In 2015, a Financial Times article talked about how retail stores, reeling from closure of brick & mortar, were just beginning to ‘explore’ social media channels to sell their products.
Fast forward to 2017, and mediums like Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest are as much about social commerce as they are about connecting with your friends from high school or college.
And no prizes for guessing that amongst them all, Instagram’s way ahead of the curve when it comes to audience and engagement. It now has 800Mn active users every month, which means that as an online seller you have access to an ever growing audience.
Engagement with brands on Instagram is 10 times higher than Facebook.
With 90% of the world’s top 100 brands being on Instagram, it seems that everybody wants a slice of it.
But the only question that you, as an online seller, should be asking is—Is Instagram driving sales for me?
One of the biggest drawbacks of this platform is the fact that your beautiful images are NOT clickable.
AND it gets a bit worse, with Instagram only allowing one link in your bio.
But Instagram surprised everybody in 2017 when it gave access to its newest feature, Instagram Shopping, to thousands of Shopify & BigCommerce merchants provided they fit the criteria for it.
H&M and Banana Republic are already cashing in on this, tagging up to 5 products in all or some of their posts (read more).
Despite these ‘giant strides’ the fact is that shopping on Instagram is still restrictive. Instagram Shopping is only open to merchants and buyers based in US.
So till the time this feature becomes available to you and your customers, how do you make it as easy as possible for your followers to shop your Instagram feed?
Here are 5 ways you can bring in the Insta-moolah:
Yes, Instagram users really ENGAGE. As I mentioned before, brands see four times more engagement on Instagram than Facebook. But what makes users like, comment, or click on a link?
It’s the content.
It can’t be stressed enough that Instagram is an extremely visual medium, where a more customer-centric approach is preferred over a product-centric one. This means that, apart from being clear and attractive, your image needs to evoke some emotion that will help the customer identify with your brand.
And it’s the perfect place to leverage user generated content, because it provides the same kind of validation that a customer review does on your store.
Forever 21’s account is a reflection of their target group and the lifestyle. Aimed at younger women, their posts feature pop colors, latest trends, fun quotes.
It could be anything and everything—filters, props, cityscape, background. Really, there are no limits to how you develop this as long as you are consistent with it.
If you need some inspiration, head to How to Develop a Visual Theme for Your Instagram Business Profile.
And don’t forget that your captions play an important role in storytelling and that’s where you can talk about our your product. It’s the first place a potential buyer will look for information.
Avoid sounding to sales-y though as Instagram users don’t engage much with purely promotional content. And if your post doesn’t get adequate likes or comments then Instagram’s algorithm is not going to take note of it or show it on user’s feed.
Hashtags are like rocket fuel for your content on Instagram.
The idea behind developing ‘stop them in their tracks’ kind of content is not only to serve your existing followers, but to get new ones.
With 60% of Instagram users logging in daily, you don’t want to miss ANY opportunity to add more to your list. And the simplest route to your target audience is by using targeted hashtags.
According to research, Instagram posts with hashtags increase likes by 70%.
But is the hashtag game as easy as it seems on Instagram?
Relevancy is the keyword when it comes to selecting hashtags for your posts. Use hashtags that describe your business or content, and be selective with the number of high-density hashtags that you use.
Remember, high density hashtags are the ones that are most popular and most used. So your post can easily get lost among all the others using the same hashtag.
Throw in a good measure of low-density hashtags which are more niche and increase the chances of being discovered by your target group.
Once you find the right mix of hashtags that is attracting a lot of likes, comments, or follows, it is tempting to stick to the tried and tested list.
Always keep it fresh if you don’t want to be viewed as spammy by Instagram. If that happens then you can say bye-bye to engagement since Instagram will lower the reach of your post. That means few people will get to see your content in their feed and even fewer engaging with it.
Use tools like OrangeTwig’s InstaSucess Toolkit that can help you find trending and related hashtags and also tell you the frequency with which they are being used.
And tags work both ways—if you sell cold pressed juices then your target audience is concerned about being #fit, or is really into #nutrition, or maybe they like to go for #detox every Monday.
Don’t wait for buyers to come to you, instead reach out to them using hashtags that they are using. Leave a comment on their posts and they’d be interested in checking out your profile. Once they do that, let the content on your account take over.
The idea behind any social media presence is to ultimately guide your potential customers through the sales funnel which will take them through Awareness -> Interest -> Decision -> Action.
When it’s time for your customer to make the decision, you want it to be as easy as possible. And this is where Instagram’s one link in bio policy DOES NOT HELP.
Maybe this example will help explain: Let’s say you are checking out leather boots on store X’s Instagram account. After shortlisting 4-5 boots, you are ready to invest more time and find out some details about these product, maybe purchase one as well.
AND you have the shop URL to take you to your destination. Wow! This seems easy, right?
But have you identified the biggest roadblock that could derail your decision making?
In this entire scenario, the sheer effort that’s required to look for shortlisted products among 100s of boots is a good enough reason to abandon the pursuit.
It could cost your business big bucks if the customer is expected to go through your extensive catalogue.
But there is a simple workaround to this problem which even brands like Neiman Marcus and Target swear by. It’s the clickable post link.
When customers click on the clickable post link, they are re-directed to a page which is replica of their Instagram account. But here ALL posts are clickable and further take the customer to the product page.
Combine this with a mobile-friendly online store and you will see results in no time.
Alternatively, you can follow the footsteps of ASOS or Zara. Both of them provide their customers with a reference code that they can copy and search for on the site.
But remember that this approach can only work if your products, pages, or collections are easily searchable in your store.
Your Instagram business account is the window display of your online store. But customers find it confusing when they don’t find the same aesthetics on the store. The power of visuals on Instagram is such that when customers land on the store and if they don’t find the same aesthetics as the window display (your IG account) they get thrown off their game.
A product being used by ‘people like us’ or photographed in daily life situations has a much bigger impact on the customer’s buying decision as compared to a very catalog-ish image.
With tools like Snapppt, you can embed your shoppable Instagram gallery in your shop (or any other website) where user generated content can be used as proof of a product’s popularity. The tool also tells you which one of your IG images are performing well.
Since you can tag products in these posts, all that the customer needs to do is click on it and they will be re-directed to the product page.
You can choose the images that are shown as part of the Shoppable feed BUT you’ll have to tag the products in each post yourself and only then can the customer be re-directed to the product/section.
One of the best ways to drive traffic to your store is to keep reminding your followers that they need to perform an action if they want more - ’click link in the bio’ or ‘DM for product details and price’.
Never forget the power of a clear call-to-action (CTA). Can you imagine a giveaway being even mildly successful if people don’t know whether they’re supposed to comment, like, or click?
The best place for your CTA, is your photo caption. You can put it as the first comment on the post as well, but as other comments start rolling in, yours will no longer be visible unless somebody checks out previous comments.
But since the caption is always displayed along with the post, there’s little chance of the buyer missing your CTA if you include it there.
You could also change the Call-To-Action to encourage engagement on the posts. Ask your followers to vote for A or B or tag their friends.
Take note of how Lush cosmetics does it:
So now you can start working on making your Instagram shoppable inch by inch. And if you still need more encouragement, then just remember that in 2014 while brands lamented the closure of their retail stores, Zara was still minting money. How? Because they started Instagram marketing early, driving their customers to purchase from their online store.
Who doesn’t like the sound of ka-ching?