Opinions And Ramblings By Adam Kmiec On All Things

The Instagram Shopping Problem

Shipping Label Created, USPS Awaiting Item

COVID-19 and the quarantine lifestyle has shifted an unprecedented amount of shopping online. That isn’t all that surprising. We can’t go out. Or, if we can, the places we want to shop at aren’t open.

Amazon has been the biggest beneficiary of the massive shift to e-commerce. Walmart and Target are right behind. But, if you’ve scrolled through your Instagram feed, you’ve probably seen at least one ad for a product. In 2019 1/3 of ALL Instagram users bought at least one item, directly from an Instagram ad. We’re you one of them?

In 2019, I had only bought one item from Instagram, a pair of Allbirds. After being inundated by ads from them for a year, I finally caved and bought. Their shoes were a great buy. I can’t say the same for everything I’ve purchased in 2020.

Let me place a sharper point on that. The end product might be good, but the shopping experience is broken. Instagram isn’t necessarily to blame for this problem. It’s probably 90% the company advertising and 10% Instagram.

Let me break down the typical experience:

  1. You see an interesting product. It catches your eye. So, you click.
  2. The page you land on often doesn’t include the item you were advertised or, it does, but it’s not in stock.
  3. But, for argument’s sake, let’s assume it was in stock. You add it to your cart and you check out. The check out process is typically through ApplePay, AmazonPay, or PayPal.
  4. So, you pay the retailer. You might even pony up for the expedited shipping.
  5. Within 48 hours you’ll receive 3 emails. The first email is an order confirmation from the retailer. The second will be a notification from the payment platform (e.g. Amazon). The third will be an exciting email that tells you your item has shipped!!!
  6. But, your item hasn’t actually shipped. The clock of the promised ship to receive time frame hasn’t actually started. When you cross-reference the tracking code, which is often a USPS code, with USPS’ site, you’ll get this message, “Shipping Label Created, USPS Awaiting Item” – this is code for, your retailer hasn’t actually shipped your item; they’ve only created a label.
  7. Your item will sit in purgatory. The retailer will claim it has shipped and to be patient. USPS will tell you they don’t actually have the item. Many days later, which the retailer blame on COVID-19, USPS will finally receive the item you ordered. And now the shipping window you were promised will be in effect.

In essence, from the minute you’re targeted, a long con and pseudo bait and switch scenario will have started. You are the sucker. And you’ll be duped again and again.

Over the past few months, I’ve ordered from a number of retailers. 75% of my experiences match the above. I want to be fair, for the 25% that didn’t, it was a perfect, almost Amazon-like experience. For example, t-shirts from Ultras, face masks from Ledbury, and sunglasses from Sunski are a few great examples of positive shopping experiences. On the other hand…we have PingPongly, where 90 days later, I still don’t have the item I ordered. Avoid them at all costs. Then there’s Elegatto, which issues a label immediately and then ships ~10 days later. The clothes from HIPSTOW are nice, but take 3x as long as they promise to deliver and they follow the formula above.

I started this post by saying, this is 10% on Instagram. Here’s why; they have a responsibility to make sure the ads being served are legit. Here’s 3 easy things they could do to fix the experience I outlined above.

  1. Feedback Loop: If you purchase directly from an ad you should get a survey. That survey should enable you to provide feedback on the product and the entire experience. Retailers who fall below a certain threshold are booted off of Instagram.
  2. Improved Ad Standards: This is simple. You shouldn’t be able to advertise a product that’s no longer available or not in stock. Not only is that good for the consumer, it’s good for the retailer.
  3. Built in Reviews: Amazon and eBay do this really well. Before you click on the ad, you should be able to see the retailers rankings and feedback across dimensions from the “feedback loop”.

All of these are simple to make happen and they’d make the shopping experience better.