Retailers have a new way to present their products with posts that act like shopping catalogs on Instagram.
The photo- and video-sharing app is launching these new sales tools on Tuesday for 20 retailers, including J. Crew, Macy's, Levi's and JackThreads. The retailers can put price tags into the photos, next to the products for sale, and consumers can click to get a closer look at the items. Then consumers can click to buy them on the retailer's website.
"This is a very early, simple test," said Jim Squires, director of market operations at Instagram. "There is a lot of additional depth we can add."
For instance, eventually Instagram could expand beyond retailers, letting other industries show products in this way. It could also add better recommendation capabilities to target consumers with more products they might like. Also, there could be ways to save the products to view later, and the shopping features could be included in videos, too.
For now, the shopping posts are strictly for retailers to use organically in their feeds, and they are not available in ads. Instagram does have an e-commerce ad product with a buy button like most digital platforms, including Google, Pinterest and Twitter.
Social media has tried to get closer to the point of sale in marketing, but it's unclear if consumers are in the shopping mood while browsing their Facebook feeds. Sites like Instagram and Pinterest are seen as more natural environments for people to find products they like and perhaps make a purchase.
"This is behavior that already happens on the platform," Mr. Squires said. "This just gives more depth to the experience."
Also, retailers don't have to pay for the posts, making the experiment low risk. JackThreads, for instance, will show the e-commerce posts to half its 115,000 followers, and the rest will see its typical photos, according to JackThreads CMO Ryan McIntyre.
"Instagram has been the focus for us for a while," Mr. McIntyre said. "It is the primary expression of our organic social, and turning that into a direct sales channel is interesting."