Instagram Wants to Help Users Buy Products in its App

March 19, 2019, 12:00 PM UTC

Instagram is strengthening its role in e-commerce by allowing users to pay for dresses, makeup, and watches inside its app.

The new checkout feature, which begins rolling out on Tuesday, lets users make in-app purchases from 23 retailers, including Nike, Burberry, and H&M. The list of retailers is expected to grow.

“When we set out on this journey a few years ago, our intention was to build a complete shopping experience for people,” said Vishal Shah, Instagram’s head of product, adding that the new feature gets the company one step closer to accomplishing that goal.

Instagram’s push into e-commerce is similar to that of online bulletin board Pinterest, which has been rolling out new features that help users buy products. But Shah said Instagram is less interested in helping users find similar products—one of the features Pinterest boasts—and more focused on connecting shoppers to exact items.

Instagram, once exclusively for posting photos of friends, family, and food, entered e-commerce in 2016 by testing a few minor shopping features. Since then, it has ramped up its strategy by introducing a Facebook-like feature that lets users tag products that appear in images and videos in news feeds and stories. Tapping on those tags would send users to more details about the product like an Abercrombie & Fitch button-up shirt.

In September, 90 million Instagram users tapped product tags. In March, that number rose to 130 million users.

To buy an item, users had to tap a link to the retailer’s website that would open a browser outside of the app. The new checkout feature allows users to remain in Instagram’s app.

Users who save their payment information can make purchases with one tap. Instagram charges retailers a fee on each transaction.

Instagram declined to disclose the amount it collects.

Checkout is the first of several shopping features Instagram expects to roll out this year, the company said. Shah declined to comment on a standalone shopping app that Instagram is reportedly developing.

“We are starting to show a bit of our ambition now,” Shah said. “You’ll continue to see more from us as we launch more products.”

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