Connectivity via social media platforms is transforming networking from a simple activity into a fully-fledged lifestyle, and the numbers speak for themselves. Picture this.
Instagram reported a staggering 63 million users in the Middle East and North Africa by 2017. This is equivalent to 10 per cent of the global social media community.
With these numbers, businesses and brands are working extra hard to attract as many of these users as possible in a bid to convert them into customers. In March, Instagram announced the introduction of a Checkout feature in the app. This feature, which is still in the beta stage with only a handful of US companies testing it, is indeed a game-changer as far as e-commerce is concerned.
Brands are to be the biggest beneficiaries with 85 per cent of users spending time researching products online, 91 per cent visit an online store, while 63 per cent purchase a product. Over 35 per cent of the population in the GCC is on Instagram daily, with 60 per cent of users discovering new products on the platform.
For Middle East brands, this feature basically gives them a golden opportunity to turn as many of their Instagram followers into customers through the ease of making purchases without leaving the app. Today, millions of businesses have an active presence on Instagram. Most of them use it as their primary source of sales leads.
Enter the new Checkout feature and brands now have a clear shot at growing their sales directly through the platform. When it is officially launched, the “Checkout on Instagram” feature will finally position the platform as a fully-fledged eCommerce platform. Users will now be able to make purchases without leaving the app. To buy a product, users will simply tap on the product.
Unlike in the past, whereby users would peruse through their favourite brands’ posts to see what excites them enough to buy, they’d have to head to the brand’s website, which meant leaving the app to make a purchase. However, with this new feature, a purchase can be done directly within the post making the process fast.
Another value-addition is the convenient consumer journey, especially in this age where consumers increasingly value convenience and experience over pricing. As part of the Checkout, Instagram will also send notifications within the app to the buyer when the product has been shipped and delivered. This will be a welcome move to users who spend most of their time on the app than in their email inbox.
Instagram will now take advantage of “exploring” habits of its users and tie these to sales. The exciting bit about the introduction of this disruptive feature is that brands will be in a better position to measure their RoI on their Instagram investment.
One thing is for sure, brands will experience an increase in their online sales thanks to a simplified purchase journey. Brands will also gain new customers who will be exposed to their brand via Instagram directly with sales and not just awareness. The Checkout feature will also encourage impulse buying, which means brands will experience a spike in sales thanks to the ease of buying.
However, Instagram does have a “selling fee” for merchants that they are testing out, which will be paid by brands. This basically means this spike in sales will be somewhat affected by the purchases made on the app. But even as brands get excited about this new feature, they need to be aware that the Checkout feature is only available on organic content, not ads.
This means that reaching a wide audience will be minimal, at least for now. Last but not least, brands will now be able to measure the RoI of social media as it’s tied directly to sales which will help optimise their content and targeting/retargeting strategy.
— Unni Kurup is General Manager at Plan. Net.