Until now, Instagram has been good for browsing, and bad for completing a purchase. Shopping via the photo-sharing app required opening a browser window and hoping to discover a mobile-enabled checkout. The experience was clunky, at best.
But that is finally changing, as Instagram slowly rolls out native payments. According to TechCrunch, the Facebook-owned app has started giving some U.S.-based users the ability to add a debit or credit card to their account. The payments functionality complements the ability to book services like salon appointments, which Instagram introduced last spring.
By introducing native payments, Instagram makes itself more attractive to smaller businesses that may not have the means to design and build robust mobile checkouts of their own. The move also increases the value of the ads Instagram can offer, assuming that they boost conversion rates.
At the other end of the spectrum, payments companies are making it easier for merchants to create e-commerce experiences of their own. Square, for example, acquired website-builder Weebly last week.