Social media platform, Instagram, announced an upgrade to its shopping offering, ‘Checkout on Instagram’ in March.

The tool, which allows users to make a purchase completely within the Instagram app, streamlines the purchasing process.
Users simply have to specify their choices such as size and colour, enter their payment details and shipping address, and Instagram does the rest, including saving the details for the next purchase.

The feature, which is being tested in the US at the moment, heralds a new era for retailers and B2C brands, who will be able to further simplify the customer journey and conversion process.

Although the specific details of how the tool will work with retailers in Australia have not been released yet, chief digital officer at Accent Group, Mark Teperson, says that the checkout should be able to provide a clearer link between how influential social media is in consumer’s purchasing behaviour.

“The way that Instagram operates today, is that the shopping links are embedded in Instagram, so users can see a little shopping bag in the bottom left-hand corner and they can tap on the image and it takes them through the link to your website.

“You can only use it on organic listings, so you can’t do a paid campaign in market with those links, they don’t provide that as it stands today.

“Organic posts only reach a small fraction of the total following base that you have on a social media platform, so they [are] a great initiative, but they’re very limited in terms of how you can really use them.

“What is great about the way they currently do it is that if a customer clicks on that link and comes through to your website, you can direct that attribution. So someone clicked the link, and it was because of that link that they bought product, that’s very valuable for a retailer.

“Providing a checkout – an online checkout in the platform itself – should certainly help drive a greater visibility to exactly how influential social media is in driving purchase behaviour. You’ll certainly be able to get a much tighter measure on how impactful your campaigns are in driving revenue,” he says.

This increased visibility that comes with the Checkout feature, Teperson says, will benefit both consumers and retailers alike.

“I think the capability is very exciting from a retailer perspective and from a consumer’s perspective as well.

“It provides us with the opportunity to reduce and remove the friction [from] when a user sees a great post and a product that they want and then trying to go and find and buy it. Instagram is eliminating those friction points for the customer.

“I think that has to be valuable both for the consumer and then for the retailer, because you’re making it easier for them to buy.”

But does this increased shopping ability pose a greater risk for a data breach?

According to its data policy, Instagram already collects information around transactions or purchases made on Facebook products, including, “payment information, such as your credit or debit card number and other card information; other account and authentication information; and billing, shipping and contact details.”

The platform also collects information from its partners, which provide information around consumer’s behaviours off the site including, “information about your device, websites you visit, purchases you make, the ads you see, and how you use their services—whether or not you have a Facebook account or are logged into Facebook.”

In recent years, Instagram’s owner, Facebook, has been the target of major data breaches, including a major 2018 breach which “may have” compromised the information, including name, contact and other information, of 111,813 Australian users.

However, the attackers did not gain access to password information, identity documentation, financial information or payment card information in that particular breach.

Information on how exactly Facebook and Instagram keep users’ information secure is light on details, but according to the platform, it has, “top-rate security measures in place to help protect you and your data when you use Facebook.

“Secure browsing is one way that we protect your information. Your activity (eg. posting a status or sending a message) is encrypted, which means it’s turned into code so people can’t access it without your permission.

“We have tools to detect if you have viruses on your computer and can help you to remove it.”

However, it’s not just the social media sites who can fall victims to data breaches, Australian retailers have also been subjects of attacks, with Big W and Kathmandu already recording breaches in 2019.

According to the most recent Notifiable Data Breaches Quarterly Statistics report, authored by the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), from October 1 to December 31 2018, there were 262 notifiable data breaches, 64% of which were malicious or criminal attacks, 33% were attributed to human error and 3% to a system fault.

Contact information, financial details and identity information made up the three leading types of data that were compromised in the quarter, with the majority of cases originating from cyber incidents such as phishing, malware/ransomware and brute-force attacks. These attacks exploited human vulnerabilities, whereby the recipient of an email clicked on a attachment or link in the email, which compromised their data.

During the last 2018 quarter, the OAIC issued a caution to consumers about remaining vigilant when shopping on Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

“Black Friday and Cyber Monday are among the biggest shopping events of the year. But they also present some of the greatest opportunities for potential thieves and scammers,” the office says.

“Most Black Friday and Cyber Monday sales promotions appear via email marketing. This is an opportunity for scammers to pose as legitimate businesses and financial institutions so they can steal consumers’ credentials.”

So now that these sensitive credentials are set to be willingly plugged into one of the world’s largest social media platforms – numbers suggest that there are one billion people on Instagram across the globe – whose job will it be to protect the sensitive data from attackers?

Australian information commissioner and privacy commissioner from the OAIC, Angelene Falk, says that businesses who handle personal data should have policies in place where all staff can protect the information and identify breaches.

“Everyone who handles personal information in their work needs to understand how data breaches can occur so we can work together to prevent them.

“Organisations and agencies need the right cyber security in place, but they also need to make sure work policies and processes support staff to protect personal information every day,” she says.

Along with the protection of the data, Instagram also has to ensure that its Checkout service and the extra data it will yield, doesn’t become one giant advertisement.

“Instagram in this context, has morphed from a platform where you found new consumers and you built a following around your brand, to becoming a more commercial channel,” Teperson says.

“Does that dilute in a customer’s mind the fact that it’s about inspiration and it just feels like a hard sell every time? I think Instagram has to manage that carefully. Because if you feel like your Instagram feed just becomes a very overt sales pitch, you’ll turn customers off.

“One of the concerns for retailers is maintaining relationships with their customers and if this intermediates that – by creating a barrier where the customer is no longer a customer of one of our brands, they’re a customer of Instagram – I’m not sure how successful the strategy will end up being for them.”

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