Curalate, a visual analytics provider, will be launching Like2Buy, a product designed to help brands monetize their Instagram marketing efforts, on Thursday. Monetizing these efforts has been a challenge in the past because of the network's unique content publishing setup. The social network does not allow brands (or any users) to include links alongside the photos they post, and if a link is included in a comment or photo description, it is not clickable and doesn't enable navigation to the intended address. Curalate's Like2Buy, however, overcomes this barrier by leveraging the one place on Instagram where links are allowed—inside the user's profile section—to make the entire feed shoppable.
"Instagram has been very strict about links, which is a problem for brands that ultimately want consumers to not only like the images they share, but also purchase the products in those images," Apu Gupta, CEO and cofounder of Curalate, says. "The only time they allow a link to be included is in that small 'About' section of a user's profile, where they can write a sentence or two about themselves. We're helping brands use [that space] to convert Instagram engagement into revenue."
From the consumer's perspective, the tool is easy to use. Every image that a brand shares is accompanied by a comment indicating that the photo is shoppable and directing the consumer to click on the Like2Buy link in the brand's profile section. Once the link is clicked, the consumer is taken directly to a Web page where he or she can scroll through every image that the brand has shared on Instagram and click on the images to purchase the items through the brand's e-commerce site. "For consumers, it's quick and seamless," Gupta says, "and for brands, it's critical."
Engagement on Instagram has been steadily growing, and when compared to Twitter or Facebook engagement, the rates are sky-high. "If you look at the engagement rate side by side, Instagram's is 120 times greater than Twitter's and fifty-eight times greater than Facebook's," Gupta says, citing a recent Forrester report. But converting that engagement into something more valuable than vanity metrics had been difficult because purchasing an item required consumers to leave Instagram and find the product elsewhere, making the link between a social engagement and a purchase untraceable. "Like2Buy makes this link very clear," Gupta says.
Nordstrom, an early adopter of Like2Buy, has already implemented the tool on the brand's Instragram feed. "We continue to hear from customers that they want speed and convenience incorporated into all the places they shop—including our social platforms," Bryan Galipeau, social media director at Nordstrom, said in a statement. "We connect with more than 500,000 customers on Instagram by posting items we hope they find inspirational, beautiful, and fun. Like2Buy enhances the experience even more for customers who want to take the next step and learn more about the great fashion we're featuring or even make a purchase." Several of Curalate's other clients, including Target and retail apparel company Charlotte Russe, plan to deploy the tool later this week.