Social and Shopping: Can Instagram Expect a Christmas Surge?


According to Instagram four in five users now follow at least one business and two-thirds of visits to Instagram business profiles are from people who don’t yet follow them. Phil Rooke at Spreadshirt looks at why Instagram could be about to have a big final quarter. Partly because it offers the best relationships between consumers and businesses.

The Centre for Retail Research found that last year 49.7% of all online retail spending happened on a mobile device. This is expected to rise this year.

PwC’s report for the USA revealed that 84% of its sample will shop online. Most of the Generation Z respondents would do all of their Christmas shopping online and 25% of those Gen Zers said they prefer shoppable photos.

Phil says: “Instagram offers inspiration from someone we connect with, right next to the chance to buy. Gen Zers will buy from photos and Instagram is loved in a way that Amazon isn’t. So perhaps Instagram’s moment has arrived this Christmas?”

Spreadshirt is seeing shopping changes which include Instagram: “Browse and buy later is common on Spreadshirt’s own platform. We’re seeing the consumer journey as a two-stage process. Spreadshirt did its own test on Insta and found that people are beginning to use it as part of their shopping process, not just to share their outfit of the day with the world”.

But as a seasoned ecommerce pro Phil cautions: “As Santa and his elves well know; Christmas is all about delivery. For 2018 to be an Insta-Xmas, its users will have to get more than their content right. If Insta is the eye-catching shop window, who provides the till, bag, delivery and payments team?”

Monetisation has long been the holy grail of social media. But could Instagram be about to find it over Christmas? It’s no surprise that the social media site is repositioning itself as a shopping platform.

Instagram is already a site which brings businesses and consumers together in a way that the likes of Twitter and Facebook can’t. More than 25 million businesses already have accounts and four in five Instagram users now follow at least one business. Instagram claims that a third of the most-viewed Stories on its site are posted by businesses. And Sheryl Sandberg says that two-thirds of visits to business profiles on Insta are from people who don’t yet follow them.

It’s also a space where consumers go to discover something new . If other social media platforms do a poor job of connecting businesses and shoppers, other ecommerce platforms don’t offer the level of inspiration that Insta shoppers feel. Amazon might be the market giant, but it’s not known for inspiring its visitors.

So as Insta offers inspiration to the Christmas shopper, could it also benefit from changing online shopping habits?

Although PC shopping has been dominant, mobile shopping at Christmas has been catching up and is likely to over-take PCs this year. In 2017 49.7% of all online retail spending in the UK happened on a mobile device. In Germany it topped 50% last year, according to The Centre for Retail Research. We’re seeing this change on our own self-expression platform, where creators and buyers express themselves on clothing and accessories. Visits to our site from mobiles now exceed visits from PCs; up 40%. Mobile sales are just behind PC sales, but catching up fast; global orders from a mobile were up 41% between 2016 and 2017. This doesn’t seem to be cannibalisation from the PC market as shoppers change their habits; it looks like new growth.

Coupled with the rise of shopping from your smartphone or tablet is the news that Generation Z (17 to 22 year-olds) prefer shopping from photos. According to a PwC report for the USA, 50% of Gen Z who plan to complete all of their shopping online during the holidays will use only a smartphone; ‘thirty-nine percent of those Gen Z customers said they will click through "buy" buttons to make purchases, while 25 percent said they prefer shoppable photos, like those on Instagram’.

But, to be a less stressful experience than visiting the High Street at Christmas, Insta shopping has to be simple and easy to use, as well as inspiring. So what does Instagram have to do to make this its best Christmas? The shopping journey may be changing, but some of the same challenges remain: authenticity, content, and delivery, Santa’s specialism.


Successful Instagrammers are those that understand the importance of keeping it real. Shoppers often look to Insta to see how clothing works on real people or for styling ideas. This isn’t the high gloss of the old-school magazines. Instagram inspiration is for your real life. At Christmas, it’s an opportunity to check what your friends and family really like and give them something that expresses who they truly are.


On Instagram, as on Spreadshirt, marketing your ideas is key. New and relevant content brings the shoppers to the yard. Cultivating an engaged following by sharing ideas that inspire them is the key to monetisation. It also offers smaller brands a great way to be recognised.


As Santa and his elves well know; Christmas is all about delivery. Most ecommerce companies would love to get their hands on Santa’s reindeer-pulled sleigh and deliver to everyone in one night. . All eyes are on the last order date before Christmas, because we know that an inspiring present is worthless if it’s not under the tree by 24th December.

So for Insta to have its best Christmas yet, it will need its ‘grammers to promote their authenticity, stay connected with engaging content and be supported by a reliable platform where the buying process is simple. Instagram is the enticing shop window, but it still needs a till, bag, returns desk, accounts department and delivery team (reindeers optional).

The gap between social inspiration and shopping is getting smaller. This Christmas could see Instagram combine the two to reach the holy grail of monetization.

We’re expecting it to be an InstaXmas.

By Philip Rooke

The Centre for Retail Research -
PwC report -

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