Retailers   //   March 22, 2022

Shopify targets influencers with new link-in-bio tool Linkpop

E-commerce giant Shopify wants to take a growing share of social media stars’ online sales with a new link-in-bio tool called Linkpop.

Like other link-in-bio services, Linkpop allows users to promote multiple links on a single page — a musician can promote links to their merch site, their YouTube channel, and their Spotify page, for example. However, what makes Linkpop different from other link-in-bio tools is that it’s designed from the start to promote shopping with as few clicks as possible. Linkpop users can promote a curated selection of Shopify products that visitors can buy directly without leaving the link-in-bio page, instead of say, clicking on a separate link that takes them to Amazon or another e-commerce site.

Unveiled today, the tool is free for anyone to use whether or not they are a Shopify merchant. But the shoppable links are only available to Shopify merchants. By doing this, the hope is that ultimately Linkpop users will be incentivized to create a Shopify storefront, in order to get access to checkout experiences.

Over the years, link-in-bio tools have become an essential part of social commerce in the U.S. Merchants of all sizes — from YouTube stars with a clothing line to direct-to-consumer brands — rely on link-in-bio tools in order to promote multiple links to someone checking out one of their social media pages. One of the most notable link-in-bio startups, Linktree, recently secured a $1.3 billion valuation last year. As social media apps like TikTok drive a larger portion of online sales, e-commerce players like Shopify sense a growing opportunity in the link-in-bio space — even as social media sites look to create more e-commerce tools of their own.

“Linkpop allows merchants to store all of their brand-building touchpoints in one place and sell directly from their link-in-bio page, making it easier than ever to turn followers into buyers and brand advocates,” Shopify director of product Amir Kabbara wrote in an email to Modern Retail. “Linkpop was created with commerce in mind, meaning that merchants and creators can use Linkpop to launch social storefronts across the platforms they’ve already using to build followings.”

The link-in-bio space started, essentially, as a workaround. Instagram still doesn’t allow for users to add direct links to their posts. As Instagram has grown in popularity — boasting more than 2 billion monthly active users —  its lack of support for direct links became a problem for people who built a large following on Instagram and social media sites, who then wanted to direct their users to multiple sites.

Jason Goldberg, chief commerce strategy officer at Publicis said that at the moment, link-in-bio tools, at least in the U.S., “are the most popular way, the most common way, to monetize social media traffic.” Linktree, the most popular of these sites, was founded in 2016 and now boasts more than 12 million users. The company now counts mainstream celebrities like Katy Perry and Selena Gomez among its many users.

Over the past couple of years, there’s been a bigger spotlight placed on companies creating tools for the people who make a living developing content for and building a following off of social media apps, often referred to as creators or influencers. The so-called creator economy’s growing relevance is showcased by companies in this sector announcing higher and higher valuations — Patreon, for example, achieved a $4 billion valuation last year after launching in 2014. Similarly, more traditional business-to-business companies, like Shopify, have begun releasing tools aimed squarely at creators.

That’s because apps like TikTok and Instagram are playing a greater role in product discovery, and helping businesses drive sales. In turn, commerce companies are realizing they need to cater these evolving spending patterns. The term “creator,” for example, has been thrown around on more Shopify earnings calls recently, with Shopify president Harley Finkelstein saying during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call in February that the increase in online sales over the past two years, among other factors, means there are “more selling opportunities to makers, creators, influencers and curators.”

Shopify has more than one million merchants, making it well-positioned to launch new commerce tools like a link-in-bio feature. However, Shopify — as well as other link-in-bio companies — face increased competition from the social media platforms themselves.

“All of the social platforms have major initiatives to become commerce platforms on purpose,” Goldberg said. Instagram launched an in-app checkout feature, called Instagram Checkout, in 2019, while TikTok unveiled an in-app shopping feature in August. It’s worth noting that in many of these instances — like with TikTok — Shopify is one of the vendors helping to power the in-app shopping experience.

With that, as more social media apps invest in commerce, Goldberg said link-in-bio tools “are probably not a long-term solution.” Facing this existential threat, link-in-bio companies are trying to outdoor one another in adding unique features to get users to hopefully stick with them, even as they increasingly being courted to use Instagram or TikTok’s commerce tools. Link-in-bio company Koji, for example added tools last year to help users set up a rudimentary storefront, while Linktree is looking to add more integrations for various commerce companies, announcing a partnership with custom t-shirt maker Spring last summer. This latest Shopify tool will make the space even more competitive for these startups.

Kabbara declined to say in an email what new features Shopify would be adding to Linkpop over time, but that the company viewed its role as being “the commerce infrastructure for all creators.”

“At Shopify, we view creators as anyone who has amassed a passionate following that they either inspire, inform, or entertain,” Kabbara wrote.