Jun. 2016

The Future of “Buy Buttons”

“Buy Buttons” are click-to-buy features recently introduced to social media platforms including Instagram and Pinterest. They automatically redirect a user to the advertiser’s ecommerce site to purchase a product they had just seen. Instagram has a positive attitude about buy buttons on their platform. On the blog section of their official website, they explain their goal to help advertisers, businesses, and the community by creating an easier way to purchase products and services. Instagram plans on giving all businesses the opportunity to target the right people by working to make Instagram advertising available through an Instagram Ads API and Facebook ad buying interfaces. Social media platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are optimistic about the potential of these buy buttons but today, the majority of their users are not.

Social Media and Consumerism are two big things that people concentrate on in today’s technologically driven society. Acquisition of “new stuff” has become a marker of one’s success and social media platforms like Instagram and Snapchat serve as a platform where people satisfy their needs to display their delight and happiness. Despite this strong connection between social media and consumerism, attempts made to merge the two together have been unsuccessful so far.


Being an avid user of Instagram and a frequent e-commerce shopper, the idea of being able to “kill two birds with one stone” appeals to me. If I had the option to shop and browse through Instagram and Pinterest at the same time, I think I would really enjoy that. So what are the problems with getting these buy buttons working efficiently? Is it technical? Is it because people are heavily against the idea of combining the two spheres of e-commerce and social media? Is it because it is not yet well known and accepted because people simply don’t know that these options exist?

This made me think that there are two types of people. People who like the status quo, they like things as they are. They like internet shopping to be separate from social media. They think social media platforms should be a place where interaction between peers is the only activity being performed. They don’t see a space for commerce in that field. They might disdain the idea of consumerism entering a space where interaction should be and to date is free. They want Instagram to maintain its seamless browsing experience. They are all very understandable because the general attitude towards advertisements is one of disparagement. The status quo denounces the invasion of ads but what most people need to realize is that although services like Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest are free to users, someone, somewhere is paying for it. When services like Instagram and Facebook gained ground, some sort of revenue model was required to emerge and ads are the answer to that. In order to keep these services free for use, ads are necessary for proper and efficacious operation. Technology and innovation in data-acquiring programs have allowed for ads to be contextual, meaning that if someone on Instagram geotags a location in NoLIta, ads related to NoLIta would find its way onto his/her feed. People might be alarmed by this personalization of ads but this question must be posed:  If you are going to be exposed to ads anyway, wouldn’t you prefer to see ads that relate more to you? Wouldn’t personalized ads be more useful then completely random ads? The second type of people follow this train of thought. These people are those who don’t mind innovation, those who feel that progress, even in consumerism and social media would make their lives easier and keep the services free to them. These kinds of people see the potential of how successful commerce can be in social media platforms (I am personally one of these). They don’t mind advancement in technology and services. They see a brighter future through technology and digital shopping has become part of their daily lives. They see that Instagram is the natural place to go for advertisers and social media marketers because of its focus on visual media. So if one looks beyond the initial disinclination of ads, one should come to realize that ads are not all that bad.

Ads are what keeps the services we love to use free and who doesn’t love what we get for free? Ads can also be beneficial because they carve the way for innovations like applications (e.g. Boomerang). As of right now, people who are not interested in commerce being introduced to social media platforms outnumber those of us who are interested in the idea of merging the two, hence the data is not positive yet. One thing that I believe is that with the ever-growing nature of data-driven marketing in our society, it is impossible for ecommerce to stay out of the social media sphere so it very well might be the smarter choice to embrace this merger proactively. In Yuyu Chen’s article “Why buy buttons on Pinterest and Instagram haven’t taken off for retailers” on Digiday.com, he alludes to Sucharita Mulpuru—a principal analyst for Forrester. Despite the early unsuccessful reception of buy buttons, Mulpuru believes that buy buttons on Instagram and Pinterest shouldn’t be taken off yet and I agree with her stance. Although Mulpuru says that refining the features of buy buttons and inventing something that truly benefits retailers would be time-consuming and challenging, I think with a little bit of endurance and time, the future for buy buttons is bright.

Last year we didn’t use social media for ads at E5A. As society catches up to technology we now use social media for contextual and personalization of messaging. It is expressly for our clients which have prospects where social media is an appropriate medium. And if you know our CEO, it must be effective or the data will optimize (read eliminate) out its use.

Chen, Yuyu. “Why Buy Buttons on Pinterest and Instagram Haven’t Taken off for Retailers” Digiday. N.p., 23 May 2016. Web. 13 June 2016.


This post was written by Tracy Choi, an associate account manager

Comments are closed.


Recent Posts




 I accept the terms of E5A's Privacy Policy