Instagram is changing the way people buy things
(CNN) -- Instagram is great for sharing photos, interacting with celebrities and discovering trendy looks — everything even Amazon has struggled to perfect. Fashion houses, retailers and big brands see an opportunity.
Until recently, brands have used Instagram mostly as an advertising tool to reach consumers. But Instagram has made a series of moves to become a shopping hub, forcing companies to adapt their digital strategies.
Although Instagram remains a very small player in retail, if the platform disrupts shopping one day, retailers who got blindsided by Amazon years ago want to be ahead of the curve this time.
In March, Instagram introduced a new checkout option that allows customers to purchase products directly off a handful of companies' pages within its app. Previously, shoppers had to leave Instagram when they found a product on the app and buy it off retailers' websites. That was an irritation for customers, analysts say.
Instagram has also added tools that allow customers to shop items on its Stories and Explore pages. And shoppers can buy looks that Kylie Jenner, Kim Kardashian West and other celebrities wear on their Instagram feeds directly through their posts.
Instagram is a useful tool for shoppers to easily discover a curated mix of clothing from brands and celebrities, experts say. This type of hunt can often be frustrating for customers online. That's because browsing to find clothing is challenging on Amazon or retailers' websites and apps, where shoppers often have to scroll through dozens of pages and hundreds of products.
"What the internet hasn't been particularly good at is solving for discovery and window shopping," said Andrew Lipsman, analyst at eMarketer. "Instagram is starting to help fill that need for shoppers."
Instagram's efforts to transform into a shopping hub have enticed some brands. These companies see an untapped market to sell their merchandise directly to their large Instagram followings. Companies like Adidas say they are taking advantage of the new tool by launching new sneakers and clothes on Instagram.
"Our consumer spends a ton of time on Instagram," said Emily Maxey, vice president of marketing at Adidas. "The consumer is using Instagram to research our products, connect with friends to get recommendations about our products, and ultimately buy."
Instagram's strategy resembles the popular social media app WeChat in China, said Lipsman. WeChat, the dominant messaging platform in China, has been successful getting shoppers to purchase off the app.