Instagram is the destination for visual influencers. Entire pop-up experiences come and go just to serve as backgrounds for selfies; same goes for murals, apartment walls, and other local landmarks. It's become a shopping destination too, with uncanny ads targeted to your tastes.
Until this week, however, it all depended on linking out to a website or app to make a purchase. No longer: Instagram users will now allow purchasing functionality to exist within your photostream, with no interruptions. At first, it will be limited to about 20 national brands, including Burberry, Nike, Zara, and Warby Parker. Users can store their credit card and shipping information within the app to make the process seamless.
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Instagram has always been a good place to find sales, discover new must-haves, and even make a little money yourself. Some critics do have their doubts: Atlantic staff writer Amanda Mull also writes this week that "[b]y making its advertising feel like a service to customers, Instagram and its parent company [Facebook] help disguise their oft-criticized surveillance and data-collection practices as a boon to people's everyday lives, rather than a problem of consumer privacy."
Those concerns are real, and valid. But even if you're concerned about (further) exploitation, there can still be an upside. Whether or not you have any interest in being a microinfluencer, this development should mean increased visibility and opportunity for creators and small business owners. Frictionless online shopping can support independent workers just as much as big corporations. Keep an eye on your photostream to see how things will shake out.