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Instagram marks e-commerce debut with new ‘checkout’ button for US users

Instagram on Tuesday debuted a new ‘checkout’ button that will let users buy products tagged for sale without leaving the platform. It is the photo and video sharing platform’s first foray into e-commerce. For now, the feature is limited to users in the US who use the beta version of the app, and around 20 brands. Instagram has partnered with brands such as Adidas, H&M, Kylie Cosmetics and Michael Kors to ease into what is firmly Amazon and Walmart territory. It did not specify any financial details of its partnerships but said it would introduce a selling fee to help fund transaction-related expenses.

‘Shopping’ introduced a year ago

A year ago, Instagram made it possible for users in the US to “shop” posts in their feeds, according to Wired. The platform already has more than 130 million users in the US tapping to reveal product tags in shopping posts every month, up from 90 million in September, it said. But buying these items currently requires users to leave the app or website, an annoyance that the new ‘checkout’ feature aims to eliminate. With the latest beta, users will be able to view a product, pick a size or colour, and buy it with minimal hassle.

Instagram counts more than a billion users on its platform every month — 75 million from India — and it has a detailed dossier on each of them, including which brands they follow, the categories that interest them, and which ads their eyeballs linger on, according to a report in Wired.

Facebook’s track record prompts privacy concerns

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Instagram also said that information entered for an initial purchase would be stored for future use. But it remains to be seen how people would feel trusting a service owned by Facebook with their credit card details. The social media giant has come in for severe criticism for its handling of its users’ personal data.

“Facebook’s track record on privacy is the bigger issue (that) may negatively affect the launch of in-app purchases,” Gabriella Santaniello, founder of retail research firm A line Partners told Reuters. “I would expect there to be some reticence when inputting your credit card information upon checkout.”

Facebook makes most of its money from digital advertising but has dabbled in e-commerce, having pitched its Messenger service as a communication platform for shops or brands to connect with customers.

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