It’s hap­pen­ing.

After edg­ing towards eCom­merce for some time, and evolv­ing its var­i­ous tools to bet­ter facil­i­tate on-plat­form shop­ping, Insta­gram is now tak­ing the next step with the intro­duc­tion of a new check­out option in the app.

As you can see, the new process takes Insta­gram’s ‘Shop­ping Tags’ to the next lev­el — now, instead of a ‘View on Web­site’ but­ton when you tap through, users will see a ‘Check­out on Insta­gram’ option, which will enable them to make a pur­chase right there and then, before return­ing straight back to their Ins­ta feed.

There are, of course, a cou­ple of sig­nif­i­cant pro­vi­sos at this stage. Right now, the process is being launched in closed beta, which means that it’s not avail­able to all brands. In fact, only 23 busi­ness­es are par­tic­i­pat­ing in the ini­tial tri­al, and the process will only be avail­able to users in the US.

Mov­ing into in-stream pay­ments is a big step, so it makes sense for Insta­gram to take it slow — though it may be frus­trat­ing for busi­ness­es who’ve been wait­ing for the plat­for­m’s Shop­ping Tags to evolve.

And on pay­ments, Insta­gram will store your pay­ment data after your first in-app pur­chase, and use that for future shop­ping, so you only need to enter your details once.

Once your first order is com­plete, your infor­ma­tion will be secure­ly saved for con­ve­nience the next time you shop. You’ll also receive noti­fi­ca­tions about ship­ment and deliv­ery right inside Insta­gram, so you can keep track of your pur­chase.”

Users will be able to track their pur­chas­es via a new ‘Orders’ tab on their pro­file — and as not­ed by TechCrunch, the mer­chants them­selves will only be pro­vid­ed with essen­tial infor­ma­tion.

Mer­chants will only get the details nec­es­sary to ful­fill an order, includ­ing con­tact info and address, but not your actu­al pay­ment info. Users will see an opt-in option to share their email address with the sell­er for mar­ket­ing pur­pos­es. Check­out with Insta­gram could leave mer­chants with a lit­tle less data than if the pur­chase hap­pened on their web­site, but Insta­gram says it will pro­vide info on which sales it gen­er­ates for a mer­chant.”

Insta­gram is also charg­ing busi­ness­es a fee for each trans­ac­tion facil­i­tat­ed, giv­ing it anoth­er rev­enue stream. And as the pro­gram expands, that stream could become sig­nif­i­cant.

Indeed, giv­en Insta­gram’s growth, it’s safe to assume that a heap of brands will be very keen to get in on the new process. Insta­gram now has more than a bil­lion month­ly active users, and the visu­al focus of the plat­form has made it par­tic­u­lar­ly pop­u­lar for prod­uct dis­cov­ery.

Face­book under­lined this in a recent study, which sur­veyed over 21,000 Insta­gram users in thir­teen coun­tries to gain more insight into why and how they use the app.

As not­ed, Insta­gram’s been nudg­ing into eCom­merce for some time — the plat­form first announced its Shop­ping Tags fea­ture for posts back in 2016, and has slow­ly expand­ed them to more busi­ness­es and into Sto­ries.

Late last year, Insta­gram also announced a new ‘Shop’ tab on busi­ness pro­files, and the addi­tion of Shop­ping Col­lec­tions to help users keep tabs on var­i­ous prod­ucts they’re inter­est­ed in. It also added Shop­ping Tags for videos, and a Shop­ping Feed in the Explore sec­tion, fur­ther expand­ing the plat­for­m’s eCom­merce poten­tial.

Giv­en the var­i­ous ele­ments, every­thing is now com­ing into line for Insta­gram as it looks to take the next step. As not­ed, it’s lim­it­ed at this stage, and it won’t become avail­able to all brands, or in all regions, for some time. But this could become a big mon­ey play for the plat­form, expand­ing the rev­enue poten­tial for par­ent com­pa­ny Face­book beyond ads, which are already reach­ing peak load on its plat­forms.

It’s not going to rev­o­lu­tion­ize your Ins­ta expe­ri­ence or your mar­ket­ing approach straight away, but it will even­tu­al­ly. This is a major step for Insta­gram, which is why it needs to take care­ful, mea­sured steps. But the intro­duc­tion of full, in-stream shop­ping is a big move, and could sig­nif­i­cant­ly shift the plat­for­m’s focus mov­ing for­ward.

And when you also cou­ple this with Face­book’s inves­ti­ga­tions into an alter­nate pay­ment sys­tem via Blockchain…

This is the first big step for The Social Net­work.