Instagram will start showing ads for products in the Shop tab as the Facebook-owned app tries to position itself as a player in the e-commerce landscape.
On Monday, Instagram announced the new ads would start appearing immediately to U.S. users during an initial testing period. Instagram said brands like Away, Boo Oh, Clairepaint, DEUX and Donni Davy were among the first retailers to run the sponsored posts.
“We’ll start testing ads on the Instagram Shop tab to make it easier for people to discover and shop from brands when they’re already in the mood to browse,” Instagram said in the announcement.
Facebook and Instagram made significant changes in the past year to spur more shopping. Last year, Instagram developed the new tab called Shop, which has a prominent position on the homescreen of the app, delivering a personalized feed of products to each user. The Instagram Shop section is not to be confused with Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp Shops, which are digital storefronts run by merchants on the apps. There also is a special section called Drops within Instagram’s Explore tab, which features newly launched products.
All the shopping elements add up to one concerted push by Facebook to make its platforms more shoppable. The social network is competing with major retailers like Amazon and Walmart, which are adopting more social elements, like live shopping videos, into their digital properties. Meanwhile, social media platforms like Instagram, Snapchat, Pinterest, TikTok and Twitter are building more e-commerce capabilities. Instagram and Facebook have also implanted seeds of shopping into videos and livestreams, encouraging creators to tag products with links to where people can buy those products in their content.
A report earlier this year from eMarketer said that social commerce would generate $37 billion in the U.S. in 2021, an increase of 35% from 2020. The number of U.S. consumers shopping on social channels is expected to reach 90 million in 2021, up from 80 million in 2020, according to eMarketer. Facebook apps, including Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp and Messenger, reach a combined 2.76 billion people a day.
Privacy changes on Apple devices, and throughout the internet, are another factor driving retail to social media. Apple recently implemented strict anti-tracking protocols that made it more difficult, if not impossible, for digital marketers to observe when a consumer crosses from one website or app to another. That makes it harder to target ads and track when they worked. But that becomes less of an issue if all the activity takes place within an app like Facebook.
The new Shop ads represent another way for retailers to target consumers with personalize advertising. The ads appear in the feed with a “sponsored” label. The ads link to product pages with more information, including more products from the retailers.