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Thursday, July 29, 2021
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Brands Can Finally Control Their Product Data On Instacart

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Instacart will now allow brands to directly edit their product information. The new “Product Library” feature was announced to existing brand advertisers yesterday who are not already using a CSP, or Content Service Provider. 

This is a significant change in practical terms. But it also hints at a philosophical shift, whereby Instacart is building out features for brands whose products are sold on the platform, as much as serving the retailers who make those products available in the first place. 

Instacart is unique in that it operates a four-sided marketplace, rather than a typical two-sided marketplace (as is the model for Amazon

AMZN
, Walmart

WMT
, eBay and others). The four stakeholders that interact with each other are the end customer,  in-store shoppers, product advertisers (brands) and retailers. 

The implication for brands is that there is another stakeholder, the retailers, that impact a brand’s success on Instacart. Retailers control inventory availability, product pricing, and until now – product content.  

By offering brands the capability to directly update their product information, all four of those stakeholders –  and Instacart – win. “We’re helping advertisers more deeply engage with customers online directly at the point of purchase, and for retailers we’re driving bigger basket sizes and a more fulfilling experience that keeps customers coming back,” Instacart said in a statement. 

It’s a rare win-win-win for all the stakeholders involved. Here’s how the change will affect each one.

Retailers

Until now, it was the responsibility of retailers to provide their product catalog to Instacart and maintain accuracy.  Between brands and retailers, brands are more motivated to own the responsibility of product content. Most brands are already maintaining and updating product content directly on marketplaces like Amazon, Walmart, and their DTC (direct to consumer) sites. 

Todd Hassenfelt, Senior Director of eCommerce at Simple Mills says that the Library Manager will take the onus off of Retailers to have to update and manage product content (images, titles, keywords, and product copy). This is inefficient, given many retailers have little capabilities in this area and that brands are also the more motivated party to maintain accurate SKU content.

Instacart says that for retailers, the change means a better customer experience for consumers browsing digital storefronts – ostensibly improving Instacart sales for retailers, too.

Brands

Brands are certainly pleased with the change. “Content consistency is probably the biggest pain point for most brands on Instacart,” says Jim Morgan, Head of eCommerce & Digital Growth at Vita Coco.

Prior to the change, brands had to use a third party Content Service Provider (CSP) to make changes to product information. CSP’s offer a more efficient solution for brands that carry a large assortment across many online retailers. But many smaller brands don’t have a CSP, in part due to cost. This change levels that playing field. 

Halee Patel, Newton, VP of eCommerce at Califia Farms, identifies another benefit. Direct editing enables the brands to utilize Instacart’s product page creative options, whereas that may be more difficult when going the CSP route. 

Instacart, shoppers, and the end consumer

Brands can take their learnings from other marketplaces and their DTC site to improve product content on Instacart to add more compelling, educational content – improving the customer experience and conversions.  

“For Instacart this could help increase Basket size if consumers can better find products due to keyword infused Titles and accurate, informative product images,” says Todd Hassenfelt from Simple Mills.

In-store shoppers will likely benefit from more accurate product listings. Although instances are rare, I have personally spotted product listings that specify a different weight in the product title versus the product photo, for example. This makes it harder for in-store shoppers to select the right item, and consumers are disappointed when the wrong item arrives.   

What’s next

“As we look ahead, you can expect us to continue experimenting with new advertising formats and features that allow brands to build even more customized, integrated ad experiences within the marketplace,”  said an Instacart spokesperson, when asked about future developments for brands. 

Brands are maintaining their own wishlists. 

“I hope more resources are on the roadmap to ensure consumer experience is even more enhanced with the ability for Brands to add Attributes like allergens (ie Gluten Free) and diet (Paleo),” says Todd Hassenfelt. He also notes the importance of product reviews in a customer buying journey – a feature that is absent from Instacart. “These enhancements should help Instacart’s overall consumer experience scores.” 

Jim Morgan of Vita Coco says that he hopes Instacart opens up this feature even to brands with a CSP, noting that some retailers don’t allow updates to be made through CSPs. In that case, the brand still has to reach out directly to retailers to fix some items.

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