How Brands Are Finally Cashing In on Social With Shoppable Instagram Stories and Snapchat Ads

MikMak and Bustle are driving the campaigns

Dr. Brandt is among a handful of brands testing commerce-enabled posts. MikMak
Headshot of Lauren Johnson

For years, social platforms have been dogged with reports that posts don’t lead to sales, leaving some retailers to question if big investments in social deliver those much desired conversions. But as consumers continue to spend more time with only a handful of social platforms, marketers still see an opportunity to squeeze money out their efforts.
Two such believers in social commerce are MikMak—a platform that creates, distributes and measures shoppable video campaigns for brands—and millennial publisher Bustle. Today, MikMak is launching a product called MikMak Attach that connects retailers’ Instagram Stories and Snap Ads with links to ecommerce sites. GoPro, Birchbox, Dr. Brandt skincare and SheaMoisture are part of a beta program to test the feature this spring. Also this week, Bustle is launching its first branded Instagram Stories series with Sephora to drive makeup sales.
“In two years, the entire internet is going to be controlled by five companies and the majority of our attention is going to set deeply in the platforms—I believe that social platforms are about to become the next great storefront,” said Rachel Tipograph, founder and CEO of MikMak. “I designed it for Instagram Stories and Snap Ads because if you look at what’s happening within social media, vertical video, daily content is becoming the most popular use case within the platforms.”
Shoppable products
Here’s how MikMak’s tool works: Snapchat advertisers can run ads that direct users to “swipe up” on the screen to see more content. And on Instagram, brands with verified accounts can post videos and photos to the app’s Stories feature that prompt users to do the same. In both cases, brands can link their posts to a MikMak URL that plugs into a retailer’s ecommerce site and features a video showing how a product works. Birchbox, for example, created seven shoppable videos of beauty products for a Mother’s Day campaign. And Dr. Brandt used the links to drive sales of face masks, resulting in a 500 percent increase in sales directly from Instagram in 10 days.
From the landing page, users can either click a button to learn more about the product or add the item to a shopping cart.

Tipograph said that she talked to more than 200 brands about social video before building the tool. “The No. 1 pain point that I heard, no matter how large or small their business was, was the friction that they currently experience going from social media to checkout,” she said.
Since MikMak’s technology is built into retailers’ own sites, brands keep data and can track the sale if someone decides to not buy from Snapchat or Instagram but ends up buying the product later.
In addition to Instagram and Snapchat, MikMak is working on a similar integration that makes Facebook Live videos shoppable and also has a studio to create branded content and provides data-management for social analytics.
Millennial shoppers
Meanwhile, Sephora is launching a new advertising program this week with millennial publisher Bustle to promote the private label Sephora Collection.

The two companies are creating four weekly sets of content—or episodes—called The Beauty Lab that will roll out across Bustle’s Instagram account and website in the next month. Each week, Bustle’s branded content beauty editor Irma Elezovic and Helen Phillips, Sephora Collection’s national makeup artist, will publish a series of Instagram Stories posts showing viewers how to work through a beauty problem like highlighting or creating a bold lip. Fifteen Sephora Collection products will be featured during the posts and users can swipe up across the posts to buy them from Sephora’s website.
“We’re excited to bring our Sephora Collection clients smart content that’s digitally connected, leveraging beauty insiders like our own Helen Phillips to help them navigate their beauty concerns in a fun and relevant way,” said Deborah Yeh, Sephora’s svp of marketing and brand.
The campaign is Sephora’s first shoppable Instagram Story and Bustle’s first branded series using the app’s disappearing posts. With 1.6 million followers, Bustle has invested in cranking out original content for Instagram Stories since August when the feature launched.
“Since Instagram Stories launched, we’ve seen huge increases in engagement from our followers, so we are naturally investing more there,” said Jason Wagenheim, Bustle’s chief revenue officer. “Sephora Collection wanted to build awareness and drive purchase with a organic and innovative social and mobile-first experience, so Instagram Stories provided the perfect home for this program, especially with the swipe-up feature that goes right to a product purchase page. Instagram is the perfect platform to connect social to mobile to commerce, and you’ll see us do much more in the space this year.”

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@laurenjohnson Lauren Johnson is a senior technology editor for Adweek, where she specializes in covering mobile, social platforms and emerging tech.