after enough reminders, so I didn’t realize the ways that they’d made it easier and more accessible for me to do that. Great point. In terms of ordering food, I hop around from app to app depending on who has what I want, so I’d definitely be inclined to use Facebook if it had the opportunities I wanted. Why not, right?

  2. britt_hopkins4 · ·

    Really interesting and informative post. I feel like this goes along to show how much Facebook is taking over everything. I love the feature where you can click on things to get the details and go straight to a purchasing site, but my bank account won’t. I also think it’s peculiar how Facebook is going into the food delivery business. I would never think to order food through Facebook, so I’m interested to see how this goes. Do you know anything about the cost benefits of this? How/why is Facebook benefitting other than creating more of a monopoly? I would be interested to see the numbers.

  3. juliabrodigan · ·

    Great Post!I think this Instagram feature will become increasingly more popular in the coming years. Personally, I find myself shopping online more than going to stores and making purchases in person. Also, bloggers are very popular right now and people, including myself, try to copy their outfits, but sometimes it is hard to find the same or similar outfit/clothing piece. Thus, I think that this feature will be successful because people will see items that they like on Instagram and if they are able to find the exact or a similar piece, there is a good chance they will buy it. it will be interesting to see if this feature takes off or if it will be replaced with another feature.

  4. m_thompson19 · ·

    Great post – I actually tweeted out the other day about how Instagram is changing how it approaches its sponsored ads to better integrate within a newsfeed, with the hope to improve even further how advertisers and their advertisements can interact and resonate with Instagram users. I think the range of users that Instagram has is super influential and allows for an amazing medium for advertisers to connect with potential consumers. I really liked your insight on what exactly goes into the coding to create a clickable Instagram ad – really interesting!

  5. I really enjoyed (and related well) to this post! I think the research you did on Facebooks role in this whole situation is extremely eye opening. I think this post really resonated well with the articles we read a couple weeks ago on how we, the users, are the product.

  6. maririera19 · ·

    I really liked your incite and the examples you provided of all the features Facebook has implemented to keep its users on its app for as long as possible. It seems like it is the long term goal for the big four digital companies: Amazon, Facebook, Google, and Apple. They all want to be the go-to place for all of their user’s (and all of humanities) needs, so they are continuously entering new industries in the fight for our attention.

  7. sejackson33 · ·

    This is a great discussion and analysis of how Facebook and Instagram are trying to integrate their main functions with making purchases. Just a year ago, I naively would not have expected Facebook to enter all of these different functions for their platform. It will be interesting to see what happens as the major social media players continue to add different functions to their platforms to draw users. As these platforms become more and more all-encompassing, will there be increased competition or even mergers?

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