NEW YORK: Instagram, the photo-sharing social network, is reported to be developing a standalone shopping app in order to expand into e-commerce.

According to The Verge, which spoke to two people familiar with the matter, users will be able to browse goods from those merchants they follow and purchase items directly within the app.

Instagram already offers shopping options, including “Shop Now” links to a business’s website and product stickers in Instagram Stories

While no date for a separate app launch was divulged – and the Verge noted that it could still be cancelled – there is a compelling logic to such a move: more than 25m businesses have Instagram accounts and four in five users follow at least one business, according to Instagram data.

A standalone app could be a “dedicated home” for shopping activity – 2018 research from e-commerce consultancy Salmon shows that 29% of millennials in the UK and US use social media to actively purchase products – and open up new revenue streams as Instagram develops new tools for merchants.

“Instagram’s proposed expansion into e-commerce is really just the tip of the iceberg for many brands looking to tap into social media platforms’ younger audiences,” said Patrick Munden, Global Head of Retail, Salmon, noting that Amazon had partnered with Snapchat for much the same reasons.

And whether the reported app is deployed separately or integrated into the main app, he argued that “it represents another opportunity for brands to sell to a new audience and another weapon in their balanced-approach arsenal which should span marketplaces, retailers and their own websites”.

“As social media becomes ubiquitous for all manners of communication, inspiration and purchasing, no brand will want to be left behind in the race to sell to this increasingly important young consumer audience,” Munden added.

Sourced from The Verge, Salmon, Instagram; additional content by WARC staff