Instagram starts trialling in-app payments

Some UK and US businesses to take in-app payments from users of the photo-sharing app

Instagram has quietly begun trialling a set of e-commerce features, allowing some users to pay for goods and services without leaving the app.

A sample of businesses in the UK and the US are now accepting in-app payments for services, such as booking restaurant tables or taking hair appointments, without needing users to leave the app.  

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The photo and video sharing platform, which in November celebrated reaching 25 million listed business profiles, outlined its plans to "continue evolving business profiles" in March 2017 by rolling out the ability for users to book a service directly from a business' profile.

Shoppers on Instagram are currently redirected off-app to a business' website to process any payments.

Although scheduled to be rolled out later in 2017, in-app purchases failed to materialise. But TechCrunch was tipped-off by one of its readers that users were able to register debit or credit card details to their profile, along with setting a security pin, with a view to begin purchasing goods and services from a sample of businesses.

IT Pro approached Instagram and parent company Facebook, for comment and clarification on the in-app payments but neither company responded at the time of writing.

"As 800 million use Instagram each month to discover and follow their passions, more and more people are using it to connect with businesses they love," Instagram said in a blog post celebrating reaching 25 million listed businesses last November.

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"In fact, over 80% of accounts on Instagram follow a business, while 200 million Instagrammers actively visit the profile of a business every day. As a result, the Instagram community is helping spur small business growth in big ways."

Instagram previously trialled shoppable photo tags in 2016, allowing users to see which products were in a post, and allowing them to follow through to purchase it from the business' site.

Facebook, meanwhile, has been exploring e-commerce for years mainly via its Marketplace, also revamping its Messenger platform to make it a more effective bridge between businesses and users, alongside a raft of additional features announced at its F8 conference.

Instagram's expansion into e-commerce speaks to the wider monetisation of social media. While making it easier for businesses to operate by better-integrating them with such platforms, social media giants are increasingly commodifying what have traditionally been more personal spaces.

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