Warby Parker Aims to Increase Visibility of Shopper Intent and Sales with New Instagram Functionality

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The eyeglasses and sunglasses retailer is among the first to test out Instagram's shopping capability.

“A picture is worth a thousand words” is how the old saying goes. But how much is it worth in terms of revenue? Eyeglasses and sunglasses retailer Warby Parker is getting one step closer to answering this question by being one of the first 20 U.S. brands to test Instagram's new shopping functionality.

The move is a long overdue one for the burgeoning social network. Instagram has always been a destination where brands can have two-way conversations with consumers. But it was not a place that made it easy to sell products. 

When Instragram first launched advertising, CEO Kevin Systrom famously had to approve every ad and there was no way for users to easily purchase the product (since you could not include a link in posts). Users and brands worked around it, producing the Instagram phraseology ("Link in bio"). In fact, eMarketer's recent "Instagram Advertising 2017" report reveals that just 12% of U.S. social media users polled by Cowen and Company this year said they use Instagram or its owner Facebook while shopping for products. So, it was only a matter of time before the company rolled out proper ecommerce opportunities. 

Warby Parker's marketing team has felt this pain acutely. When they post pictures of its sunglasses or eyeglasses on Instagram, it often receives inquiries about the featured frames, says Dave Gilboa, cofounder and co-CEO. While Gilboa says the team responds to these inquiries as quickly as possible and posts non-clickable URLs to the frames' product pages, these responses are not immediate, creating “clunky” and “cumbersome” customer experiences that can result in lost interest or sales.

“Consumers today just have shorter attention spans than any time in history,” he says, “and they're constantly bombarded by messages.... So if you have a consumer who is engaged, who is really interested in either a piece of content or a product, you want to make sure that you're able to serve that customer in the moment. Otherwise, there are just so many ways that they can become distracted and focus on other things.”

Instagram is not only a place for the company to push promotional and inspirational content, but it's also a space for consumers to upload photos and videos of themselves trying on frames to receive feedback from their peers and Warby Parker's stylists. Warby Parker even uses the channel as a customer-service tool, often answering questions customers post in the comments section or through direct messaging.

“We see a lot of engagement through this platform,” Gilboa says, “both in terms of content that we're posting...[and in terms of content that our customers are posting] that they want us to react to or that they're looking for feedback from the rest of the Instagram community.”

With more of Warby Parker's traffic and sales coming from mobile devices each month, Gilboa wanted to simplify the shopper experience on the platforms that customers frequent. So when executives from Instagram approached him about being a launch partner for its new shopping capabilities, he seized the opportunity.

Here's how the new shopping features work: All shoppable images seen on Warby Parker's Instagram account contain a “tap to view products” icon in the bottom, left corner. Once consumers tap this icon, Instagram highlights which products within the image are available for purchase and display their basic product information, such as the name of the item and price. Brands can tag up to five products. Consumers can then tap the item of interest to view additional product details. If consumers are ready to buy, they can tap the “shop now” link and transfer to Warby Parker's website to complete their transaction.

Gilboa says the new feature caters to both impulse buyers and those who take more time to convert. Prescription eyeglasses buyers, for instance, are more likely to take multiple days to place an order, he says, while non-prescription sunglasses buyers are more likely to buy on the spot. By providing additional product information, Warby Parker can educate both customers and answer their common inquiries. And if they're ready to buy, Warby Parker can enable this purchase and accurately trace sales back to Instagram, an often complicated task for marketers.

“Instagram has always been a platform that we view as really valuable in terms of driving engagement,” Gilboa says, “but it's always been pretty tricky to understand what it means from a sales perspective because there aren't links that people can click through.... Here, there's a very direct link where people are literally clicking through, and hopefully, a lot of those people will end up transacting.”

The shopping features also provide marketers with new engagement metrics. Before, Gilboa says he could track which products customers liked and which videos they watched. Now, he has deeper insight into their intent by looking at metrics like which tagged products people clicked on or how many people clicked the “shop now” link. 

He was unsure if the pre-populated content for the tagged products could be updated in real-time, such as when a promoted product is out of stock and is no longer available.

Update November 7: An Instagram spokesperson confirmed that the product details page isn't currently tied to the brand's website in real-time because the companies testing the functionality provide the Shop Now link destination, as well as the pricing information.

“[We'll] have much richer funnel metrics than we're able to capture today,” Gilboa says.

According an Instagram blog post announcing the features, the shopping capabilities will roll out this week for official testing. 

Image and video source: Instagram

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