Written by Matt Warren
8th October 2015 • 21 min read
Instagram is quickly becoming the world’s most popular social network, overtaking Facebook and attracting casual users and businesses alike. Social media is a staple of brand and marketing strategy, but how exactly can retailers use Instagram marketing to boost ecommerce sales? We’ve spoken to retailers who use Instagram to find out what they’re doing.
Rocky Ziri, Marketing Manager at ISHINE365
When we first started the business, Instagram was a brand new platform that we decided to try out. It ended up proving to be the best and most successful social media platform for fashion and swimwear and we’ve built up a really amazing and dedicated following through it over the years. It seems that people these days are looking for more of a visual experience and Instagram is the best way to create brand awareness using interesting pictures that not only show off our products, but depict a certain lifestyle.
We like to make sure that our followers have access to shop our products that we post to Instagram with ease, so we’ve recently teamed up with a company called Four Sixty, which makes our Instagram feed completely shoppable with the click of a button and it’s been very well received. We also like to include engaging images, we run tons of giveaways and contests, and always utilize Instagram when we need to promote our sales.
Emily, co-founder of LaRitzy
Cara, Founder and Designer at Cara Diane + Co
I think the most obvious benefit of Instagram is its focus on visual content. For me as a retailer, this means that my Instagram feed can serve as a “highlight reel” of my products. Capturing all different aspects of them, and showcasing how they are used in real life. I was drawn to using Instagram because to me it felt like a more natural approach to advertising. I think that followers are more receptive to my brand advertising through my posts then they are with things such as Facebook are banner ads.
I think the main difference [between Instagram and other social media channels] is the more authentic feel. Instagram has a very interesting culture that feels like more of a community.
Posts that I put up to advertise my products don’t feel super “ad-sy” compared to Facebook and Twitter ads, they blend in with other posts of people just sharing their day to day life. Which means that that is how my products are viewed, and as an apparel and accessories brand, that’s just what I’m going for. Because of this authenticity, it allows me to post “behind the scenes” pics of my brand which really helps people connect with my brand on a more personal level.
The other part of my strategy is to really engage with people. Like I said before, Instagram is really a community, so if you just post a string of product pics that won’t really get you very far. I like and comment on customers’ posts so that it’s a conversation. I also connect with people I can collaborate with, which for me that is primarily fashion bloggers and fashion feature accounts. I think is super beneficial to get featured on a feature account, because it puts your post directly into people’s feed compared to having those same people go out and find you by a hashtag.
This boosts sales for my brand because people see that they are buying from a person and not just another heartless eCommerce store. They see how the product was made, or how it looked in a runway show I did, or behind the scenes of a fashion shoot, and that creates a genuine demand. I have found that the average price for a sale referred from Instagram compared to Facebook and Twitter is significantly higher (for me, about $15-20 higher on average). Its also essential to direct people to your profile link to show them where to go to be able to purchase your product or get more information.
Brad, Toxic Gaming House
We started a little over a year ago and when we did a few close friends of mine told me to instantly go to Instagram especially for product based sites like my own. They sold e-cigarettes and car parts. The great part about Instagram is that the newest generation is using it and have become essentially bored with things like Facebook. The return on your time is much higher in my opinion and unlike other social sites EVERYONE has the chance to see what you post unlike Facebook which only shows a small percentage of your followers. If you post during peak times like 3-5 pm EST it’s far greater than any unpaid post on Twitter or Facebook, furthermore the picture can do all the sales for you.
One of the greatest not-so-secret secrets anymore is you can simply build your following using the “follow unfollow” method as well. You can also use third party companies like Spreesy to make purchasing easier for your customers, but not necessary. Other things like making sure not to bombard your followers with product photos and mixing in humor and creativity are all other valid points.
Lindsey, Tuck Shop Trading Co.
We use Instagram for a variety of reasons. The first is to keep our existing customers engaged. We post daily to show them what we have been up to, to share some inspiration or to show off new merchandise. We also use Instagram to reach new customers. . . we have truly seen the power that beautiful imagery has to attract people and keep them interested. Finally we use Instagram as a research tool. When we are looking for, or are approached by a new potential retailer our first stop is usually their Instagram account. There we can see the reach that they have, and if their brand seems to be a right fit for our products.
Instagram is a great tool for direct to consumer marketing. Followers of our brand can see previews as we develop new products, and then be the first to know when a product becomes available. We will often times have customers ask us to set aside items as soon as we post so they could come purchase them in our Outpost, or will ask for the website link where they can purchase the product being featured. It’s as if they have the secret inside scoop about Tuck Shop Co. and we have found that that creates an extremely loyal and engaged customer base.
Marilyn, Pulp Sushi
Short answer for why I use Instagram is for convenience – it is easily accessible from my iPhone! Instagram is a great way to connect to many users in a simple way but can potentially leave a memorable impact to with users to make them want to see more and follow you back. Instagram recently announced that they have reached 400 million users and as a platform, and it continues to grow in popularity exceeding Facebook and Twitter. It is foolish for a business to not use Instagram to promote their business.”
I use relevant hashtags for my items like #jewellery #handmade #jewelryforwomen #fashion to come up in search results. I also use my own unique hashtag #shoppulpsushi so when someone shares a “happy customer” image including my work, they can use this hashtag.
Since you cannot add links to your photo description, I state in the image description that the item is available in my Etsy shop and that you can find the link in my profile. If I am having a sale, I create a ad graphic on Photoshop or Canva but I try to keep advertisements with text to minimum.
We use Instagram to drive sales. Our site offers beautiful photo printing and framing through a simple online interface. We actually have a collection of frames dedicated solely to Instagram, and the site allows you to upload your photos directly from social media. So we are very active on the platform, commenting on photos, engaging with our community, and posting interesting content. We see a significant amount of traffic from our efforts.
Susanne Prax, president of Vispronet
We use Instagram because it’s a platform built on visuals, and it make sense for our company to use, as we specialize in printed promotional displays. We can truly showcase our product line by using Instagram. It’s easy and effortless to use. We also utilize Facebook and Twitter, but hashtags aren’t popular on Facebook, and Twitter is very rapid. Instagram allows the best of all social media channels, and can be integrated with our presences.
Our strategy is to showcase us and our customers. Many of our customers post their products on Instagram, and reposting is a huge chunk of our content plan. That way, we show pride in our customers and our work, while also promoting our products to generate more sales. We don’t overly advertise our products on Instagram, but rather use previous jobs to demonstrate our capabilities. This way, our customers know we support them, and they can support us by following us, shopping from us and so forth.
It helps sales because, as I said previously, Instagram is meant for visuals, and our business is built on visual attention.
Anna Coy, To Hold & To Have
I focus on Instagram as a marketing platform for a few reasons. First it’s immediacy, I tend to have new potential brides view my Instagram as it is the most up to date record of my work. I can post work in progress, or finished pieces without the specific parameters of adding polished photos to my website. Second, it’s reach, for no cost I can show my work to people all over the world. I have been fortunate enough to have been selling and shipping pieces as far as Australia and Malaysia because the client followed me on Instagram.
What sets Instagram apart from other social media outlets is the ability to display your brands personality through photos. You can tell a story through your photos with the style, tone, content and composition of the picture. I try to present my work fairly straightforward, let my pieces speak for themselves. I find my photos that get the most “likes” are unfiltered and very simply presented. That may not be the same for everyone.
Instagram is also a great PR opportunity. I promote all my company’s activities, from local shows I’m participating in, behind the scenes of styled shoots or publications I may have appeared in. I will also tag all the other vendors I’m working with. It’s a great chance to cross promote with other companies and share each other’s reach.
I also rely on Instagram for inspiration. As a person working in a creative business, it is important to stay on trend, look forward and create something people want. Instagram aids in that mission. I follow nearly as many people that follow me. I look to other leaders in the wedding industry for new ideas and to help predict the future of wedding designs. There are so many talented people out there, and it is important to support each other. I admire the sense of community Instagram has created.
William Bauer, Royce Leather
We leverage Instagram to provide a human face to our leather accessories brand and it has driven significant traffic in recent weeks to our website. Amongst vibrant behind-the-scenes pictures of the process of craftsmanship, community service work and company culture, we have built a strong following on Instagram premised on the holistic nature of our posts.
Showing your employees at work not only gives a behind-the-scenes view of your company, it’s also a way to celebrate staff and show them how much they’re valued. Rather than utilizing a “push” marketing strategy in which some brands highlight lifestyle images, we simply engage with our audience and communicate our core values of family heritage and integrity. All work and no play will make your brand a dull company on Instagram. Integrate images that show your human side to create stronger connections with your followers. Essentially, push experiences, not products.
I use Instagram for many reasons. It targets the audience that I have in mind for Kiti: the creative, individual types who are looking for something different to what’s on the high street. It allows me to be creative when treating the photographs that I take. It also links to brands that I use (via the use of hashtags), which widens the audience.
[Instagram helps boost my sales] by enticing people to come and buy, introducing them to brands which have not been available in Cardiff before. Also being able to contact me and buying without coming to the shop. It helps to let people know what is available in the shop, therefore making their trip to Kiti worthwhile.
I don’t have a strategy really… I do however post events or new stock as they appear. I also use celebs or friends to model my clothes. I will use it at Christmas to promote Christmas gear, and I also use it to advertise any sales that I’m running. I use different types of pictures, some which show the clothes in their entirety and also more abstract arty ones to show what the brand is about, which helps to stir intrigue.
Thanks to Instagram (and of course the fact that our watch is an affordable and high quality beauty), we are the most backed Swiss Watch Project on Kickstarter to date! Instagram allows us to interact with potential and current customers, and for customers to interact with us, in their language within their space, thanks to imagery and tagging capabilities in the comments section of an image.
The imagery overrides language barriers, cultural barriers and so on. In addition, fans can tag their friends and have a discussion on our Instagram photo, in their own language. It’s easy for others to promote our brand on Instagram without it feeling like a traditional promotion.
Customers can let all their followers know how much they are into our brand, by posting pics of themselves wearing the watch. We usually find out how much our fans adore the watch through the hashtags like #LIVwatches and #gotmyLIV.
In fact, every time we send out a watch (usually to someone who found out about us through Instagram), we send a letter asking the fan to post a photo on Instagram, thereby making the entire LIV experience a full circle!
Written by Matt Warren
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