In recent months, much of the news around social media has been relatively negative – for platforms and advertisers alike. GDPR, illegal use of data, fake news – all these things have gone some way to masking the improvement or launch of new products for advertisers and agencies.

The area where innovation is most prevalent within social is shopping. Instagram has launched shoppable posts, buyable pins are being supported further on Pinterest, and Facebook’s Marketplace continues to see growth.

Instagram is a particularly exciting development for advertisers. Previously used largely as an opportunity to deliver on brand targets, shoppable posts bring a direct response edge to Instagram’s engaging, visual platform. The posts will allow advertisers to showcase up to five products, click to see more information, and then visit the purchase page via one click to the advertiser mobile site.

The overwhelming benefit for the consumer will be ease of experience. A user will no longer have to navigate from post to site, opening another browser and searching directly. The journey should be shorter, which will also benefit a brand’s online attribution. Where currently a user’s purchase journey may be punctuated by necessary natural or paid search clicks, shoppable formats should give a better indication of the value of paid social and the direct effect on online sales.

Accepting the fact that the format is relatively new, there are some areas of which advertisers need to be wary. For example, product detail and price are the only information pulled in, which means that a user is still required to purchase via the mobile site of a brand – often still a poor and slow experience. Advertisers, therefore, will remain under pressure to convert the traffic from shoppable formats, even if the consumer has already been pushed slightly further down the purchase journey.

Another concern is where a user spends their time online. If users are spending time on Instagram browsing products, they are spending less time on brands’ sites or apps and building engagement. With people spending less time on Facebook, shoppable formats are an intelligent move to increase dwell time within their ecosystem. Although they may not choose to monetise the format directly – outside of their regular ad platform – just having the formats organically will mean advertisers need to spend more within Instagram in order to disrupt the consumer.

Instagram Shoppable Posts feel a long way from the Facebook Buy Button, which seemed to be a rushed initiative to enter the e-commerce arena. Social shopping is a much more mature concept for consumers now and it’s the right time for Instagram to push its own format.

Available soon to test, it’s a perfect opportunity for advertisers to trial social commerce within an environment that is far less cluttered than other feeds. Whether consumers enjoy this way of purchasing, and if it encourages less loyalty and advocacy, remains to be seen, but those first to trial are likely to see the greatest benefit.