The Complete Guide to Driving Sales on Instagram
Instagram steadily maintains 1 billion active users and it’s the second most logged into social media platform, after Facebook. And, 90% of accounts on Instagram follow at least one business. These metrics of use combined with the growth of the app’s features have created an ecosystem of marketing opportunities that retailers are using to drive revenue.
In the ten years since it’s initial launch, Instagram has introduced features that have transformed the app into a popular channel for commerce. In 2011, a year after launching, the platform introduced hashtags that allowed users to discover brands and products. In 2013, Instagram ads were introduced to enable brands to expand their reach. In 2016, Instagram stories became the newest feature that allowed brands to showcase their products and engage their communities. And more recently, Instagram has added a Live feature, and Instagram Reels which brands are already approaching in new and innovative ways.
There’s now a multitude of strategies that businesses can use to attract and convert customers on Instagram. In this guide, we’ll dive into the most current marketing strategies for retailers looking to reach audiences on Instagram, and drive revenue. And, we’ll explain how Shopify merchants can use Instagram Shops to enable a shortened path to purchase for customers using the Instagram app.
Using Instagram to convert and drive revenue.
Ultimately, your goal on Instagram is to find and convert new customers to drive sales. This path to purchase begins with discovery and inspiration. Users might find your business’s Instagram page and browse your feed for inspiration, or they might see a favourite influencer of theirs using one of your products in an Instagram Story. Once you’ve attracted the interest of customers on the app, the next step is to guide them into the path to purchase.
Currently, brands and businesses have the option to tag products on their grid images. When the user taps the image, prices appear, and the user can tap the price for more information. Once the in-app product description page is open, the user can choose to click “go to website” to purchase the product. Brands can also tag products in their captions to maximize the likelihood that a customer will convert.
Instagram is aware that exiting the app doesn’t make for the most optimized path to purchase, which is why they’ve partnered with Shopify to roll out “Instagram Shopping.” Instagram Shops offers Shopify merchants the ability to make a simple version of their online store that can be browsed on Instagram and Facebook. Shoppers can browse catalogs, add to cart, and checkout without ever exiting the app. This new integration, which is being rolled out throughout summer 2020, means that brands can drive shoppers from browsing to purchasing in just a few taps.
How to promote your Shopify store on Instagram.
With Instagram Shops presenting the functionality to complete purchases in the Instagram app, Shopify merchants should hone their marketing strategies to guide customers to checkout. This way, merchants can take advantage of Instagram as a potential revenue stream.
Social proof is key to gaining customer trust, which is an integral factor in the customer journey. Because Instagram is a social app, it is the perfect channel for tapping into social proof. User generated campaigns and influencer marketing are two strategies that Shopify merchants can use to both broaden their audience, and gain consumer trust.
Create a user generated content campaign.
User-generated content (UGC) is any content — text, videos, images, reviews, etc.— that is created by people, rather than brands. Merchants can share UGC on their own social media accounts. While UGC can be shared on most social media channels, it’s a popular marketing strategy on Instagram because it can help build and content library, and promote your store to new users.
But the real value of UGC is in the way that this style of campaign promotes authenticity, creates trust, and drives purchasing decisions. When a user sees a person that they know personally, or an influencer that they admire post UGC, it sparks their interest - and trust - in that product. UGC is an organic form of social proof that allows your customers to show others that they approve of your product and brand.
Before implementing a strategy for gathering UGC for your brand or business, it’s important to know some best practices:
- Have a clear CTA. You should note what kind of content your brand is looking for, how users should tag it (consider creating a branded hashtag), and what users will receive in return. Many users will create UGC because they enjoy the exposure of a re-post on a brand’s Instagram page.
- When posting UGC to your businesses’s Instagram, be sure to have permission from the user, and credit them. Crediting them can be done by simply tagging their handle in the image itself and in the caption.
- Use UGC to discover more about your customers. There are many insights that you can find in tracking the content your customers share. For example, you might discover which products are most popular, or you might learn the different ways in which customers are using your products. UGC is a fantastic way to gather feedback that can be used to optimize your products and business strategies.
In the above example, Fashion Nova has reposted an image of one of their customers wearing their clothing. The image originates on that customer’s page, but Fashion Nova has repurposed it for their grid. They’ve noted which piece of clothing the customer is wearing, they’ve tagged the customer, and they’ve included a call to action (CTA) that encourages other customers to generate their own Fashion Nova content. Using a hashtag, users can tag Fashion Nova. This piece of UGC serves as inspiration for how to wear that item, and it also communicates approval of the brand and product.
Use influencer marketing to reach your target audience.
Influencer marketing has become a useful strategy for increasing brand awareness, earning customer trust, and driving sales. Influencer marketing relies on “influencers,” who, simply put, are people who have a large audience on social media, which results in the power to influence. This form of social proof is among the most popular and successful when it comes to Instagram.
Influencers typically have a large and dedicated following revolving around a niche. Niches can include topics like travel, skincare, fashion, or design. Because of the personal nature of Instagram, influencers tend to have a lot of credibility with their audience. Thanks to their established trustworthiness and authenticity, influencers can be a powerful marketing tool. In fact, 71% of marketers rate the quality of customers and traffic from influencer marketing as better than other marketing sources.
The fitness brand Gymshark is a great example of a direct to consumer brand that leveraged influencer marketing to grow the business. Ben Francis, the founder and CEO of Gymshark, has explained that in the early days of Gymshark, he mailed their products to fitness influencers for free, hoping to hear some feedback from them. Those influencers went on to wear Gymshark products in their videos and images, which meant that suddenly Francis’s products were being seen by a massive audience of gym enthusiasts. This was one of the earliest examples of the impact of influencer marketing. And today, Gymshark has achieved a 1.3 billion valuation.
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Influencer marketing has now evolved into paid campaigns. Brands and businesses will partner with an influencer to create content that highlights the brand and it’s products. In the above example, Thirdlove has partnered with Lydia Hudgens, an influencer with over 40,000 followers. The post shares a couple of Thirdlove’s products, as well as commentary from Hudgens about what she loves about the products.
When planning an influencer campaign on Instagram, brands should carefully research the influencers they are thinking of partnering with. Ask the influencer for their media kit, examples of their work and past partnerships, and engagement metrics. Ensure that their niche and audience matches your target audience. The impact of an influencer campaign can then be measured by engagement with the influencer’s content on Instagram, changes to brand sentiment, website traffic, and generated revenue.
Expanding your audience using Instagram Live and Instagram Reels.
Instagram Live and Instagram Reels are two of the app’s newest features. These content formats provide a new space for merchants to share content that reflects their brand and promotes their products. Understanding the function and benefit of these features can help your brand to experiment with new campaigns.
- Instagram Live
Instagram Live is a feature of Instagram Stories that allows users to stream video to followers and engage with them in real time. When a user begins broadcasting live on their account, a ring highlights their profile picture in Instagram Stories to alert followers that they can view the live stream. Once followers join the livestream, they can engage through live commenting and emoji reactions. When a stream ends, it can be saved as an IGTV video.
The above example is an Instagram live from Thirdlove. In it, their CEO, Heidi Zak, interviews Chloe Rogers, founder and activist behind CommunityX - an online coalition of changemakers. The interview is centered around the Black Lives Matter movement and how CommunityX is offering a digital space for mobilizing activism. Throughout the interview, Zak asks Rogers questions coming from the live feed of comments in the stream.
This Thirdlove Live demonstrates how the brand is using Live as a space for activism and leadership. Beyond activism, brands can use this feature to host interviews that give customers an opportunity to ask questions, or to host interviews between staff, designers, clients, and more. It’s a fantastic tool for connecting with your audience, and inviting them to engage with your brand.
Instagram Reels are the newest content format to be introduced by Instagram. Reels allow users to create and share short-form video content to their followers in a new dedicated feed. Reels also appear on a user’s explore page.
A Reel is limited to 15 seconds long, and is typically set to music or narration. A user can add filters or other editing options to a Reel, which gives the format a creative appeal that Instagram’s other content formats lack.
Instagram’s Reels are a format that is notably similar to TikTok’s video format. TikTok is one of the fastest growing social media platforms in the world, with over 800 million active users. Because of the similarities between Reels and TikTok, many of the memes and trends that have gained popularity on TikTok are now appearing on Reels.
Fashion Nova uses Reels to share a mixture of content. Some of their Reels are user-generated, some are how-to videos, and others tap into the memes that are currently trending. Reels are a current and popular form of content that have the potential to go viral, quickly. And with the ability to tap into memes and trends, it’s easy to use the format to broaden your audience. If your target audience happens to skew younger, Reels are a great way to reach them.
Shorten the path to purchase using Shopify’s integration: Instagram Shops.
Instagram Shops are free and easy to create. In just a few clicks, Shopify merchants can import inventory and create a storefront. To get started, you’ll need to make sure that you have an Instagram business page, which is connected to your Facebook business page. You’ll then need to log into your Shopify admin, and under “Sales Channels,” add Instagram as a channel. Following that, you can add products to your Instagram shop catalogue. One thing to note is that currently, in-app checkout is only available in the USA.
Merchants can use Instagram Shops to showcase their distinct brand and products by customizing the colors and layout of your in-app shop. They can also organize product collections into featured tiles to match the aesthetic of their Shopify store. With this integration, merchants can run their business in one place while selling on multiple sales channels.
By enabling in-app purchases, Instagram Shops removes the need to navigate out of Instagram to a brand’s ecommerce site. This allows merchants to shorten the path to purchase for a more optimized user experience. This new feature for Facebook and Instagram signals how powerful these channels are for reaching customers, building brand awareness, and making sales.
Instagram is a valuable marketing channel for brands.
In the ten years since it’s initial launch, Instagram has evolved into a dynamic platform for reaching consumers and driving sales. The app’s identity as a visual platform has made it a naturally perfect environment for shopping experiences. As users scroll through the plethora of video and image content, they are curious about the outfits they see people wearing, the items they see people using, and more. And now, the app supports tagging so that users can find out exactly what products they are seeing as they casually browse their feeds.
Instagram is leaning into this visual identity by actively optimizing for brands through new features, like the Instagram Shops x Shopify integration. This indicates that this channel is on track to become a platform that supports the entire path to purchase, from initial inspiration, to brand discovery and awareness, and finally to purchase.
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