The new platform makes Instagram shopability easier for companies and consumers alike, but is one link enough?
Curalate, a Philadelphia start-up specializing in visual marketing and analytics, has launched Like2Buy, a platform that makes it easier for people to shop on Instagram, as well as marketers to know what resonates with consumers.
Like2Buy places a link in a brand's profile that when clicked, takes customers to a gallery identical to the company's Instagram feed. Here, they can buy featured items or bookmark them for later with just one click.
"Some of the retail brands we work with could tell Instagram was driving revenue," says Brendan Lowry, Curalate’s marketing director. "They'd post a product and see a slight increase in sales. But without a direct tie to Instagram, it was difficult for marketing to know exactly what was happening."
Curalate's main goal is to bridge this gap between Instagram and marketing, and allow marketers to gain true transparency into what is driving traffic and revenue. "They spent all this time and money to build the community but they've only been able to report on likes and follower growth," Lowry comments.
Another goal, Lowry notes, is to make it as simple as possible for customers to get to the brands' checkout pages - which they already trust, he points out - without them having to register for anything or even provide an email address.
Scott Houchin, managing principal of digital at knowledge process outsourcer eClerx, thinks Like2Buy shows the purchase power of Instagram's younger audience.
"Their whole lives are consumed in these social ecosystems, so as they enter the workforce and start making money, we're going to see a very accelerated curve of social commerce adoption," he says.
But not everyone is so positive. Marko Muellner, a Portland digital marketing executive, points out that social commerce is inherently impulsive and Instagram's lack of links could prove to be a problem. While Like2Buy is displayed at the top of a brand's page underneath its profile, there are no other links visible, as Instagram does not allow them in posts.
"People may click through to e-commerce at higher rates and many may buy, but without a rich toolset for reaching high-value audiences, you don't have a direct-response channel that retailers will invest in," Muellner says.
Like2Buy isn't the only platform to make Instagram shoppable, and others have attempted it in the past. Earlier this summer, fashion aggregator rewardStyle launched LiketoKnow:It, which sends people emails with links to items they’ve liked on Instagram. Soldsie and Chirpify, too, send direct @ messages with links to payment pages whenever users comment, "Sold" or "#gottahaveit," respectively.
With all three, users must first sign up, which Qianna Smith, social media director at Saks Fifth Avenue, thinks loses people.
"I think you have to ask yourself, 'How many steps would customers take to get this item?' and make it as effective as possible," she says, adding that when it comes to e-commerce, time is money.
Smith thinks Like2Buy is far more optimal for the ever-growing demographic of mobile shoppers. She says it made sense for Saks to be an early adopter, since Instagram is the department store’s fastest-growing social platform, with a following that grows by nearly 1,000 every day.
For Muellner, he believes Curalate should be applauded for being innovative. At the same time, he remains skeptical about Like2Buy's ability to move the commerce needle in a significant way. "The reason is simple," he says. "Scaling traffic is impossible."
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