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Instagram will now let you buy products directly inside the app

No more clicking out to a retailer’s website.

Women carrying shopping bags in Germany. Andreas Rentz/Getty Images for City Outlet Bad Muenstereifel

Instagram is making it a lot simpler for people to buy things they come across in their feed.

Beginning Tuesday, when people decide to buy a product from a brand or retailer on Instagram, they’ll be able to pay for that product inside the app instead of leaving Instagram to finish the transaction on a retailer’s website. Instagram will keep a small cut of the sale for facilitating the purchase, and it’s partnering with PayPal to process the payments.

The idea is simple: The fewer steps it takes to complete a purchase, the more likely people will complete the process.

“I love shopping, and it sucks on mobile,” Ashley Yuki, the Instagram product exec who is in charge of shopping, said in an interview with Recode. Between jumping from apps like Instagram to a retailer’s website, to entering credit card and shipping info, the number of steps it takes to buy something online is just too cumbersome, she says. “I think people abandon [shopping] flows now. I know I do. You just kind of give up.”

That’s what Instagram hopes to solve with its new checkout feature. Users will have a credit card and shipping address stored on the app, which means purchases will require a few taps, not a few minutes.

Instagram’s new checkout flow.
Instagram’s new checkout flow.

Historically, Instagram has been content to serve as a traffic cop when it comes to shopping — it will show people products through a feature the company calls “shopping tags,” but then it directs them to a retailer facilitating the transaction. Vishal Shah, Instagram’s now head of product, told Recode in 2016 that it didn’t want to be “in your face” about shopping.

But that thinking has evolved as shopping on Instagram has gotten bigger. Yuki says 130 million people look at product tags each month inside the app, up from just 90 million in September. Shopping simply feels like too big of an opportunity to pass up, she says, especially considering no one has really nailed mobile shopping yet. “There’s just so much potential,” Yuki added.

Instagram isn’t just doing this out of concern for your online shopping woes. There are benefits to Instagram, too, including potential revenue.

The company will take a cut of each transaction, what it’s calling a “selling fee.” Instagram won’t say how much it’s going to take, but even a small fee could add to the company’s business growth — an incentive considering parent company Facebook’s revenue growth has been slowing. Even if the fees don’t provide much at all, it’s likely Instagram will eventually let retailers promote these shopping posts (though they can’t at launch). If indeed people are more likely to buy thanks to the direct checkout feature, those ads could be lucrative.

There’s also a data element. Any information collected as part of a transaction could be used to supplement Facebook’s advertising business, Yuki confirmed. That probably doesn’t matter now — Instagram likely already knows what products you are buying online based on its third-party data collection — but collecting that data right inside the Facebook app is even simpler and potentially more valuable in that it cuts out the middle man.

Eventually, Yuki would love Instagram to become a de facto shopping destination: a service that brings you all the brands and personalization you want, but that doesn’t require you to download and navigate a bunch of different retailer apps.

“It drives me nuts that I have to download like 10 different retailer’s apps and can’t see them all cross-cut with each other the way I would at a mall if I was just walking around,” she said. “It just takes so much time. It’s not fun.”

Instagram recently started putting products inside the “explore” section of the app, where users can search for new people and brands to follow. The Verge has also reported that Instagram is building a standalone shopping app, though it hasn’t been launched and the company hasn’t confirmed it is happening. One argument against that idea is that asking people to download a separate app just to shop might defeat the purpose.

Yuki didn’t say yes to a standalone shopping app, but she didn’t say no, either.

“There are a lot of steps that come before you take that kind of step,” she said when asked, “especially in this world where people are already coming to Instagram in the existing product to shop.”

The new checkout feature will only work with a limited group of about 20 partner retailers and brands to start, including Burberry, Michael Kors, Nike, and Warby Parker. It will roll out to people in the US over the coming weeks.

This article originally appeared on

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