What Instagram’s expanded shopping features mean for beauty

Instagram has become a growing e-commerce priority for beauty brands over the past year as they bet on the future of social shopping in the U.S.

On Wednesday, the platform announced several new features to continue the development of its shopping capabilities, including visual search and the expansion of AR try-on features in Checkout and shopping-focused ads. These follow a range of new shopping features rolled out by Instagram in recent weeks, including the platform’s Drops section on May 26. In addition to the Instagram updates, Facebook also expanded its Shops feature to WhatsApp and Facebook Marketplace on Wednesday. 

“We definitely have our strongest audience on Instagram,” said beauty influencer Nikita Dragun of her brand Dragun Beauty. The brand launched a special-edition, Instagram-exclusive Pride set that dropped on June 17. Promoted by Dragun on her personal Instagram channel via a livestream group chat, Stories and main feed, the set was also featured on Instagram’s new Drops section and sold out in less than an hour. “This is obviously our biggest initiative we’ve ever done in partnering with Instagram,” she said. 

Visual search for Instagram Shops will be tested in the coming months in the U.S. Instagram plans to initially allow users to tap to search for product listings similar to items shown in photos, with an eventual expansion to search for items they see IRL by capturing a photo on their phone.

Facebook is also expanding the reach of AR try-on, which was first launched with Instagram Checkout in 2019 with a limited number of brands. It announced new API integration with AR try-on companies Perfect Corp. and Modiface, and plans to introduce “new tools for brands to include AR product catalogs in ads,” according to the press release. According to a Facebook spokesperson, Facebook currently has “AR Dynamic Ads” available in the U.S. It’s launching AR try-on in ads on Instagram first, followed by Facebook. Laura Mercier and Lakme India have added the AR try-on to their Instagram Shops, while Huda Beauty is using the new AR try-on in ads. 



“Instagram e-commerce is incredibly important to Pacifica,” said Ginger Pelz, vp of social at Pacifica Beauty, which heavily leaned into Instagram Shopping for its May 17 Vegan Collagen mascara launch. “We are looking at our Instagram content in the feed and in Stories as merchandising our social PDPs [product description pages].” 

The brand’s mascara is featured under the Drops tab for the launch and is being marketed with a wide range of Instagram’s new shopping features, with a focus on “thumb-stopping content,” said Pelz. The product page contains both brand and influencer content via Reels, Stories and main-feed posts. “We are being discovered by people who may never have shopped Pacifica before and putting forward our best launches for their consideration,” she said. 

The new Drops destination has been especially popular with buzzy, social-focused beauty brands, including celebrity and influencer labels. In addition to Dragun Beauty and Pacifica, other brands featured in Drops include Fenty Skin, KKW Beauty, Haus Labs, Charlotte Tilbury, Morphe, Huda Beauty and Strange Bird, as well as Sephora drops for Patrick Starrr’s One/Size, Selena Gomez’s Rare Beauty and Lawless. The tab provides a centralized destination for Instagram’s existing product launch feature. 

“We’re a digital-first brand and social shopping plays an integral role in how we distribute our products,” said Nicole Jamal, the social media manager at Haus Labs. The brand’s new PhD Hybrid Lip Oil Stain launched on April 27 and has been featured on the new Drops tab. The brand, which is heavily active on Amazon, plans to do an Instagram-exclusive drop when the Instagram Shop feature becomes available outside the U.S. 

“Every single drop has been on Instagram, via product tags. I’ve definitely utilized that every single time that I’ve been able to,” said Dragun. She said that, even prior to the new Drops section, Dragun Beauty has seen success with the Instagram product launch feature with 100,000 users signing up to be alerted of its Dragun Glass Liquid Lippies launch. “It’s beneficial to be an early adopter.”

Still, Instagram has yet to take up a significant chunk of most brands’ sales, as it is in early stages. But it is proving useful for brand awareness and product discovery. 

“The biggest benefit of being included in the Drops tab is the discoverability it gives our brand and our launches,” said Pelz. The main benefit of the shopping feature on Instagram is a “halo effect to our dot com and retailers because of the product discovery,” she said. 

For Haus Labs, the new Drops feature is especially useful for “increased visibility, reach and exposure to new audiences,” said Jamal. Meanwhile, the seamless integration is useful for “interest, buzz and urgency.” 

Brands have high hopes for the future potential of Instagram Shopping. “It’s a completely new way to think about e-commerce,” said Pelz. “Instagram has made really big strides in this area and is paving the way for other social channels to move into social commerce, as well. In five years, this will be the norm.”