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Instagram Wants to Ease Its Users into Shopping

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For a week in May, some of Instagram’s designers, engineers and product managers met not at the company’s Menlo Park, California, headquarters but at a rented house, stocked with grocery store snacks. There, away from computers and armed with pencil and paper, they explored a question important for the photo-sharing app’s future: how do we get our users to shop?

In particular, they wanted to figure out how to introduce shopping tools without making them so obvious that they would transform the app into a splashy catalog. Together they came up with 150 ideas. After an extensive process of elimination, the team settled on the design being unveiled this week: letting brands tag products in their photos, the way users tag their friends. Tap on the tagging descriptions to get more information, tap again to buy on the retailer’s site.

It’s the first test from Facebook Inc.’s Instagram to kick off a broader strategy for helping people pick out and buy things, according to James Quarles, Instagram’s vice president of monetization. The team will gather data from users’ behavior to figure out what to do next. Maybe they’ll add a way to comparison shop, a way to search for products elsewhere on the app or even a Pinterest-like feature to save posts that inspire, he said.

“We are so well-positioned in this space,” Quarles said. “Instagram is super visual, we have a well-defined graph of your interests based on what you’re following, and the serendipity of discovery happens every day through the ad products and who you follow.”

People have long been shopping on Instagram without a formal way to buy things. A crop of influencers on the photo app push fashions into popularity. Company researchers have noticed that users take screenshots of products they love, or direct-message them to themselves. But, like the design team’s caution suggests, making shopping an actual app feature is a risky proposition.

The main problem: shopping hasn’t worked well in social media. Facebook’s history is peppered with discontinued e-commerce products, like birthday gifts for friends and “Facebook credits,” which was a virtual currency for social games. The company recently introduced a Marketplace product that allows people to buy and sell to each other, but its launch was quickly marred when users started posting ads for drugs, sex and exotic animals.

Twitter tested a “buy button” for more than a year, but the project faded and the head of e-commerce departed. Pinterest made a bigger investment in shopping, allowing direct buying on its site from thousands of retailers, but it’s still unclear how popular the tool is with consumers.

Quarles said Instagram aims to learn from all these experiences—especially from its parent company, Facebook, which has shared its notes.

Instagram already lets retailers promote products in ads, but the shopping update would apply to regular posts, making it a more natural experience for users. The app’s e-commerce ambitions are large—including international expansion and a video version of the product—but they’re starting small.

It’s testing its new feature with just 20 brands, including Kate Spade and Warby Parker, and not taking any cut of the proceeds.

For J. Crew, which is one of the test brands, Instagram’s product fills a gap in mobile shopping. For one, it’s image-based, which makes it much more amenable to inspiring people to buy products than Facebook, according to Jenna Lyons, J. Crew’s president and creative director. It has the opportunity to take a customer from the point they’re interested in a product to actually making a purchase. It’s happening in the real world already, she said.

“It’s been a little frustrating to us in the past to not be able to have people purchase on Instagram,” Lyons said. “Not only has it become a place for people to get influenced by their friends, but they’re walking into our stores with their phones and saying, ‘do you have this?'”

She is hoping the test will show that Instagram’s method is subtle enough to not turn people away, but powerful enough to drive people to J. Crew’s site.

“I really hope it works,” Lyons said.

Is the CEO/Founder of Investors King Limited. A proven foreign exchange research analyst and a published author on Yahoo Finance, Businessinsider, Nasdaq, Entrepreneur.com, Investorplace, and many more. He has over two decades of experience in global financial markets.

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Fintech

OPay Urges Customers to Complete BVN, NIN Verification Following CBN Directive

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Opay

OPay, a prominent financial services firm, has called upon its customers to finalize the verification of their accounts by linking their Bank Verification Numbers (BVN) or National Identity Numbers (NIN) in accordance with the recent directive from the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).

The CBN, in a circular dated December 1, mandated all deposit money banks to enforce a ‘Post no Debit’ restriction on accounts lacking BVN or NIN.

Accounts without BVN would be placed under a ‘Post No Debit or Credit’ status from March 1, as outlined in the circular jointly signed by Chibuzo Efobi and Haruna Mustapha, Directors at the Payments System Management Department and Financial Policy and Regulation Department, respectively.

OPay affirmed the CBN’s directive and emphasized the necessity for account holders to complete the verification process.

Dauda Gotring, the Managing Director/Chief Executive Officer of OPay, emphasized the importance of a secure and seamless experience for customers.

He encouraged users to comply with the verification process, reassuring them of the company’s commitment to a smooth process and 24/7 customer support.

OPay provided multiple channels for customer assistance, including in-app self-service, WhatsApp, phone lines, and social media platforms.

The company’s commitment to inclusivity and technological advancement underscores its mission to enhance financial services accessibility across Nigeria.

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MTN Group Ltd. Reports 90% Plunge in Profit Amid Nigeria’s Currency Woes

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MTN

MTN Group Ltd., Africa’s largest wireless service provider, has announced a 90% decline in its full-year profit following the plunge in Nigerian Naira.

The company revealed that its earnings per share for the year ending December fell to a range of 1.07 rand to 3.21 rand (approximately 6 to 17 US cents), a significant drop from 10.71 rand recorded in 2022.

The Nigerian naira, which experienced a 49% depreciation in 2023 and an additional 44% decline this year, has emerged as a significant factor impacting MTN’s financial performance.

As one of the world’s worst-performing currencies against the dollar, the naira’s instability has created a volatile economic environment, prompting concerns among international businesses operating in Nigeria.

The currency crisis, stemming from a shortage of dollars and exacerbated by policy missteps and corruption, has led to an exodus of multinational corporations seeking to repatriate earnings from Africa’s largest economy.

Nigeria, with its burgeoning young population and growing tech sector, has struggled to address economic dysfunction despite its vast natural resources.

MTN Group Ltd., which boasts approximately 77 million customers in Nigeria, historically derives a substantial portion of its earnings from the country.

However, the company’s shares plummeted by as much as 7.2% in early trading following the profit announcement, reflecting investor concerns over the challenging operating environment.

Despite the bleak financial report, MTN highlighted positive metrics such as a 45% increase in data traffic and a 49% surge in mobile money transaction volumes.

However, the company refrained from providing guidance on its earnings margins, further adding to uncertainties surrounding its future financial performance.

Analysts underscored the importance of regulatory stability and economic reforms in Nigeria to restore investor confidence and mitigate the impact of currency fluctuations on companies like MTN.

As businesses navigate the economic landscape, the resilience of Nigeria’s currency and regulatory framework remains a critical concern for investors and industry stakeholders alike.

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Leatherback Set for International Growth as EFCC Drops all Fraud and Misconduct Allegations

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Nigeria’s Economic and Financial Crimes Commission (EFCC) has dropped all allegations of fraud and misconduct against Leatherback, a leading financial services technology company, and the company’s CEO, Toyeeb Ibrahim Ibitade.

In November 2023, EFCC announced that it had been made aware of the possibility of fraudulent activities on the Leatherback platform, leading to an investigation into the company’s operations to establish the facts. Cooperating fully with EFCC and working transparently with the organisation’s officials to provide a forensic view of its operations, Leatherback was able to unequivocally prove its innocence, leading the EFCC to drop all allegations and take down all previous communications on its website and social media platforms (Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter) around the matter.

Leatherback supported the EFCC investigation by making over 5,000 printed documents available to officials to enable as much clarity as possible. Leatherback also filed Suspicious Activity Reports (SARs) in the UK and Nigeria.

According to Toyeeb Ibrahim Ibitade, CEO of Leatherback, “I am relieved to see the end of this arduous episode, but I am even more delighted to see that myself and Leatherback, as an organisation, have been completely cleared of all wrongdoing. With this episode firmly behind us, we are poised to accelerate our mission to provide a single access point that empowers individuals and businesses to be truly global, delivering best-in-class financial, payment, and commerce solutions that remove barriers to global growth and mobility for all citizens of the world.”

Headquartered in London, Leatherback is regulated in the United Kingdom, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Canada, India, Pakistan, Nepal, and Sri Lanka, enabling the platform to serve customers across a wide range of markets effectively. Tens of thousands of individuals and businesses already use the platform to support business and lifestyle opportunities every day. Leatherback is also FCA Authorised, PCI DSS Compliant, and ISO Certified.

About Leatherback

Leatherback offers financial services to businesses and individuals in multiple countries with no restrictions. Users can access up to 15 currencies from 21 countries, including NGN, GBP, INR, EUR, USD, and many other currencies. Users can also send and collect money locally and internationally, with invoicing, analytics, and permissions features available for businesses.

For more information, please visit: http://www.leatherback.co

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