Next week the social network will launch a test with 20 retailers that enables shoppers to learn more about the items they view within a post.

Will more information in retailers’ Instagram posts lead to more sales? That’s the question the Facebook Inc.-owned social network will look to answer starting next week when it launches a test with 20 U.S.-based retailers, including Target Corp., No. 22 in the Internet Retailer 2016 Top 1000, J. Crew Group Inc. (No. 49) and BaubleBar Inc. (No. 651). The test will enable those brands to share more detailed posts that make it easier for Instagram users to review, learn about and consider the items that interest them.

Each of those brands’ posts will have a “tap to view” icon in the photo’s bottom-left corner. When tapped, a tag will appear on various products in the post—showcasing up to five products and their prices. When a user selects a tag, it will open a new, detailed view of the product. If the consumer taps the “Shop Now” link from the product details view, she’ll go directly to that product on the merchant’s website.

“This functionality will bring important product information to the consumer earlier in the journey, all without having to leave the Instagram app to search,” writes Instagram in a blog post.

During the initial testing phase, Instagram will limit the new features to a group of U.S. consumers who use iOS devices. It plans to expand the test to explore how consumers respond to retailers sharing product recommendations, the ways it showcases products, whether users save content to enable them to take an action later, as well as how consumers around the globe respond to the expanded content.

“We want to understand how to deliver the most seamless shopping experience for consumers and businesses on Instagram, and ultimately mobile,” Instagram writes.


The test appears to acknowledge that most shoppers are much more likely to discover and explore brands, products and services on social media than they are to buy, says Jessica Liu, senior analyst, B2C marketing at Forrester Research Inc.

“Social networks and brands have a long hill to climb before users become accustomed to transacting directly on social media,” she says. “They’ll need to train users to consider social networks as a point of purchase by making the transition from discover to explore to buy stages seamless and consistent. Instagram appears to understand this and is taking a good first step by allowing users to spend more time in the discover stages [when a shopper learns about and researches a product or service] before naturally leading them to the ultimate decision: buy.”

Instagram’s test is the latest in a long-running array of efforts by retailers, social networks and other platforms to try to figure out how to boost mobile shoppers’ conversion rates, which significantly lag desktop devices. Last holiday season, for example, desktop shoppers had a 3.5% average conversion rate, compared with tablet shoppers’ 2.8% and smartphone shoppers’ 1.3% rates, according to Adobe Digital Insights.