Is Instagram Becoming a Boutique Shopping Destination?

Boutique retailers are using Instagram to connect with customers who prefer intimate shopping experiences and enjoy the thrill of the unexpected find.


I’ll be honest. I’ve never been big on Instagram. I got over the food porn and selfie phenomenon when This Is Why You’re Fat became a coffee table book. Still, like every social network doing its best to monetize, Instagram is becoming a place for brands to engage with consumers as well.

According to Jenna Wortham, New York Times Bits Blog contributor, the beauty of the brand experience on Instagram is that it’s not quite so prescribed. While Amazon has a “finely calibrated algorithm” to make purchasing suggestions, Wortham likens Instagram to a modern bazaar.

“A huge part of the appeal is that the goods I’m perusing are sandwiched in my Instagram feed, in between my friends’ selfies and pictures of snow-covered spots where they’ve stopped during the day. Stumbling across an unexpected and gorgeous find like a wool Aztec throw or pair of leather boots on a social app like Instagram brings with it the excitement of discovery, not unlike the thrill you get when coming across a rare find at a flea market.”

Be that as it may, in the retail traffic referral data, Instagram only recently began to register. While Pinterest keeps ticking up, and Polyvore continues to surprise, Instagram seems overlooked as one of the most spendy networks. In fact, according to recent Shopify data, Instagram converts more frequently than both of the aforementioned networks. And when it comes to average order value, Instagram was the runner up with an average order value of $65.

One shop owner says that since she began posting images to Instagram, sales from those postings now make up 20 to 40 percent of her daily revenue. According to Connie Wang, the head of style at Refinery29, Instagram offers boutique shoppers a sense of intimacy.

“It’s not a Facebook or Twitter where everything seems like an advertorial. On Instagram, it feels like a discovery because you aren’t there to shop,” Wang told Wortham. “But if something catches your eye and it’s available, you’re more likely to buy it.”

Indeed, Instagram is becoming a place for unexpected retail finds. It’ll be interesting to see if the data on Instagram retail conversion and referrals grows over the next few quarters.