Once, Instagram was a simple photo-sharing app, a way for iPhone shutterbugs to show off their latest cool pics. Now, its visual nature and 1 billion active users have sellers salivating over its potential as a place to sell everything from dresses to furniture. Of those users, 150 million interact with the 25 million or so businesses that have a presence on the app. Instagram has counted a few retailers as partners—including Macy's and J. Crew—but the platform remains an afterthought for other big names.
Bought by Facebook in 2012 for $715 million, Instagram has spent the past three years trying to solve this shopping puzzle. Everyone is already on their phone, and the mass migration from brick-and-mortar to online shops like Amazon.com is taking the next leap, into the palm of one's hand and social media.