World beyond influencer marketing: Instagram launches Shoppable Influencers

by Anjori Grover Vasesi

03-May-2019  |  8 mins read


We have been hearing this buzz word, going around the entire industry since the past few years… but as is the case with any new phenomenon, once it reaches its peak – a certain kind of upgrade is required to propel it to the next level, lest it fall back flat.

‘Conversion’, is a term on everyone’s lips right now – what’s bringing business to the table and what’s not – this brings us back to the opening question – how can influencer marketing remain in the game without losing its essence.

Starting today, Instagram will enable a smooth in-app checkout process for its shoppable posts directly via influencer accounts.

One year ago, Instagram made it possible to “shop” posts in your feed.

In March, Instagram rolled out Checkout feature, which allows users to make purchases from select brands within the app; and also announced a new advertising strategy that allows brands to promote influencers’ posts. All this build up was naturally directing us to the next big thing: i.e. allowing users to shop influencer looks/products directly from their posts.

Beginning 9th May, influencers will be able to tag specific products from their looks in their photo posts on Instagram. Users will be able to tap and view featured products and purchase them—all without having to leave Instagram, i.e. without being redirected to a browser window.

By streamlining the process of purchasing things within its own app, Instagram is all set to become a personalized digital mall of the future.


Millions of users rely on influencers for products recommendations. But until now, figuring out the origin of an exact product sported by an influencer within their posts (unless tagged) has been close to impossible.

“It’s about the lifestyle- It’s about where you are, what you are wearing, what you believe in, what and who you support”, Negin Mirsalehi, one of the top influencers, told NY Times – “Consumers want to know it all. “

Countless DMs, comments underneath photos, questions in person, are thrown at such influencers on a daily basis.

According to Instagram, over 130 million people tap on such tags each month, browsing through posts from various brands – not limited to their size or segment.

Apps such as LikeToKnowIt, have in the past, posed as a stopgap solution by building a community that allows users to share screenshots of influencers’ posts in an effort to provide them with the exact details of specific product. Though helpful, such apps are not 100 per cent reliable.

Previous versions of the shoppable posts also played on a cumbersome purchasing process which took users to an external site for the final checkout.

“Instead of having to go through this clunky mobile web flow and checking out, you can now check out directly on Instagram,” Ashley Yuki, the Product Management Lead on the new feature, said.


The first edition of the shoppable influencers will roll out next week, starting with its initial 23 brands and 55 influencers. The platform plans to include more retailers post the testing phase of the shoppable posts program.

Brands including Nike, Burberry, Uniqlo, and even purely internet-based brands, such as Kylie Cosmetics, Outdoor Voices, and Warby Parker – who already use the Checkout feature, will pay a cut of their sales to Instagram.

Influencers, such as Kim Kardashian West, Kylie Jenner and Gigi Hadid; Chiara Ferragni and Negin Mirsalehi, Kimberly Drew and Katie Sturino,with the highest interactions on the social media app, will feature in the initial roll out.

The Checkout function will initially only work for US users purchasing from the said brands involved in the beta.


For brands, it’s like opening a store in a shopping mall where the customers who are most likely to purchase their products are automatically directed to their door.

Only that, in this case, the store is the brand’s page, the mall is Instagram, and the force directing consumers to the brand, are the influencers.

According to Launchmetrics, an estimated 80 per cent of fashion, luxury and beauty brands work with influencers. An influx of transaction data will change who and how brands work with them.

Though influencers won’t receive a cut of the sales their posts generate, they will be able to access a shared analytics dashboard with robust metrics that the tagged brand will also be able to view.

In the past, comparing influence to sales has been difficult to comprehend, owing to flawed methods adopted by influencers – such as screenshots – to communicate engagement a said post drove. Having a more streamlined framework that provides detailed analytics will be incredibly valuable for influencers, as it will give them greater leverage combined with statistics, while negotiating rates with brands.

The feature will help influencers nullify the gap between inspiration and purchase, and will help brands better assess just how much their budget spend on influencer marketing is converting to direct sales.

Incorporating the shoppable posts Checkout feature will also draw more followers to such influencers, thereby resulting in a greater pay off in the short term.


The platform, which gains a major share of its revenues by advertising, has recognized the opportunity that in-app shopping presents. In March, Instagram announced that it would begin testing in-app shopping with about 20 retail partners, including Zara, H&M, Dior, Oscar de la Renta and Nike. Taking it a step further, the platform is now allowing those brands to link up with influencers – not limited to content creators, but also established media companies such as Vogue, Elle and GQ.

Brands who already use the Checkout feature, will be paying a pre-determined cut of their sales to Instagram.

The new feature falls in line with Instagram’s wider mission to turn the platform into an e-commerce powerhouse, calling itself a digital mall of the future.

The company has made a hard shift into shopping this year, and Deutsche Bank analysts estimate that it is on its way to become a $10 billion business soon. Generating a massive new revenue stream acquired by the Checkout feature, will help the company bounce back from its current dependence on advertising, which has come under attack lately due to data breaches and privacy scandals.

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