Shopfronts on Instagram have become an increasingly large, rapidly-growing portion of the app.
This is evident from the in-app ads for companies you've likely never heard of or seen IRL, and backed up by statistics: In July 2017, there were 15 million business profiles on Instagram worldwide. By November 2017, that number rose to 25 million. Of those 25 million, only about 50% have a standalone website. According to Susan Rose, a director of product marketing at Instagram, this is an indication that Instagram is how these 10 million stores attract new customers and complete sales.
These Instagram-first businesses have flourished no doubt due to the propensity of Instagram's users to shop on the app — 80% of Instagrammers follow a business and 200 million daily users visit at least one business profile a day — as well as the tools the app has rolled out for them. But if you've ever tried to buy something from an Instagram-first business, you know the process is far from seamless. If you want to chat with the virtual storefront, that takes place through direct message. Instagram told Refinery29 that more than 150 million people have conversations with businesses through Direct each month, which can be time-consuming for both the business and the consumer.
Even businesses that have an external presence online require you to go through a labyrinthine process so you can give them your money: Leave Instagram, open a web browser, go to the site, see if they take reservations, go to the reservation site, and so on.
Rose puts it lightly: "It may discourage me from going down that path even though I have this strong intent to want to be able to book that restaurant."
That's why today, Instagram is launching a series of new tools intended to simplifying the process, and aimed at turning the app into a one-stop shop for everything from scheduling a salon appointment to making brunch reservations.
Some of these new tools are specific to business profiles on Instagram, meaning you won't see them as a shopper. They include ways to filter DMs, star important messages, and respond to inquiries more easily. However, even though you won't be able to use them on your end, the hope is they will result in more timely and relevant responses for consumers, Rose explains.
What you will see are new action buttons — "book", "get tickets", "reserve", or "start order" — on business profiles, which let you do one of those actions without leaving Instagram. To provide these internal services, Instagram is partnering with a series of third-party services, including Fandango, GrubHub, Eventbrite, OpenTable, StyleSeat, and Yelp Reservations. You can schedule a hair appointment or buy movie tickets straight from a business profile, then continue watching Stories.
With today's shopping-friendly launches, expect to spend more time on Instagram than you already do. Consider this a warning: You may need to keep even closer tabs on your wallet and monthly data allowance.
This piece has been updated. Paris 99 says it has never paid for Instagram ads. Refinery29 has reached out to Instagram for comment and will update the piece when we hear back.