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How to drive online sales using Instagram Shopping

25 July 2019

By Drew Smith

Drew is the Director of Product Strategy at Volo and focuses on how technology can help brands and retailers deliver what their customers want.

Instagram Shopping Online Sales

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Instagram Shopping Online Sales

While Instagram has only recently added their Shopping feature to their app, the social media platform has always had a visual focus on advertising. Forward-thinking brands could see that the image-first nature of the social media platform was perfect for advertising — particularly for fashion and retail products.

Since the social network rolled out shopping specific tags, the success has only magnified. Leading brands on Instagram Shopping have seen a massive rise in traffic. Luxury lingerie designer Natori is a stand out example, exploding their traffic by 1,416% due to Instagram Shopping’s easy integration and use of tagging. 

Over 130 million people tap on Instagram shopping tags each month. In March 2019, Instagram unveiled in-app purchase capabilities, creating an all-encompassing ecommerce marketplace rivalling Amazon. This one-click shopping experience will only increase the prominence of Instagram Shopping in ecommerce. 

There are already 25 million Instagram business accounts, two million of which are advertisers. As a leading social media platform, especially popular among younger people, if you aren’t on Instagram Shopping, now is the time to get started. 

Here, we are going to look at how to drive online sales by optimising your listings and making the most of Instagram Shopping.

Instagram is social media — remember that! 

It is important to remember that, despite the fact you’re going to be pushing for direct sales through Instagram, it is still a social media platform. This means that you need to focus on building followers and creating interesting content, rather than a hard-sell to push certain products.

It is all about social proof. As consumers, we are becoming more influenced by social media and who we are following, whether that’s celebrities, friends and family or brands. If we see positive reviews online or we see that someone is enjoying a product, it makes us want to try it for ourselves. A study found that 81% of consumers were influenced by posts from family and friends when it came to making purchasing decisions, showing just how much weight social media holds in changing shopping habits.   

You need to focus on building authentic and effective social proof for your brand. Seeing other people talk about your products is going to be much more effective than you talking about your own products. 

Moreover, you can buy ad placement on Instagram, but if you build a native following, people will see your posts without it costing you directly — what marketers call ‘earned social’. Mix up your product posts with normal social media engagement designed to attract and retain followers. 

Instagram is a visual medium — so get creative

Don’t forget the fact that Instagram is a visual medium; it’s all about your images. Try to get creative so that your photographs stand out against others on a person’s feed.

The same goes for Instagram stories. Use this feature to engage with your followers in different ways, from interesting facts and polls to fascinating insider videos. This will not only help sell products, it will also help build followers. 

There are lots of great brands you can use for inspiration. Spearmint LOVE is a good example, as a lot of their posts are user-generated, linking this point with the former about social proof. Nike is another brand that uses Instagram well, posting photos of inspiring athletes doing what they love, influential sports moments and record-breaking sports highlights, rather than simply posting an endless array of product shots. 

On a practical note: when posting a photo, make sure you space out your shopping tags so that they do not detract from the picture. 

Create carousel posts, stories and videos

Instagram carousel posts are great for brands, enabling you to combine up to ten videos and photos in a single post. Used properly, you can tell a visual story. This enables you to show off an entire product line or a collection of your best products. You can also show your products in action so that people get an idea of how they work. There are a number of creative ways you can utilise multiple-image posts to tell a story, including:

  • Showing before and after photos
  • Demonstrating a step-by-step process
  • Zoom in, digging deeper and deeper into an interesting photo
  • Launch a product, showing it from different angles
  • Share customer reviews
  • Break up long videos
  • Promote events, showing speakers and other elements of the event with each photo or video 

Use searchable hashtags to make your posts easy to find

For your posts to be effective, they need to be discovered by users. You need to appeal to the Instagram algorithm as well as shoppers. This means you need to optimise every post you publish.

One of the best ways to make sure that people find your posts is to use descriptive hashtags. This will ensure your items can be searched in the new Shopping channel or via the Explore page.

Plus, users have the ability to follow a specific hashtag. This means that there is a greater chance your products are going to be viewed by the right people. 

Instagram Shopping Online Sales 1 & 2

Remember that you are speaking with an engaged audience

Most of the people who you will reach on Instagram Shopping decided to follow you. It is important to remember that and create posts that take into account the interests of your brand’s dedicated followers. 

Target market decision-making should be weaved into posts, collecting data so that you can adapt your strategy. Your posts should be in-line with a wider Instagram aesthetic and utilise user-generated content if possible.

Use Instagram Shopping to build your wider brand

Instagram shopping is a shop front window on everything you do. However, as mentioned earlier, it is not simply about the products, it is about building your brand as a whole. Being so visual, Instagram helps you define your brand in front of an audience that is invested in you. 

Not all of your posts need to be shoppable posts. In fact, for the best effect, you should spread them out — being overly promotional is never wise on any type of social media platform.

Instagram offers you an opportunity to build an audience and show them your brand in action, building an aesthetic and lifestyle around your products. By doing this you will not only build a larger audience on Instagram, it will also help you build a loyal customer base that wants to seek out and engage with your brand. 

Instagram Shopping Online Sales 3&4-1

Analytics will help you optimise posts and integrate Instagram into your wider ecommerce strategy 

Instagram has an analytics feature. You should make the most of this so that you can see what is working and what isn’t, enabling you to make changes when required. 

If you do not use Instagram analytics, you could be missing out on brand engagement opportunities. For example, you could be posting during non-optimal hours, ignoring mentions that could lead to future sales or partnerships, driving calls from an ad type you only used once, driving irrelevant visitors to your business, posting too frequently or not frequently enough, or targeting the wrong audience. As a brand, utilising metrics can ensure you don’t miss out on key insights such as impressions, visits to profiles and clicks. 

Of course, there is only so much Instagram Analytics can do. For more detailed analytics data you can employ the power of ecommerce platforms armed with AI and machine learning tools, in order to deliver deeper insights into customer behaviour. These tools also pull in data from across multiple ecommerce channels into a single place, allowing you to coordinate your campaigns and make informed decisions based on data from every channel, rather than being narrowly focussed on just one. 

These kinds of ecommerce platforms also automate many technical aspects of creating product listings, freeing up time to focus on creative aspects of campaign planning, such as cultivating a loyal social media audience. 

Fundamentally, what is important to remember with Instagram Shopping is to be engaging. Use it as a platform to promote your brand, create an audience and grow. Instagram Shopping is a channel that will, if used correctly, drive sales and grow your audience  across your entire ecommerce ecosystem. So get posting! 

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