Instagram Live Shopping: Everything You Need to Know in 2023
Online Instagram shopping guide for retailers in 2023. Understand how Instagram Live Shopping worked, why it was sunset, and what you can use instead.
Have you ever attended a live-streamed shopping event online? Or maybe jumped on a live chat to get some help with an online purchase? The intersection of online shopping and interacting with brands in real time is a relatively new trend, but it’s one that’s taking off fast. There are already a handful of ways that leading brands can connect with customers via live broadcasts or chats. Instagram is at the forefront of this movement by offering a shoppable video feature called Instagram Live Shopping. Having already had success with features for retailers like shopping tags and the Shop tab, Instagram itself has reported promising statistics-44% of people surveyed in a 2020 Instagram Trends Research Study used Instagram to shop weekly.
Update for 2023: Instagram Live Shopping was officially sunset in March 2023, not too far on the heels of parent company Meta sunsetting Facebook Live Shopping in fall 2022. While brands can still host livestream events on Instagram, the ability for consumers to transact during a livestream within Instagram itself has been discontinued. This article may be helpful in understanding how Instagram Live Shopping worked, and what other live commerce alternatives there are to Instagram Live Shopping now that it has been discontinued.
According to Instagram, with the live shopping feature retailers can “sell products directly from the app, instantly interact with viewers, [and] engage with potential customers in real time,” using their live video broadcast called Instagram Live. Instagram Live Shopping essentially turns Instagram Live into a shoppable video. Meaning that ecommerce can happen directly via the app during the broadcast, or, retailers can save the videos to their profile and customers can come back to them later. Products from the video are tagged at the bottom of the screen, both during the live broadcast and on the saved videos, making purchasing easy for viewers. Viewers can even submit questions and comments to be answered during the livestream. Sounds cool, right? Learn more about social media shopping in our Ultimate Guide to Social Media Shopping and Livestream Shopping Events.
Instagram Live Shopping is a one-to-many live stream shopping app, meaning that the broadcaster is reaching many viewers at the same time during live shopping events, the feature is great for big brands with massive audiences. Live broadcast adds a human element to the online shopping experience, something that’s often missed during the online buying journey. It's worth noting that Instagram Live Shopping is essentially free to run (at least for now), which makes it an appealing option for small business owners that are just getting started with live shopping events.
However, there are a few things you should know about Instagram Live Shopping before going full force in this direction. First, like with any one-to-many live shopping solution, Instagram Live Shopping works best for generating top of funnel awareness. It's a way to get in front of customers that may already be on Instagram, and ideally create some buzz around a product drop.
One major caveat as of right now: The Instagram Live Shopping feature is only available for U.S.-based users with a business Instagram account, with an Instagram Shop and Instagram Checkout, and only U.S.-based users can shop on it.
Also keep in mind that Instagram Live Shopping is relatively limited in that it's only for your Instagram followers, and only for en masse communication.
Finally, according to Statista, 16% of consumers said their biggest challenge when shopping one-to-many livestreams is that important information such as cost, shipping times, and return policies, are either unclear or downplayed. This suggests an opportunity to take the top-of-funnel awareness built from using a platform like Instagram Live Shopping and converting it into actual interest and consideration.
A one-on-one shopping platform can provide a more tailored, personal approach to live shopping. Shoppers can get their questions answered, browse your site, and feel more confident in making a purchase.
Now that Instagram Live Shopping has been sunset, the next question might be, what other alternatives to Instagram Live Shopping are there?
Here's a few options if you're looking for other platforms to host a live shopping event.
Other Social Platforms
Have a bigger social following off Instagram? Many other social platforms are getting into live shopping as well, including Pinterest, TikTok, and YouTube. Notably Facebook Live Shopping, Meta's other chief social shopping channel, was discontinued in October 2022, signalling another risk of using social media platforms for 100% of your livestream shopping efforts: Even if you build up an audience on one platform, you are at the mercy of the platform as to whether they continue to offer that service. Also note that the same drawbacks of Instagram Live Shopping may exist: Checkout capabilities are limited, and shoppers often don't feel like they have enough information to check out.
There are several benefits to bringing live streaming in-house with a white label application. These include:
One-on-One Live Shopping
Livestream shopping, as mentioned, is great for top of funnel awareness and leveraging an existing audience. It's less great at taking shoppers all the way through to purchase. A helpful way to think of livestream social shopping is that it's like an interactive commercial, getting people 'in the door'. Live one-to-one shopping is like offering those shoppers some assistance, just like they would if they were speaking with an associate in store. A 1:1 live shopping platform connects customers with an associate over video, on demand, right when they need it most, whether inquiring about sizing, returns, shipping, or needing to compare multiple products.
Note that offering one-on-one live shopping is not necessarily an either/or with platforms like Instagram Live Shopping. Instead, you may want to use an Instagram livestream shopping event (or a white labeled livestream, for the reasons stated above) to drive customers to your site to hook up with a 1:1 live associate as needed.
If you're convinced Instagram Live Shopping is a place you want to start with live stream shopping, getting set up with Instagram Live Shopping is relatively easy. First, the business needs to have a Facebook or Instagram shop, have Instagram Checkout enabled, and make sure products are in the product catalog three days prior to the livestream. Once that’s done, retailers can launch their first live shopping broadcast by following these steps:
Instagram and Facebook both belong to the same parent company, Meta. As such, oftentimes the two social platforms will share feature sets, or test out features on one platform that have already shown success elsewhere. That was the case with both Facebook Live Shopping and Instagram Live Shopping - until recently.
Facebook announced via blog that they were shutting down its own live shopping feature as of October 1, 2022. Facebook Live will still be available for broadcasting live events, but products will no longer be able to be tagged in these videos. The Facebook Live Shopping feature had only become available in 2018. The company claims the move is so that they can focus on Reels and short-form videos, encouraging users to experiment with Instagram Reels and Reels Ads, as well as Instagram story ads. Ditto for ads run on behalf of your Facebook Page. Brands can still set up a Facebook Shop, they just can't livestream via it. It’s likely no coincidence that Meta wants everyone to head over to Instagram to set up an Instagram Shop and start using the Instagram Live Shopping feature there, instead.
Interestingly enough, according to Tech Crunch, “Facebook isn’t the only digital giant looking to scale back its live shopping plans, as it was recently revealed that TikTok has reportedly dropped plans to expand its live e-commerce “TikTok Shop initiative to the U.S.” So what does all this mean for the future of social-based livestream shopping apps? Is Instagram Shopping here to stay? We’re not too sure. According to this Forbes article, shoppable video is definitely here to stay-it just doesn’t necessarily need to depend on live streaming via social media apps to be successful.
Retailers that are using Instagram Live Shopping have plenty of opportunities to reach customers and drive interest in sales. But as mentioned above, unless you’re actually based in the U.S., shoppers can’t actually check out during an Instagram Live Shopping event...that is, if they’re even prepared to pull the trigger on a purchase.
One of the biggest drawbacks is the one-to-many format of the social shopping livestream. While shoppers can submit questions and comments during the broadcast, there’s no real way to get one-on-one attention if they need further guidance, as the broadcaster is likely reaching thousands of people at once (maybe even tens of thousands for big brand product launches).
Our pro tip for converting more customers who love live shopping on Instagram? Couple your Instagram efforts with some one-to-one shopping support. Highlighting you have live one-to-one shopping support can be an effective way to drive shoppers from the discovery phase of a livestream event to the purchase phase by getting their questions answered and delivering personalized recommendations.
It’s important to consider any risks, drawbacks, limitations, or challenges before diving into your Instagram Live Shopping strategy. No ecommerce or social media tool is going to be perfect, and you're at the whim of the social media platform developer as to what shopping features are available and on what timeline. Here are the main disadvantages of offering livestream shopping through Instagram.
Technical glitches. As with using any piece of technology, sometimes things go wrong. Always have a plan in place to deal with technical issues during your livestream.
It isn’t really a two-way communication tool. This style of livestream is a one-to-many format, and although you can submit questions and comments, it doesn’t truly offer an opportunity for one-to-one interactions.
It isn’t yet offered outside the U.S. If you’re a retailer looking to target countries outside of the U.S., this probably isn’t the platform for you to double down on.
Only basic analytics are offered. Insights for live videos are available via Instagram, however, you can only view the number of comments, shares, accounts reached and peak concurrent viewers.
Want to read some cool examples of big brands that have successfully leveraged live shopping? Check out 7 Brilliant Live Shopping Examples from Real Brands.
It can be hard to differentiate between the many different live shopping formats and decide which is best for your social commerce strategy. It really depends on the retailer and their target audience. But it’s important to point out that there are options outside of the one-to-many social media event experience. There are more curated personal shopper experiences out there, where customers still get the convenience of researching and browsing products online on their own schedule, but get the trusted guidance they’ve come to expect from shopping in-store. This is called on-site live shopping or live video co-shopping.
With live video co-shopping experience, live shopping associates can range from retail employees to personal shoppers to brand superfans. They interact in a one-to-one live setting, on-demand, when the customer needs or wants to-whether they’re looking for help, need some guidance, or are about to make a purchase.
One-to-one live video co-shopping offers a much more personalized experience. It leads the customer on a thoughtful buying journey helping them to make the right purchase decisions-reducing the number of returns and helping to build brand loyalty.
We see a place for both one-to-many and one-to-one live video shopping, but it’s worth noting that there are always going to be drawbacks to exclusively leveraging a social media one-to-many livestream shopping service. Not the least of which is the fact it could be discontinued by Meta (or whatever social channel you’re experimenting with) at any time.
GhostRetail offers an unparalleled owned live video co-shopping experience, one truly designed to simulate what it’s like to be in a store with an actual associate. Discover 30+ use cases for live video shopping on your ecommerce site.
Ready to start creating an exceptional live shopping experience your customers will return to again and again? Book a demo with GhostRetail today and see the magic of live video co-shopping for yourself.
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