Instagram puts shopping everywhere, first on IGTV and then Reels

TikTok, the musical video app owned by Chinese-based ByteDance, has been bogged down in a fight with the U.S. government. President Donald Trump has tried to force a sale of TikTok to U.S. companies to counter any potential security threats from foreign ownership of a social platform that is exploding in popularity among 100 million American consumers. Walmart was one of the companies that emerged as an interested party in taking part ownership of TikTok, showing that e-commerce is an important growth area for any social platform.

Since Reels launched, brands have been testing out the potential of the videos and measuring how well they perform on Instagram. Chipotle, Dunkin, Red Bull, Maybelline and others are just a smattering of the brands trying Reels. Last week, General Mills’ Yoplait and Jennifer Lopez launched a Reels challenge to promote family activities.

The commercialization of Reels is in full swing, and Instagram said it will test the e-commerce tie-ins later this year. First, IGTV, the two-year-old YouTube-like video section within Instagram, will get the shopping features. Consumers will be able to click links within IGTV videos to checkout products.

These are the types of shopping links already available on other parts of Instagram, which has upgraded its e-commerce tools in recent months. Facebook and Instagram have allowed businesses to set up digital storefronts on the platforms where there are more than 180 million businesses with pages.

Since March, when the COVID-19 pandemic led to a business shutdown, Facebook, Google, Pinterest, Snapchat and other digital services have been trying to prove their value as economic lifelines. Amazon, Walmart, Target and other more traditional retailers have also been seeing steady growth as e-commerce channels for people stuck at home. Meanwhile, TikTok, as a nascent social media platform, has been building ad products that make it easier to shop, too, allowing brands to spur sales through campaigns on the platform.

The social platforms use their relationships with popular “influencers,” web celebrities who promote products in their videos, to help brands make sales direct to consumers. The more tools these influencers have to make deals with brands and make money from their activity on the social platforms, the more they invest their time in the services. In its announcement, Instagram highlighted makeup artist Patrick Ta as the type of contributor who could tap into shopping on IGTV.

“Instagram provides a platform where individuals no matter their backgrounds can come together and connect over something in common,” Ta said in the announcement. “It’s allowed me the ability to share my passions, inspirations, and creative visions with the world.” 

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