"We really want to invest in this. Really, what we want is for these businesses not to just have an Instagram presence, but be able to leverage all these tools."
Susan Buckner Rose, director of Monetization Product Marketing at Instagram


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.
Yet hype around the dawn of "social commerce" has dissipated of late. Online shoppers have been slow to close their retail apps in favor of social ones. Even now, 54 percent of online buyers never make purchases that begin on social media.
Smaller businesses are the ones that have found creative ways to rely on social. Young entrepreneurs are starting online stores that use Instagram to funnel shoppers to their websites. Vintage clothing retailers post outfits and reward the first commenter with permission to buy each one-of-a-kind item, creating a mad dash for dresses and pumps. If you're too slow, it's gone forever.


Instagram doesn't facilitate these purchases, however. It's all done manually by entrepreneurs. There's a gap between Instagram and the retail world—a tech entity hoping to understand an industry more concerned with fashion cycles, inventory and merchandising than how to use a flashy new feature on the app.


The class at its New York offices is meant to bridge that gap, and find out how expert users create commerce—and spreading what it learns.


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