How Instagram is reshaping buyer behaviour

6 January 2020

With more than a billion worldwide active users, Instagram has become one of the most popular social media platforms in the world. Despite the fact that Instagram was created predominantly as a photo capturing and sharing application, shoppers are increasingly turning to Instagram for online purchases. In fact, 83 percent of Instagram users indicate that they discover new products and services on Instagram and 80 percent admit that they have purchased a product they saw on the app.

Consequently, Instagram is continuously developing new features and tools that provide brands with endless opportunities to influence and reach consumers before, during, and after purchase. 

Advertising tool to online shopping hub

Over the years, Instagram has become a mecca for exploring new trends and discovering new products as the algorithm works tirelessly to deliver users content they want to see, based on what they have chosen to already see.  The only issue? Trying to buy the new product you just fell in love with. 

The answer to this issue came in March 2019 when Instagram released a feature that allowed users to go directly from an Instagram post to the corresponding product page on the retailers website. Users were able to go from product inspiration to product information within just a few taps. 


Now, this was great until users realised that after they had purchased their product, they had to navigate their way back to the Instagram platform to continue their browsing. Frustrating, right?

*Enter Instagram Checkout*
The nice folks at Instagram heard the calls of their users and released another feature to their shoppable posts - the Instagram checkout. Now, Instagram users can discover new products, select from various options such as size or colour, and proceed directly through to payment without ever leaving the Instagram app. Once users have completed their first order, their information is securely stored for convenience next time they shop and they will even receive notifications about shipment and delivery directly within the Instagram app. 
Instagram, 2019

The Ariana Grande effect

Modern consumers, and particularly those within the demographic using Instagram, are influenced by what I term the Ariana Grande 7 Rings effect ("I see it, I like it, I want, I got it") .  For those non-millennials in the audience, what this means is that when it comes to impulse shopping, buyers do not want  to jump through hoops to make a purchase once they have seen something they want.  With Instagram checkout, there is no searching through the retailers site to find the product they just saw on Instagram, there is no navigating annoying pop-ups, and there is no chance to realise that maybe they don't actually need to make this impulse purchase. 
Instagram has made impulse shopping easier than ever with zero friction between "I see it," to "I got it."
Deutche Bank has tipped shopping from Instagram to be a $10 billion market by 2021 as the platform allows brands to dazzle buyers beyond their own websites and brick-and-mortar stores by offering the chance to natively shop within the Instagram platform. 

Ethical concerns with Instagram Checkout 

Surveys have shown that increased Instagram use is associated with feelings of inadequacy and low self-esteem,  and it is not surprising that impulse buying is connected to these same emotions. Consumer psychologist Kit Yarrow, explains it like this: 

If you're on a diet, you don't go into a bakery. If you're trying to save money, you don't go shopping. But now that shopping comes to us, it's like having a plate of donuts sitting in front of you at every moment.


When it is put this way, it is hard to tell whether Instagram's latest feature is the answer to the modern consumers needs, or is preying on the impulses of vulnerable users. Either way, it is safe the assume that s-commerce is an emerging phenomenon that is both responding to and shaping changes in buyer behavior.

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