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Instagram Shopper Study

Two years after the launch of Instagram Shop, only 16 of the 26 initial retail brands are still using Instagram for checkout. Five are redirecting shoppers to their main brand site, and five are no longer maintaining a presence on Instagram Shop, according to a new 34-page Instagram mystery shopper research report published by SimplicityDX, the edge experience company. A brief explainer video and infographic are available.

Innovators and major brands such as Burberry, Dior, Michael Kors, NARS, Nike, Prada and ZARA were on the launch list. A couple of years hence, SimplicityDX research shows that the social commerce journey is troubling for both shoppers and brands. Even the top three performers, Michael Kors, Prada and Anastasia Beverly Hills, showed room for improvement.

Coinciding with the study findings, SimplicityDX announced the immediate availability of its Instagram Benchmarking Service for retail brands, which enables retailers to benchmark their own Instagram shopping experiences against the 26 leading brands selected by Meta to launch Instagram Shop. The service is free, confidential, and provides a custom report based on a 10-minute series of self-guided, customer experience questions. The Instagram Benchmarking Service is available at https://simpldx.com/instagramshopservice.

“All of the leaders in our study are struggling to deliver a good shopping experience on Instagram to a greater or lesser extent,” explained Gerry Widmer, CEO and co-founder at SimplicityDX. “This is an issue that needs fixing for many retailers: As more and more customers start their shopping journeys at the edge, especially on social, there needs to be more focus on making the shopping experience frictionless and fun. Today it falls short.”

Instagram Social Commerce Study: The Benchmark

SimplicityDX’s Instagram benchmark methodology entailed reviewing each of the 26 brands anonymously, from a shopper’s perspective. The purchase experience from browsing to returning includes seven markers: 1) consistency, 2) navigation, 3) product, 4) checkout, 5) post-purchase, 6) communications and 7) returns. The full report, “Instagram Social Commerce – Mystery Shopper Results,” details the findings and is available as a complimentary download at https://simpldx.com/instagramshopreport.

The SimplicityDX research exposes the key problem areas for Instagram Shop are product tagging, assortment and inventory; consistency of promotions; and the returns process — in short, keeping the social shopping experience in step with the brand site. The best performing stages are post-purchase and communications — notably, where the retail brands are mostly in full control and independent from the social network.

“This research magnifies what customers already know: Discovering products on social works well but not buying them there,” added industry commentator Charles Nicholls, who also serves as chief strategy officer and co-founder at SimplicityDX. “The majority of customers head to the brand site to buy simply because they know they’ll get a better experience and pay less. Instagram rarely has the full assortment, accurate product availability, the latest promotions, and the ability to return products with the minimum of hassle if needed.”

Instagram Social Commerce Study: Report Findings

Overall, as the research highlights, customer experience when shopping on Instagram is fraught with pitfalls. The average experience score of the 21 brands that have retained an Instagram presence is 77%, with the highest scores being achieved by Prada and Michael Kors at 84%.

The results underscore the difficulty brands have to face when trying to deliver a smooth and effective journey on a social network and consistently tie this presence into the wider omnichannel shopping environment. This perhaps sheds some light on why social networks are evolving their position on social commerce.

The mystery shopper analysis provides a moment-in-time picture of performance for a given brand. A clear lesson from the results is that managing the social commerce experience is intensive. To do social commerce well, brands need to dedicate substantial resources to social, and as such, the results of the study may not be a reflection of a brand’s social commerce ambition.

Key Areas for Retail Brands to Improve on Instagram

  • Consistency – Promotions are not frequently reflected on Instagram, resulting in different prices being offered than on the brand’s primary e-commerce store.
  • Navigation – Tagging of posts is often incomplete, frustrating the customer, as they are unable to easily buy the products they see in a post.
  • Product – Assortment on Instagram is often a subset of the entire product line. Inventory is frequently out of step, especially for faster moving product lines. This leads to customers buying products that aren’t in stock and not buying products that are in stock. This is due to limitations in Instagram’s inventory integration.
  • Checkout – One of the highest risks with social media, from a brand’s perspective, is not knowing the customer and losing the opportunity to communicate past initial browsing. One way to avoid this pitfall is to direct the shopper to the brand site.
  • Returns – Returning merchandise can be problematic, with some experiences being very poor. This is most easily addressed by putting returns information in with the package, bypassing Instagram.

Recommendations for Retail Brands to Leverage Instagram

  • Don’t use social checkout – The established pattern of “discover on social, buy on the brand site” should be the model going forward for most retail brands. This ensures that brands are building a customer base that they have consent to market to directly and is how the majority of customers want to buy. This is also aligned with Instagram’s refocusing on advertising and away from social checkout.
  • List products – Brands should upload their entire product catalogs into Instagram (and other social networks) since this connects aspirational lifestyle imagery with products that can be purchased. Customers should then be directed to the brand site to purchase.
  • Tag posts – Brands and their social agencies need to ensure that every possible product featured in posts is tagged. Tagged products provide a direct link to the specific product, effectively the start of the social shopping funnel.
  • Show promotions on social – While challenging for brands, especially during peak periods, SimplicityDX recommends that brands reflect seasonal promotions on social channels. This ensures that prices are consistent across social and online channels. Driving traffic to the brand site eliminates inventory synchronization issues.
  • Fasten seat belts for landing – Brands directing social traffic to their e-commerce stores frequently direct traffic onto product detail pages. This causes a “hard landing” experience as the aspirational context is replaced with a hard transactional experience, resulting in high bounce rates and low conversion rates. SimplicityDX recommends brands soften these landings with a blend of social and product content to drive engagement and nurture the sale.
  • Think social + email + retargeting – Social media is a great place for new customer acquisition, enabling brands to showcase products in an aspirational context not possible on their brand site. However, new customers rarely buy on the first visit. Encouraging these new visitors to subscribe to brand communications and use of retargeting to drive repeat visits will encourage purchases over time. Consequently, social teams need to work closely with their email colleagues to synchronize efforts around new subscriber acquisition.