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Instagram In-app Shopping: How It Works

Instagram In-app Shopping: How It Works

5/8/2019 Editor Annika Remberg Reading time: 4 Minutes
Sahra Al-Dujaili, Social Media Team Lead at OTTO reveals how you can reach your target audience on Instagram, which in-app shopping functions it offers and how you can use them in the way that is best for your brand.

Instagram as a marketing channel

Instagram has developed into one of the most significant social media channels. In June 2018 the platform officially announced that the brand had surpassed the 1 billion user mark. Amongst millennials and generation Z in particular, there is an evident shift from Facebook to Instagram. Instagram is growing faster than Facebook and is showing a level of engagement that is 4-times higher.

Instagram is an app that is becoming increasingly hybrid and covers all the needs of the user. You could say that it’s a kiosk that has everything: fun video content and entertainment via Stories and IGTV, streaming via IG Live, inspiration which is supplemented by bookmarking and shopping. This diversity is also visible in the advertising formats. From Story ads, to Instant Experience, to product-focussed advertisements, Instagram is increasingly covering the entire funnel.

According to a study by YouGov, a large portion of millennials use Instagram to follow famous people (45%) and their favourite brands (42%). Thanks to its visual focus, Instagram is a very personal channel which brands can use to build an emotional connection to their target audience – so it is a valuable marketing channel.

By developing new shopping functions, brands can not only reach their target audience in the upper sales funnel, therefore awakening their interest and attracting attention, but can also obtain direct conversions. Instagram reaches customers at all stages of their customer journey like no other channel can.

Sahra Al-Dujaili For the past two years, Instagram has been experiencing a radical change. From a “high glossy magazine” to a “one stop shop” that offers the user everything: inspiration, entertainment, interaction, products and offers.

Sahra Al-Dujaili, Social Media Team Lead at OTTO

What is Instagram in-app shopping and how does it work?

With Instagram in-app shopping, products can be displayed directly in a post or a story. Through shopping tags, it only takes a few clicks for the user to find the product on the company website where they can then buy it.

The data for the products is stored in Facebook Business Manager. The Instagram business profile is then paired with Facebook and the products can be retrieved and selected in the Instagram app.

Setting up Instagram in-app shopping: How does it work?

So that you can display your product directly in the app, your Instagram profile must be a business profile and it must be linked to a Facebook shop or Facebook product catalogue. The shopping function on Instagram draws the data from Facebook Business Manager. There you can add and manage new products under the setting Post Options > Shop > Products.

So that Instagram can access the data in Facebook Business Manager, you need to link the accounts. To do this you can store your Instagram profile in Business Manager on Facebook. Go to Business Manager in the business settings, go to the menu option on the left and choose “Accounts” > “Instagram Accounts” and click on the button “+ Add”. Enter the data for your Instagram profile and add the desired profile. In order to finally activate the function, nine one-off entries with products must be stored. After that, Instagram in-app shopping is available for your use.

In order to sell products over Instagram, a condition is that they must be physical products. This means that if you sell a service or software, at the moment you do not have the option to offer your product via in-app shopping

Checklist for setting up Instagram in-app shopping

  • Your Instagram profile is listed as a business profile
  • You are selling physical products
  • Add products in Facebook Business Manager or in the product catalogue at
  • Link your Instagram account to Facebook Business Manager

Instagram in-app shopping functions

The shopping functions on Instagram can be divided into three different areas: shopping tags in your feed, the shopping function in Stories and shopping in the Explore feed. We will now show you how you can use these areas in the best way for your business:

Shopping tags in the Instagram feed

Brands can tag their products in video or photo posts, and this works via the article number stored in the data feed. In one click, the user is shown all the products tagged in the post and thus has the option of shopping for entire outfits worn by their favourite influencer, for example.

The posts including the products, or also individual products alone, can be saved and added to a collection. This allows the user to create a wishlist of their favourite products which they can access and make purchases from at any time as they want to. Saved products are automatically saved to a “shopping” collection. It is also possible to create your own collections.

On business profiles, under the “shopping” tab users can also find a list of all the products which have been displayed in the feed. These can thus be found again more easily.

Story ads and tags in Instagram Stories

Today, stories are shared more than posts in the feed. This is because Instagram Stories are perfectly tailored to the needs of the user and above all, as they are only available for 24h (organic) the hurdle to sharing is considered smaller by users. They relate stories in a limited timeframe of max. 15 seconds. In this way, users can catch private glimpses into the lives of their favourite stars and influencers. This is also interesting for brands, as they can thus build up a personal connection to their followers.

Instagram is constantly enriching Instagram Stories with new features. Interactive elements search as question stickers, surveys, emoji sliders or the new quiz function allow the user to take immediate action and interact with the brand. Brands can thereby create a connection with their followers and even gather feedback and inspiration. These native features are gradually being developed further.

Sahra Al-Dujaili For the ad placements, extremely good CPMs and CPVs are currently achievable in the Story, in particular through the Story carousel placement*. Instagram is thus uniting the traditional conflict between reach and relevance through the IG Story.

Sahra Al-Dujaili, Social Media Team Lead at OTTO

*45-second advertising videos which are divided into three Story Cards of 15 seconds each.

Shopping in the Explore feed

In the Explore area, users can discover content from the entire Instagram community. Which content the user sees is based on their previous user activity, such as likes, shares and comments, but also on which accounts they follow.

Alongside the user’s affinity to the topic, the content that appears in the Explore feed also strongly depends on the engagement numbers of the content. Instagram TV formats are gaining increasing levels of exposure here, as video content is consumed most frequently by users. As of recently, the Explore area has also had a “shopping” tab, under which you can find the posts with tagged products. 90 million users are already gaining inspiration there every month.

If you use the following tips, you have a good chance of being featured in the Instagram Explore area:

How to make your content successful in the Explore area:

  • Video is winning
  • IG Live and IGTV are shown particularly often

Promote engagement within your community:

  • Use posts to prompt your users into active interaction
  • Interact with your followers in the comments
  • What topics are they interested in?
  • What is featured on their profiles?
  • Who are they following?

Upcoming Instagram trends

In-app checkout

In the USA, the new in-app checkout function is now being tested by selected brands. Using this feature, the user no longer has to be forwarded to the company website to complete their purchase, but instead can conclude the order process directly on Instagram. The payment is made using PayPal or credit/debit card. The date for a rollout in EMEA is still unclear. Instagram shopping is still an organic format. With the expected rollout of in-app payment, there will surely be more opportunities for advertising.


IGTV (Instagram TV) allows you to publish story videos which are longer than 15 seconds. The feature is still relatively new and there is as yet no option to place ads. However, Sahra sees a huge amount of potential here. In future it is expected that it will be possible to search the contents of IGTV for topics and hashtags. In this way, IGTV can gain still more relevance: at the moment, IGTV is dominated by content such as tutorials, vlogs, interactive interviews and series formats. If you want to jump on the IGTV bandwagon, you can therefore orient your offerings towards these content formats.

Sahra Al-Dujaili IGTV Videos are becomingly increasingly present in the Explore Section. This offers the potential for formats which exceed the attention span in the Story. Don’t forget: content for IGTV must be specially designed in order to offer added value.

Sahra Al-Dujaili, Social Media Team Lead at OTTO

IG shopping for creators / influencers

The shopping function and the option of tagging products will in future also be available to influencers and creators. Currently this feature is already available to a small group.


Instagram is and remains one of the most popular social media channels thanks to its enormous variety. Brands that count 18-34 year-olds amongst their target audience can rarely do without using Instagram as a marketing channel. Thanks to the new features which are constantly being added, Instagram will increase its value even further in the coming years and according to predictions it will soon have overtaken Facebook in terms of active user numbers.

The great thing about the app is that through various in-app shopping functions, brands have a number of opportunities to market their products over Instagram. And that is true even though both millennials and generation Z are becoming increasingly difficult to reach. According to Sahra, some of the reasons for this include the growing aversion to advertisements and the low attention span of 1.7 seconds. With a few tricks you can use exactly these features to your advantage! Those who have not yet made their brand Instagram-ready should do so as soon as possible.

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