SAN FRANCISCO: Instagram, the Facebook-owned image sharing platform has quietly added a payments feature for some US and UK users of its wildly popular app, which allows users to enter debit or credit card details in order to make purchases without leaving the app.

The feature was first reported by TechCrunch, who drew confirmation from the company that native payments for booking an appointment at a salon, for instance, is now live with users in the US and just some users in the UK.

Originally announced in March of 2017, Instagram had said it would “roll out the ability to book a service with a business directly from their profile.” However, the addition of payments makes the feature a serious new contender in commerce. At first, clients of the dinner reservation app Resy will be equipped with native payments for booking.  

As a broader company, Facebook has been working on payments in its Messenger app since 2013. The move into Instagram constitutes a development of the platform’s shoppable tags which were rolled out in 2016, partnering with storefront firms Shopify and BigCommerce.

Speaking to AdWeek, founder and CEO of social commerce platform MikMak assumes Shopify and BigCommerce will soon be added. “The biggest advertisers in the world do not use these platforms. They use enterprise software, or they have homegrown back ends, or they don’t own their ecommerce and rely on big box retailers.”

Other commentators believe that the removal of that extra layer of uncertainty when clicking through to a third party page will remove friction on the purchase journey. “This native payment feature would take out that extra click and make it more appealing for the brand to capture consumers while they’re scrolling through their feeds”, said Kamiu Lee, CEO of influencer marketing platform Activate.

“Although this could be great for conversion,” Lee added, “typically, brands want to drive traffic to their sites—whether it’s through their own accounts or through influencers—so it will be interesting to see if this will truly take away from the current methods that do drive site traffic, such as ‘swipe up’ and ‘link in bio’.”

Ever in competition with the younger Snapchat, which started testing payments earlier this year with Snapcash now available in the United States.

As of September 2017, Instagram boasted 800m monthly active users according to Statista. Brands have been at the forefront of Instagram’s growth, with the number of sponsored posts doubling in 2017, according to WARC/KLEAR data.

Sourced from TechCrunch, Adweek, Snapchat, Statista; additional content by WARC staff