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Prada, Oscar de la Renta Test In-App Shopping With Instagram Checkout

Prada once famously said it would never sell its luxury wares online. Now, it’s among the first brands working with Instagram to let people buy its shoes, handbags and more from within the popular social app in what could be the next evolution in digital commerce.

The Facebook-owned social firm announced Tuesday the arrival of Instagram Checkout for users in the U.S. Now when app users find a product they love, they can purchase the item without having to navigate away to a brand’s website to complete the transaction. For their initial purchase, people input their name, shipping address, and billing details, which Instagram “securely” stores for future use. The platform will assume post-purchase duties, alerting shoppers about their order and shipping status.

Instagram Checkout seems to be aimed squarely at the young consumers who are heavy users of its platform. Sixty percent of Gen Zers already turn to social media for inspiration and new product discovery, while 58 percent of younger consumers are open to interacting with shoppable content on platforms like Instagram, according to research from visual search firm ViSenze.

When people tap on the shopping tags in a brand’s Instagram, they typically see a button offering to take them outside the social platform and to the brand’s website. That button invites users to checkout with any of the first beta testers. A pop-up prompts shoppers to select a size or color when necessary before completing the transaction, according to Instagram.

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Prada joins luxury peers including Burberry, Dior, Oscar de la Renta, Balmain and Michael Kors as the first high-end labels to trial Instagram Checkout. A number of mass-market apparel brands are also testing out the feature, including Adidas (under its @adidaswomen and @adidasoriginals accounts), H&M, Nike (under the @niketraining and @nikewomen handles), millennial activewear retailer Outdoor Voices, Revolve, Uniqlo and Zara. In addition to eyewear startup Warby Parker, nine makeup and hair care firms, including Kylie Cosmetics and Nars also are among Instagram Checkout’s beta testers. Instagram said other brands will be onboarded in the future.

Instagram Checkout seems to rectify what was previously a broken, fragmented purchase journey. “Often times, tracking was lost,” says Adlucent’s director of channel solutions Laura Musa, “so brands didn’t know where that shopper discovered them, which made decisions to invest in channel content and advertising more difficult. In-app checkout solves for these challenges and evolves the shopper-social connection even further.”

That squares with findings from digital commerce agency Sumo Heavy’s fall report indicating that just 18 percent of people have actually transacted through a social platform, despite “buy buttons” becoming an increasingly common sight on popular apps. Their main concerns? Security (71 percent), data handling (65 percent) and channel legitimacy (64 percent).

Recent moves point to a growing focus on visual search as a key player in the purchase funnel. Google debuted shoppable ads within image search results this month as Pinterest rolled out new features to position its popular platform as a destination for the commerce minded. The movement afoot shows “companies realize that owning the location and medium where users find the products they want to buy is key to getting those users’ dollars,” says CEO and co-founder of Eli Finkelshteyn.

Amazon’s managed to vacuum up more than half of all online sales in the U.S. largely because it’s easy to buy there when 100 million Prime members—not to mention everyone else—has their shipping and billing information saved on the e-commerce platform. Even if inspiration or discovery started on Google or Instagram it tends to end up Amazon or elsewhere, largely because “shoppers hate repeatedly entering their account information on retailers, especially on mobile,” Finkelshteyn added.

By simplifying the path to purchase with a streamlined experience, everyone wins with Instagram Checkout, Finkelshteyn said.

However, with Instagram now assuming the role of retailer, in a sense, the role of the brand could be in flux.

“The new Checkout functionality is another example of reducing friction in the user purchase journey, which is great for customers and good for Instagram,” said Darin Archer, CMO of micro services firm Elastic Path. “Functionalities like Instagram Checkout require in-app engagement on social platforms. Brands need to evolve their strategy in order to be prepared to transact with the customer inside social platforms rather than just curating pretty pictures and links to your store.”

Archer questioned how brands will determine who is purchasing their products via Instagram, noting that “a lot will depend on how much information Instagram chooses to share with them.” He questioned whether their “aging commerce investments can be nimble enough to make the most of this emerging channel.”