You may not have noticed it roll out, but Instagram’s new update is big — one that will likely elevate the social media platform in the world of ecommerce.
Earlier this month, Instagram quietly updated its app with a payment feature for its users. This allows a user to add a credit or debit card to a profile so that they can purchase items without ever leaving the app. The feature would simply open a pop-up page and display the usual checkout processes one would find at an ecommerce site. TechCrunch provided the first scoop, as it confirmed with a spokesperson that some users can now make bookings at selected partners through the app. One of these is Resy, a dinner reservation service. They also mentioned that people should be able to make direct payments for movie tickets and other items on the image-sharing app.
The news comes weeks after social media rival Snapchat rolled out its own payment function. Similar to Instagram’s, this new feature also has options for users to buy products directly. A report by CNBC confirms that Snapchat had tested its shopping abilities as early as February when it launched the new Air Jordans in partnership with Nike and Darkstore. However, it should be noted that Instagram had already announced plans for a feature allowing users to book services as early as March of last year.
Of course, this isn’t the first time the two have tried to one-up each other. Recently, we mentioned that Instagram is testing out a new nametag scanning feature where each user is assigned a special image that others can scan with their Instagram Stories camera in order to follow the account. Sounds familiar? Well, that’s because Snapchat has offered that same feature, called the Snapcode scanning, since 2015.
In truth, this move to ecommerce from these two social media competitors is not surprising. Predictions by Forrester state that smartphones will be involved in over $1 trillion worth of retail sales in the US in 2018, as more and more consumers use their phones to research products, compare prices, and make purchases. This forecast reflects the reality that many people prefer mobile as a means to browse and shop – a trend that has given rise to ecommerce businesses and has pushed traditional retailers to create their own online platforms.
Many industry experts have said that the future is mobile, and given the current climate, the signs certainly point in that direction. With mobile trends on the rise, tech giants are well on their way to adjusting. Ayima touched on this when discussing the rise of Google’s mobile-first index, which would prioritize search results for mobile versions of websites first rather than desktop versions. This indicates an imminent requirement for all businesses to have either a responsive code or a mobile version to suit the needs of mobile users and be ranked higher on Google’s search results. Since social media pages already rank high in search results and are mostly used on mobile, Snapchat and Instagram are right where they should be, and are poised to take an even larger position in the world of ecommerce.
With this in mind, Instagram and Snapchat will either face tough competition from ecommerce giants or strike partnership deals with them, just like Facebook’s move with Amazon. Given the intensity of their rivalry, it will be interesting to see how the payment features from both social media brands play out throughout the year. With the presence of payments along with ads, it also leads one to wonder whether these apps should still be called “social media”.