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Instagram users will be able to buy from brands on platform

The Guardian logo The Guardian 20/03/2019 Alex Hern
The new in-app retail experience will use customers’ details stored on Instagram. © PA The new in-app retail experience will use customers’ details stored on Instagram.

Facebook is moving into retail, as the company partners with more than twenty brands to allow Instagram users to buy clothes, accessories and make-up on the social network, all without leaving the app.

“Checkout on Instagram” is a step up from previous shopping features on the service, which ultimately pushed buyers to a brand’s own web page to complete transactions. Users were then required to enter payment and shipping details, and often sign up for new user accounts, prompting many to bail on the transaction before completing it.

Now, Facebook has built an entirely in-app retail experience. Users tap on an item they want to buy, select further details such as sizing and colour, and then head to a payment screen where they can pay with the credit card and shipping information they have stored on Instagram.

At launch, the new feature will be used by brands including Nike, Uniqlo, Kylie Cosmetics and H&M, but is limited to US customers. Instagram has not revealed how much its cut of the purchase is, and the company did not reply to a request for comment.

HONG KONG, CHINA - 2018/12/06: The logo of Instagram is seen in a smartphone. (Photo by Alvin Chan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images) © 2018 SOPA Images HONG KONG, CHINA - 2018/12/06: The logo of Instagram is seen in a smartphone. (Photo by Alvin Chan/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images)

Instagram’s shift toe-commerce suggests a new source of revenue for the company and a new way to encourage users to enter their payment information, paving the way for Facebook to launch other paid-for services. The shopping and checkout features are not available in adverts and can only be used for posts on the newsfeed and on Instagram Stories, where they will disappear after 24 hours.

Checkout on Instagram arrives two weeks after the Facebook chief executive, Mark Zuckerberg, announced his intention to shift his company towards a new, “privacy focused” model.

The focus of the announcement was on Zuckerberg’s decision to encrypt communications between Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp users, a move which prevents Facebook from scanning the resulting chats in order to further personalise advertising on the site (although the company is still able to use “metadata” about conversations, such as who was messaged and when, for such purposes).

The company has said it will not share user information with the brands that sell on the platform, except that required to make the purchase. But retailers value the ability to keep in contact with customers and that hurdle could slow take-up of the feature – as could the price to the seller.

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