What does Instagram TV mean for retailers and brands – an early assessment

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As Instagram hits 1 billion users, the social media site with marketplace pretentions has launched its own long form video content app, Instagram TV – or IGTV to the kids. While many of the 1 billion users it already has are people sharing their experiences, the move to ‘TV’ for IG opens up a wealth of possibilities for retailers and brands.

So what can it do for ecommerce?

While still very early days, IGTV has the potential to be a real boon for retailers and brands. Right now it doesn’t take advertising, but the company promises that it eventually plans to make sure popular video creators are able to make money from their efforts.

But that shouldn’t stop retailers and brands looking at how to leverage the site to their own ends. At launch, there are already some early adopters using it, which shows what might be possible.

In the launch announcement on 20 June,  Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom mentioned two Instagram influencers already using IGTV: LaurDIY, who is using it to post her DIY how-to videos and King Bach sharing his latest comedy skits.

For brands, Systrom outlined how existing Instagram store operator Everlane is using IGTV to offer an insight into ‘Canadian Tuxedos’ – but it appears to be a strung together version of its existing Instagram post.

Publisher National Geographic – which is currently the largest non-celeb brand on Instagram – is also using IGTV to share one episode of its excellent TV show “One Strange Rock”. At 47 minutes this is the longest item on IGTV at launch.

How can brands leverage it?

The main thing that brands and retailers can do today with IGTV is to use it to extent and compliment their exiting Instagram shop feed, using it as a rich content stream to drive consumers to the main feed where they can purchase.

However, its true power lies in looking at how Youtube and Facebook videos work. What shoppers typically look for are ‘How to…’ guides, ‘unboxing’ events, reviews, and in the apparel market, look and feel.

Using IGTV to offer these sorts of offerings around your products and brands becomes your advertising. While IGTV won’t let you advertise, the content you make will do that job for you.

Secondly, you can use third-party content about your goods and services to add to this wealth of content.

Increasingly, shoppers want to hear from independent experts and ‘normal’ people about the products they are planning on buying. Following and teaming up with them and their IGTV content can only make this social media marketing play richer.

The move by Instagram builds on the launch earlier this year of its Shop Now feature to business accounts in the UK, as well as Germany France, Italy Brazil, Canada, Spain and Australia. The feature allows users to tap tags and see prices, then link through to the retailer’s website, with the help of a brand new “Shop Now” button. Previously, users would have been directed to a ‘Link in bio’ – disrupting the user journey.

The move comes after a successful trial in the UK with Marks and Spencer, which has 760,000 followers on the site and sees huge potential in allowing shoppers to buy from what they see there.

Already, M&S has been joined by Top Shop, New Look, Screwfix, Miss Selfridge and River Island in offering the Shop Now buttons and leading eCommerce platform provider Shopify also now supports Instagram Shop Now for its retail and brand customers.


For retailers and brands looking to make use of IGTV, here are some of the key technical bits that you might find useful.

  • Videos are full screen and vertical
  • Video length is 15 seconds to 60 minutes (The full 60 minutes is currently only available to larger accounts or verified accounts. Everyone else has a limit of 10 minutes.)
  • Users can watch inside the Instagram app or on the IGTV app
  • Videos play automatically for users upon opening the IGTV app
  • Creators can add “swipe up” call-to-actions on videos
  • Within the IGTV app, users have the option to browse between “For You,” “Following,” “Popular,” and “Continue Watching” tabs
  • Engagement: users can like or comment on videos, or send videos to friends in Direct
  • Creators have their own channels, like YouTube (and anyone can be a creator)
  • Videos can be uploaded to the IGTV app or the web
  • Videos on IGTV can also be uploaded to Facebook Watch
  • File size: up to 3.6GB
  • File type: .MP4
  • Video size: 9:16
  • Video thumbnail / cover image: .JPG
  • As of launch, no advertising optionsare available

Image: Instagram


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