Instagram brings shopping to Reels, IGTV as commerce commands social spotlight

Dive Brief:

  • Instagram is expanding shopping capabilities to Reels, its new feature for sharing short video clips, and livestreaming service IGTV, according to an announcement shared with Marketing Dive via email.
  • The e-commerce offerings are available globally on IGTV now and will start tests on Reels later this year. IGTV allows viewers to tap items they see in videos and complete their purchase either through Instagram’s direct checkout feature or the seller’s website, per the announcement.
  • The timing of the news could allow Instagram parent Facebook to better seize on a holiday season that will skew virtual this year due to the coronavirus pandemic, and build out a stronger bet against mobile competitors like TikTok.

Dive Insight:

Facebook opening shopping capabilities on Reels and IGTV is unsurprising given how central e-commerce has become to Instagram’s growth strategy. The timing is still interesting, suggesting Facebook is looking to carve out a bigger piece of an online holiday market that’s typically dominated by retailers like Walmart, Target and Amazon, while edging out fledgling social media rivals like TikTok.

IGTV viewers can tap to purchase items either directly through Instagram or the seller’s website.

Permission granted by Instagram

 

Reels and IGTV integrating shopping could bolster appeal to both creators and brands that have adopted similar features elsewhere on Instagram in a bid to better connect advertising and video content with direct sales.

“By bringing shopping to IGTV and Reels, we’re making it easy to shop directly from videos. And in turn, helping sellers share their story, reach customers, and make a living,” Instagram Chief Operating Officer Justin Osofsky said in a press statement.

Further adoption of e-commerce is important for Instagram as advertising channels crowd out elsewhere on the app. In July, the photo-sharing app debuted Instagram Shop, a hub offering personalized recommendations, exclusive items and collections of products from brands and creators. Earlier in the summer, Instagram expanded its Commerce Eligibility Requirements to allow more businesses and influencers to sell goods to users through Checkout on Instagram. Shoppable IGTV videos will appear in the Instagram Shop page later on, although Facebook’s announcement Monday did not specify a date.

Facebook has put a spotlight on e-commerce across its app suite as more businesses go virtual with the continued shuttering of retail locations during the pandemic. The social behemoth has positioned these moves as giving small businesses and creators a lifeline amid the health crisis, but big brands have also ramped up investments in online channels, signaling the preference for e-commerce could stick even after stores open back up.

Reels and IGTV are two of the bigger bets Instagram has made to push past staple features like photo-sharing and Stories, a disappearing photo and video collage format cribbed from Snapchat. IGTV, which struggled to gain traction in its early days, has seen engagement jump as homebound consumers spend more time livestreaming video. In May, Instagram started testing video ads in the portal.

Reels, which debuted in early August, closely mirrors TikTok’s user experience. Reels’ new emphasis on shopping would echo a major opportunity that businesses see on TikTok. Walmart, for instance, has stated it values TikTok’s potential in e-commerce and advertising, and is subsequently angling to become an investor in the app as its parent company ByteDance rushes to iron out a deal that will prevent a U.S. ban.

As TikTok continues to face scrutiny from the Trump administration over ByteDance’s ties to China, competitors like Reels clearly see an opportunity. Rounding out the feature with deeper e-commerce options could draw in more brands, particularly in categories like retail and packaged goods. Recent campaigns from General Mills’ Yoplait and Target’s Shipt brands have centered on Reels, while emulating the marketing style of TikTok with dance videos and hashtag challenges.

The biggest risk for Instagram now could be deprecating the user experience in favor of loading on more bells and whistles for advertisers. Some in the media have already criticized Reels for getting lost in a bevy of other features on the app.

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