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Brands Go Instagram - The Allure of Social Shopping

Window shopping for the tech savvy, a hint at the future, or both? Both.

Old fashioned window shopping, a pastime for many, usually means a casual stroll down Main Street, checking out what the shops have on display, but with no real plan to buy. While some serial shoppers still prefer to keep window shopping an in-person experience, the younger generations are turning to online channels like Instagram to engage with their favorite brands. Instagram, the social photo sharing service owned by Facebook, has truly resonated with Millennials. It gives brands a platform to build a visual personality, and their followers a chance to experience the brand at its absolute best.

Two months ago, Instagram hit 300 million users, and for the first time surpassed Twitter. Forrester dubbed Instagram “the king of social engagement,” as it delivers 58 times more engagement (likes/comments/shares) for brands compared to Facebook, and 120 times more compared to Twitter.

In their 2014 digital strategy report, fashion house Hugo Boss presented Instagram as “the most important visual channel for fashion.” However, calculating an ROI has been nearly impossible, as Instagram’s platform doesn’t allow for direct integration with commerce platforms and doesn’t plan on adding that functionality any time soon (a huge surprise for some in the industry given the rise of mobile commerce).

But 2014 saw some creative, out-of-the-box ways emerge to make Instagram shoppable. Marc Jacobs Beauty built an in-house workaround that triggers a “buy now” email to customers who like an Instagram post that includes a #ShopMJB hashtag. Others like Nordstrom, Charlotte Russe, William-Sonoma, and Michael Kors turned to Curalate’s Like2Buy platform. Like2Buy -- just as the name promises -- allows followers to like a brand’s photos, giving them the opportunity to either purchase or save them for later (see a step-by-step on how Like2Buy works here).

Innovative solutions like Curalate’s are helping brands transform window shopping from the sidewalk to the screen. Instagram continues to play the window-display role, and these new solutions give window-shoppers the ability to “walk” into the store, albeit in a bit of a clunky fashion. While this process is certainly not the poster child for a seamless content, community, and commerce experience, it is a stop gap until Instagram either fully buys-in to the process or another social network comes along that facilitates shopping rather than inhibits it.

In the meantime, brands need to do a better job incorporating user generated content within the customer journey. This goes far beyond the “share now” functionalities we often see on product pages. Contextual, user generated content inspires customers and builds brand advocates, and it’s an easy stitch for attempting to bridge the content, community, and commerce divide. With Acquia Commerce Platform brands can do just that - its powerful content capabilities compliment enterprise-level commerce platforms, helping brands bring the best of both worlds together to create engaging commerce experiences like never before.

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