Instagram Live Shopping, Reels & AR: Everything Brands Need to Know About IG's Latest Features

What's new on Instagram in 2020? We take a look at the platform's latest launches, from Live Shopping to AR, and how brands can incorporate these features into their social media strategies.

© Instagram


Instagram is constantly rolling out exciting new features to enhance user experience and make it easier for brands to connect with their audiences. We've seen a whole host of new updates already in 2020 including Dark Mode, IGTV previews and the ability to remove followers, but these features were only a taste of what's to come. New functionality such as the Facebook Shop is revolutionising the way that small businesses sell their wares on social media, whilst Reels has been dubbed the platform's integrated TikTok rival.


Let's explore what each new feature does and they can be integrated into brands' social media strategies.


Instagram Live Shopping | Coming Soon


The global pandemic has made 'going live' more popular than ever before, with everyone from creators to influencers hosting weekly tutorials and mini workshops for their followers. As a result of this, Instagram Live Shopping is currently being trialled and brands will soon be able to tag products in their livestreams. Before each broadcast, brands will be able to browse their product catalogues and select the items that they're planning to feature - these items will then appear at the bottom of the screen during the video. Viewers can then tap on the product to learn more and purchase.

Beauty entrepreneur Tina Craig aka @bagsnob was the first person to try this feature when promoting new products from her @ubeauty range. A number of beauty brands including Clinique and Estée Lauder have been hosting shoppable livestreams on their websites since spring, signalling a clear demand for shoppable livestreaming and social integration in the beauty sphere.


Reels | Testing in Brazil Before Global Rollout


Reels enables users to make 15-second video clips set to music and share them as Stories... Sound familiar? Users are able to soundtrack their Reels to a large library of music or borrow audio from another user’s video to create their own version. A 'Top Reels' section of the Explore page is set to feature trending videos and viral content.


Much like TikTok, one of the best ways for brands to utilise this new feature is by participating in viral challenges or creating videos using trending audio clips. We recently spoke about the best luxury brands to follow on TikTok and how they've successfully managed to establish themselves on the platform, an essential read for those seeking to make a splash upon their Reels debut. For the time being, it's likely brands will look to cross-promote content, rather than create and share unique content for each platform.


Establishing partnerships with experienced users who understand this type of content should be a priority for brands. Influencers such as Leonie Hanne, Valeria Lipovetsky and Gerard Sabe are part of a new wave of creators whose covetable wardrobe edits and sleek transitions between looks strike the perfect balance between viral and luxury.


Instagram Guides | Available to Select Creators


Guides is a new way to share and discover information on Instagram. They're a space where creators can publish recommendations, tips and tutorials. They were created to support users during Covid-19 with an initial focus on mental health and wellbeing. Not all users are currently able to create Guides at this time but they are expected to roll out to more industries, creators and organisations over the course of the year.


Guides consist of posts and videos that a creator has curated, alongside helpful tips and advice. Users can tap an image or video to learn more about a specific post or view the original source. To access an Instagram Guide, visit a creator’s profile and select the Guides icon in the tab beneath their bio.


This feature will prove invaluable for brands looking to centre content around specific events, campaigns, seasons or holidays. Pulling from multiple sources will enable creators to blend UGC with campaign imagery and videos to create a cohesive narrative that is equal parts aspirational and attainable.


AR Features | Coming Soon


Instagram is expanding its creative toolkit once again, with the hopes of providing brands and creators with innovative new content opportunities. One of the most buzz-worthy new additions to its arsenal is a greenscreen filter, which will allow users to superimpose themselves on a background of their choice, a feature that many TikTok users will already be familiar with.


The Instagram version of this feature, however, is set to be even more advanced and will enable brands to elevate their Instagram Stories further without the need for a studio set-up. Personalisation effects will also allow brands to create custom backdrops that in turn users can add and incorporate into their own Stories (in a similar vein to Stickers).


Over the course of the last year, Instagram has invested heavily in AR. At the end of 2019, brands including Nars and Ray-Ban introduced 'try on' ads which allowed users to virtually engage with featured products and try them out for themselves. Expect to see more and more AR features pop up throughout 2020 as Instagram looks to make AR more user-friendly and expand Instagram Stories capabilities.


Words by Dan Flay

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