The world's first Instagram only, serverless eCommerce store.

My take on the future of eCommerce

@MerchLDN is the first Instagram only, fully-automated, serverless, ecommerce store. To make a purchase simply; follow, like and comment “cop” under any image. After commenting, a bot that I have written will send you a direct message (DM) using Instagram, this DM will contain a link to a pre-filled basket where you can instantly complete the purchase.

Instagram Only

While Instagram has been the cornerstone of any fashion enterprise’s digital strategy for years now. Instagram has always had one issue preventing a business to go full Instagram only, the infamous ‘Link in bio’. Pre-2018, this was the only place where a user could enter the sales pipeline. Now, thanks to the introduction of ‘swipe-up’ links in instagram stories, and some handy work on my part with the bots, an instagram profile can essentially be a full shop living on your customer’s phone.

Architecture

Instagram will be the primary touchpoint for all customer interactions, Instagram has three sales pipeline entry points the bio link, links in stories (accessible from both profile image and highlighted stories) and DMs with links.

Customer Journey

If you noticed, all products available for purchase have something that looks like this #!73#! in the caption. The DM bot will look for this when matching a comment to a product, the number contained between ‘#!’ is the WordPress post ID of the product in WooCommerce. This is the reason for using WordPress, the bot will just need to extract the value and append it to the end of the site’s url like this;
http://merchldn.com/?p=73

This decouples the interaction between the bot and the eCommerce site. This means that anyone, even with no technical skill, can login to the WordPress site, create a product, and post it to Instagram and the Bot will continue to work.

Because the purchase process requires 2 engagements on each post, the Instagram account will, by design, have higher than average engagement, this will also fuel growth. Like and comment “cop” without following and see what happens!

Serverless

I have been learning about docker and containerization technology for the past year, it’s an amazing concept and I think it's the future for web. But I’ve found it hard to put it to good use for my small scale WordPress and Laravel projects. However serverless technology might be the solution, serverless is the idea that the developer is completely abstracted from the underlying server. Now I can simply dockerScaling, SSL, DB, are all handled for you, as the developer you just write the code. This allowed me to have a WordPress instance with SSL, CDN an backups in literally 30 sec.

Big shout out to Ryan Kroonenburg of aCloud.Guru, I learned about the idea of serverless architecture while I was using his amazing platform to revise for my AWS Practitioner exam. I’m Not sponsored, but if you are looking for premium AWS educational content, these are the guys for you!

Enhancements

Chatbots

Chatbots have become incredibly advanced in recent years, as businesses shift even more of their core operations to social media, it’s fair to assume chatbots will inevitably become mainstream. With direct access to granular user data; like habits, purchase frequency, images of clothes. It’s clear that chatbots will use this for outbound marketing purposes. If you consider a male, 23 years old, who only buys one artist on the last working day of every month (his payday), it wouldn't be hard to send personally targeted and perfectly timed outbound messages to generate sales.

First the chatbot would send a message telling the customer that his/her favorite artist’s merch is available in the store. Then the user would receive a link to purchase the item. If the user fails to make a purchase, the chatbot would simply send a timed message with a unique coupon code for that particular user.

As an interesting twist, you could also set this to be a ‘View Once’ image requiring the user to print screen the image. This branded image could act as a permanent ad in the user’s photos indefinitely.

Instant Delivery

An obvious next step will be to provide instant delivery using a bicycle courier service. This would provide the customer with the option for instant delivery, this would be more expensive but would allow same day delivery across London.

In a nutshell, the customer lifecycle would be; like image, comment ‘cop’, receive link to checkout page via DM, complete order, wait for the item to arrive in 2–5 hours. Depending on the API support from the courier service, this process could be completely automated, vastly improving the customer experience with close to zero time or capital investment.

Hire Me

I am a WordPress expert with 6 years of experience, 1 premium plugin and 4 open source projects built specifically to give WordPress advanced application-like functionality. GitHub.com/AnthonyBudd: WP_Model, WP_AJAX, WP_Cron and WP_Mail. I have 3 years of experience with Laravel building MVPs, Applications and APIs. I’m a certified AWS Practitioner, with 3 years of experience working with AWS.

I’m an IT consultant who provides digital project management, business development and AWS infrastructure consultancy services to businesses across London. Feel free to drop an email to anthonybudd@ideea.co.uk for all work enquiries.

www.linkedin.com/in/anthonybudd