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'Commerce has become a battleground for platforms': Instagram will now let influencers sell products directly on the platform

Business Insider | Apr 30, 2019, 11.05PM IST

katiesturino feed post with phone

Instagram

Influencer Katie Sturino.

  • Instagram is expanding an effort to let influencers sell their products directly on the platform.
  • Instagram has been making commerce a bigger priority in recent months as it steps up its efforts to compete with Amazon and Pinterest.
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Facebook's Instagram is turning into a full-fledged marketplace.

After allowing certain brands to sell their products directly on Instagram last month, the platform is extending the functionality to 55 creators, influencers, and publishers including Kim Kardashian West, Kylie Jenner, Vogue, Elle, and GQ, which will be able to tag products in their posts.

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The creators will intially only be able to tag products from the 23 brands that are testing out the checkout button, including Burberry, Michael Kors and Nike, among others.

The announcement was made at Facebook's annual F8 developer conference in San Jose, California, on Tuesday.

A win for brands, creators and influencers

Selling products has been cumbersome for creators, who often get inundated with direct messages and comments asking for details. Creator Alyssa Coscarelli said at least a third of the inquiries she gets from her followers are questions about where they can purchase items she has shared.

Now, users can just tap their screen to see what creators are wearing and buy the item on the spot, while brands can reach creators' audiences without overtly advertising to them.

"This is a win for all parties involved," said Phillip Huynh, head of paid social at 360i. "Creators will able to become brand affiliates; brands will have a more organic way to be discovered by consumers through someone they trust; and consumers will have an easy way to find products they love."

Creators are not getting a revenue share for sharing brands' posts immediately. But Mike Dossett, director of digital strategy at RPA, said he expects Instagram will role out that ability and take a cut itself.

"While Instagram has served as home base for creators, the vast majority of dollars from the monetization of those creators has flowed either directly to the talent or to the countless middlemen that help facilitate those deals, not Facebook," he said. "This is a smart move from Facebook to capture more dollars flowing to influential creators on their platforms, most of which have escaped their grasp to date."

Instagram is increasingly trying to close the loop between discovery and commerce

E-commerce has been an increasing focus for Instagram, which has been rolling out features for brands to tout and sell their products. Since last fall, the company has allowed brands to add product stickers to their Stories, added a dedicated shopping section in the "Explore" section of Stories, and rolled out product tags in the feed and a checkout button for brands.

"Platforms like Instagram are looking to find additional ways to maintain their consumers' attention and drive additional revenues streams," said Chris Inners, senior director at OMD Create. "Brands are seeing increased success in driving awareness and action with Instagram's audience, and tying commerce opportunities should help solidify this focus."

The push into commerce is a way for Instagram and Facebook to compete with Amazon and Pinterest in shopping, said 360i's Huynh. While Amazon has a strong affiliate program, Pinterest focuses on discovery.

"Commerce has become a battleground for platforms as it's the most direct way to demonstrate the ROI of your platform in the shortest amount of time," Huynh said. "Instagram is uniquely primed to take advantage of this boom because they have scale, their users are used to taking action, and because there is already a huge number of brands and influencers that are on the platform."

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