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Retail Keeps Getting More Social — Even As Amazon Stumbles

Social media is taking a lot of fire these days, whether the issue is “fake news” or data privacy or just the time-wasting tendencies of many users. Regulation might be in the future. But social media is also driving retail innovation, and those trends are going to help shape commerce in the all-important fourth quarter and beyond into the 2020s.

One recent example of the intersection of social media and retail comes from Facebook-owned Instagram. In its continued effort to expand its eCommerce offerings, Instagram has launched a new feature that will allow a user to be notified when a product becomes available for purchase, according to reports.

The feature is available through just-added stickers in Instagram Stories and tags in a person’s feed, and can be set with details like the date and product details.

Streetwear company Chinatown Market President Dan Altmann said the new feature is an intuitive way to do business.

“Drops are a key part of streetwear and we’re excited to evolve the industry together with Instagram. From going live on Instagram to designing shirts with our fans to posting Stories around the office, Instagram is the main place we connect with our fans,” he said. “We were excited to jump on checkout and the response has been incredible with our first drop selling out in seconds. Now, the ability to set reminders will allow our fans to be notified and make the process even more seamless than it already is.”

Big Reach

Instagram has huge reach — upwards of 1 billion people use the app every month and 500 million use it daily. More and more people are using it to shop, as well. More than a third of users have bought something using their phone, and they’re 70 percent more likely to buy something than people who don’t use the social media site.

“With more of these shopping moments happening on Instagram, we wanted to make it easier for people to discover and follow upcoming product launches from brands and creators they love,” Instagram said in a blog post announcing the feature. “The product launch sticker in Instagram Stories and product launch tag in feed lets people set reminders for the launch date, preview product details and buy as soon as a product is available without leaving Instagram.”

Direct sales company Younique also provides an example of another approach. The company, which has been pivotal in its approach to social media marketing, has launched an augmented reality (AR) makeup trying-on tool, according to a release. The tool uses facial analysis and bridges the gap, the company said, between online and in-person shopping. Its aim is to answer the timeless question of “will this look good on me?” while showcasing Younique’s premium brand of cosmetic accessories. Younique presenters will also be able to recommend shades and colors for customers using the tool.

Amazon Stumbles

As that all happens, however, shopping social network Amazon Spark has reportedly recently left Amazon’s apps and the internet. The feature, two years old, reportedly aimed to connect the gap between socializing and online shopping, Mashable reported.

Through the service, users of Amazon Prime could put photos on a feed that was similar to Instagram that had a built-in click-to-purchase functionality. The outlet, however, reported that the eCommerce retailer “clearly still hopes shoppers will broadcast the things they buy” through a function dubbed #FoundItOnAmazon. It said the function appears to be a cross between the Explore tab of Instagram as well as Pinterest. The page amazon.com/spark sends users to a page for #FoundItOnAmazon.

Even with such a failure, you expect more retail innovation from social media.

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