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Instagram Live Shopping: Everything You Need to Know

Online Instagram shopping guide for retailers in 2022. Best practices for live shopping online platforms with pros and cons.
GhostRetail

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. 

What is Instagram Live Shopping?

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.

When should I use Instagram Live Shopping?

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.

Alternatives to Instagram Live Shopping

With the drawbacks clearly laid out - Instagram Live Shopping being limited to your Instagram followers in the U.S. - 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.

Self-Hosted Livestreams

There are several benefits to bringing live streaming in-house with a white label application. These include:

  • Clearer data: Avoid the walled gardens of limited data provided by social platforms and actually understand in-depth buyer behavior during a live shopping event.
  • Owned audience: The risk of any social platform is that as a business, you ultimately don't 'own' that audience in the way you own an email list, and are essentially at the mercy of the social platform to engage with that audience. Bringing customers into a white label solution is a way of ensuring you can maintain contact and drive further conversion actions beyond a single livestream event.
  • Exclusivity: According to Statista, consumers in 2022 said the main benefit of livestream shopping was to access exclusive discounts. While promotions can be part of a public-facing livestream shopping event, they are hardly exclusive if anyone joining can access them.
  • Advanced functionality: Beyond the limited data provided by social media platforms, there's also limited functionality compared to white label live stream shopping solutions. Platforms specifically designed for live shopping tend to have more features that will entice shoppers to spend - and can be cross-streamed to social platforms anyway.
  • Convert shoppers: The biggest gap in social media shopping solutions is many customers just don't feel comfortable checking out, whether it's from lack of information or functionality. A self-hosted livestream can give shoppers that additional insight they need to build confidence. Or better yet - check out.

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.

How do I set up Instagram Live Shopping for my business?

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:

  1. Open the Instagram app, tap “Your Story” in the top left of the screen.
  2. Scroll to the right and select “Live”.
  3. Tap the shopping bag icon on the left, then tag the products you want to be featured.
  4. Once that’s all set up, tap the “Live” button to start the Instagram Live session.
  5. During the broadcast, tap the shopping bag icon then tap “Pin” to pin the products you wish to feature. These items will appear as a tagged product during and after the livestream.
  6. Don’t forget to save your video to your profile so shoppers can continue to buy your products after the live broadcast is over. Do this by tapping “Download” and then create an Instagram post or Instagram story  on your Instagram profile to give followers another chance to tune in.

What’s happening with Facebook Live Shopping?

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.

How to convert more customers using Instagram Live Shopping

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.

6 Best Practices for Instagram Live Shopping

  1. Increase viewership by inviting influencers to co-host your livestream. With Instagram’s live rooms feature, the host can actually invite three or more partner brands or creator accounts to the livestream. (Once you’ve started your live video select “Rooms”, choose a co-host, and tap “Invite”.) Influencer marketing is a natural fit for livestream shopping events - after all, influencers are on their home base.
  2. Share still images and videos during the broadcast. You’re able to share other visuals like photos and videos during your broadcast as an overlay. This is a great way to highlight high-quality content during the livestream.
  3. Use it for your product launch. Instagram is widely recognized as being the platform where online shoppers discover new products. Why not ride that wave by using the app for your product launch?
  4. Give them a one-to-one option. Offering one-to-one support bridges the gap from discovery to purchase, by giving shoppers personalized guidance in a face-to-face setting as the next natural step after watching the livestream. Drop a link or call to action during your livestream for shoppers to get connected with one-on-one personal shoppers as needed during or after the event. You can even double tap on your influencer marketing strategy, by letting shoppers connect to an influencer ambassador on random calls.
  5. Have a promotional plan. In order to get viewers, you need to promote your live stream well ahead of time, and effectively. Use your best marketing tactics and put together a promo plan for your livestream event.
  6. Do a live demo. Live video is the perfect place to educate your audience by giving them an up-close and personal product demo or tutorial. It’s also an excellent opportunity to create educational-based content that’s not too sales-y.

Drawbacks for retailers using Instagram Live Shopping

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.

On-site live shopping vs social media live shopping: which is better?

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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