Instagram has added another layer to its shopping feature, augmented reality (AR).
A handful of brands that sell their products directly on Instagram will be able to add a new augmented reality try-on feature to product pages.
Initially, the new AR feature will be limited to cosmetics (Mac and Nars are early partners) and eyewear brands (Warby Parker and Ray-Ban), but Instagram plans to make it available for more products over time.
The concept is to use augmented reality to help Instagram shoppers preview how certain types of products will actually look on their faces. The underlying tech is the same Spark AR platform that powers much of Instagram’s camera effects and Facebook’s augmented reality ads.
There are many ways Instagram users might encounter a new shopping feature. The first is while checking out specific products a brand has tagged in a post. You’ll have the option to try out the product via an augmented reality filter before adding it to your cart.
However, Instagram believes that users will be inspired to share these AR experiences in Stories, which will also link back to the original product. In this manner, the brands might be able to capture the same kind of virality as a well-timed selfie filter.
“You can share it through Stories with friends, brands can create Stories — that’s definitely one of the primary ways in which we think that people will shop,” says Srilatha Raghavan, product manager for AR commerce at Facebook.
In March Instagram has introduced an in-app checkout feature, it’s yet another sign the service is moving deeper into e-commerce.
Though there are still only a small number of brands that are able to use Instagram’s native shopping feature (and, for now, even fewer that can use AR shopping), commerce is an incredibly important part of the platform. Facebook, for one, has made it clear that it sees commerce as one of Instagram’s “big bets” for the future.
Meanwhile, for brands, Instagram has long been strategically important, even before the app offered its own shopping channels.
“Instagram is such an important platform for product discovery, particularly in beauty,” says Dina Fierro, VP of Global Digital Strategy at Nars Cosmetics, one of Instagram’s initial shopping partners. “It is very clear that Instagram impacts purchases whether that’s happening online or offline.”