Instagram is one of the most valuable marketing channels for eCommerce brands today. In fact, 90% of Instagram users follow brand accounts, and around 68% of them regularly engage with them.
These days, consumers use Instagram to discover new brands and engage with their favorites. They can even make purchases through the app now thanks to tools that make it easy for brands to sell their products right on Instagram.
Whether or not you’ve benefited yet from this type of engagement on Instagram, there’s no denying that it’s increasingly becoming one of the best social media platforms for eCommerce—and in this article, we’re going to show you exactly how to use Instagram to sell more online. Let’s get started.
Why Use Instagram to Increase Your Sales Online?
First things first: why is Instagram a great sales channel for your eCommerce brand? Besides the benefits, we mentioned above (you know, that consumers are engaging and buying from brands on Instagram now more than ever), here are four additional reasons:
1. Instagram Marketing Is Cheap
Instagram is free to use, it doesn’t have any in-app purchase, and best of all, many of the marketing features they offer brands like you are also free.
To start, you need a business account (which is free). This will give you valuable insights into your followers, post and Story engagement, and any other marketing activities you use—all of which can help you optimize your efforts so you make marketing decisions that’ll have the most impact on your eCommerce business and sales.
2. Instagrammers Love to Buy Online
We mentioned this earlier, but it’s worth repeating: Instagram users love to buy on the platform. In fact, according to Instagram, about 30 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every month.
SproutSocial conducted a study that confirms this: 79% of people who saw a product on Instagram searched for more information about it, and 46% made a purchase.
3. Audience Diversity & Reach
Instagram has more than one billion monthly active users, making it one of the most popular social media tools worldwide—not to mention a marketing channel with seemingly endless reach, you can discover new markets and opportunities by learning what consumers are interested in (and what they’d likely spend money on).
Many eCommerce brands on Instagram start selling to local followers and then find their way to a broader global market.
Credit: Instagram – Ole & Steen
4. More Engagement
If you’ve been hesitant to use Instagram for your eCommerce brand marketing, take a look at this comparison of user engagement across social media. Instagram has the lion share of social media engagement, with an outstanding engagement rate of 59%. The second-highest, Facebook, has an engagement rate of 18%, almost three times less than Instagram (Social Pilot).
Before You Start, Choose The Right Path
Before you start promoting your eCommerce brand on Instagram, you need to consider your customer. That way, you can develop an Instagram marketing strategy that will resonate with—and convert—them.
Remember, the majority of Instagrammers are between 18-34 years old (Statista). So, you might want to focus more on this age group. Otherwise, look up relevant hashtags that your target audience is following and choose a tone that is suitable for your brand and your followers.
Credit: Instagram – Dirty Lemon
Moreover, it’s essential to set clear campaign goals. For example, your goal could be to increase brand awareness, sales, or brand loyalty.
What’s great about Instagram is that you can accomplish all three on the platform. That said, we recommend picking one to start. Building brand awareness and brand loyalty can happen simultaneously and is usually the obvious first step to take before directly selling to your audience. After all, you want them to be highly engaged and feel personally connected to your brand before you ultimately ask for their money.
How Can I Increase My Online Sales on Instagram?
There are a number of ways to boost eCommerce sales on Instagram—some you can even start implementing right away. Here are the top 10:
1. Optimize Your Username, Display Name, and Bio
First thing first: let’s optimize your account profile by adding relevant category names and keywords to your Instagram username, display name, and bio. That way, your target customer can find you through the Instagram search engine. Just keep in mind that the only Instagram bio info that is actually searchable includes your handle and display name—keywords you put into your bio description do not help your Instagram SEO, but they can help drive conversions once someone lands on your page.
For example, if you run an Ebook online store, you need to include the word “Ebook” as your main keyword in these parts.
Credit: The Real Top Ebooks
In this example, the book genres would be the secondary keywords, which can help a visitor further connect with your brand.
All in all, make sure you optimize your profile so that customers find you more easily and have the necessary information about your brand to take action—whether that means following you, clicking your link in bio, making a purchase, etc.
2. Make the Buyer’s Journey Shorter
You may have heard of “The Buyer’s Journey” or a sales funnel. These are fancy marketing terms that represent the different stages a person goes through before actually buying a product or service. Here’s what a typical buyer journey or sales funnel looks like. It starts with awareness, interest, consideration, intent, evaluation, and the sales funnel finally ends in a purchase.
Instagram allows you to accelerate all or most of these stages, thereby converting a user faster than normal.
It all comes down to your content marketing strategy. If you optimize your content and use the right hashtags, your visitors can travel to all of these stages by viewing only a few posts and/or Stories.
Pro Tip: Use a lot of videos and Reels on Instagram, because they receive twice as much engagement as photos. You can even share YouTube videos on Instagram, go live, post videos on Stories and Reels, or use IGTV to make it easier for your followers to get to the purchase phase.
3. Instagram Shopping is For You
After seeing the potential of mobile shopping as a trend in eCommerce, Instagram launched “Instagram Shopping.” This feature allows users to pay for products without leaving the IG app.
Credit: Instagram – Winky Lux
If increasing sales on Instagram is your primary goal, then you need to promote your Instagram shop. Just keep in mind that there are some limitations.
- Instagram only allows you to sell physical products on the app. This means you cannot sell any services.
- You should connect your Instagram to a Facebook Product Catalog as Facebook powers the Instagram shop.
- The setup process for an Instagram shop is a little bit confusing and might take days or even weeks to complete.
But don’t worry; even if you are not eligible for an Instagram shop, you can still use posts and Stories to drive visitors to your eCommerce store.
4. Use User-Generated Content
A great way to gain trust from your target audience on IG is by sharing user-generated content (or UGC).
This is a great approach as it helps to humanize your brand and shows your followers that you are authentic. Many well-known brands use UGC to engage more with their followers and turn them into loyal customers and brand advocates.
Forever21 is one such brand. If you look at their Instagram page, you’ll see a feed mostly curated by UGC.
Credit: Instagram – Forever21
And they receive a great deal of engagement as well:
Credit: Instagram – Forever21
It’s easy to get UGC from your followers. In fact, 65% of customers would be honored if a brand liked their posts (Iconosquare). To gain UGC, simply ask your followers to upload their photos while using your products or services with a special hashtag or by tagging your handle. That way you can track the content and then reshare it from your own account.
Credit: Instagram – Freddy’s Steakburgers
Pro Tip: If you have a certain look and feel for your actual feed, you’ll want to choose UGC wisely so that it meets your brand guidelines. Uploading any type of photo without paying attention to these crucial points is a common eCommerce mistake. You could also designate a specific day of the week to share UGC or opt to use UGC for your Stories.
5. Contests and Giveaways
Contests and giveaways are great ways to get your followers excited about your products or services. Every once in a while, run contests and give one or three lucky followers a free product or discount code.
Credit: Instagram – Must Living
You can use rules such as “Like and share this post” or “Tag three friends” for more interactions. Not only is this method great for introducing and increasing the awareness of your products, but also it will increase your engagement massively.
Don’t forget to ask the winners to take a photo with their prizes and tag you to share them on your page.
And keep in mind that you will likely need to provide a disclaimer as part of your giveaway post.
6. Embrace Influencer Marketing
Instagram—and social media in general—is not exactly the best place for traditional advertising. The truth is, people no longer believe in fancy ads with perfect actors. Nowadays, they are more into authenticity and recommendations from friends. Based on a survey carried out by InfluencerDB, almost 81% of users prefer recommendations over traditional ads.
So, you’ll want to think of new methods of spreading the word, such as through influencer marketing. Influencers have established a strong trust factor with their followers, so using them to recommend your products can increase sales more so than a traditional sponsored post would. And because they truly believe in that product they are promoting, they make people interested too.
Influencer marketing has many benefits for eCommerce brands. First of all, you don’t necessarily need to use expensive mega-influencers and macro-influencers. In fact, these days, micro-influencers are all the rage.
Despite their smaller followings, micro-influencers have impressive engagement. Actually, in the world of Instagram, engagement is a more important metric than the number of followers. The key is for an influencer to have the right followers so that engagement (i.e. conversions and sales) is high.
Working with micro-influencers is also budget-friendly. You don’t need to spend your entire marketing budget on them, but you’ll still get great results.
This is why many brands run multiple micro-influencer campaigns to develop a closer relationship with their fans.
Credit: Instagram – Glossier
7. You Can Do Email Marketing on Instagram
Email is arguably your most important asset because it’s something you actually own. While this is a highly unlikely scenario, Instagram or another social platform could stop allowing brands to share content and promote their products—but you could continue engaging your audience through email if you have an email list.
All this to say, you should be equally focused on email and use Instagram to capture email addresses when you can. That way, you can send newsletters and other content to supplement your Instagram engagement. You can share more details about your products and use more calls to action that lead directly to your eCommerce site.
To encourage your followers to subscribe to your email list, you can make e-books, checklists, promo codes, or other freebies that they can download in exchange for their email addresses. Create a simple landing page and place the link in your bio. Then, your followers can visit it to get the freebies or subscribe to your newsletter.
Credit: Instagram – The Embroidery Cart
8. Use Flash Sale Technique
Did you know people miss about 70% of the posts in their Instagram feed? Fortunately, there are ways to encourage people to see and engage with your content (and, ultimately, increase your sales).
One thing you can do is host flash sales where you promote an irresistible offer for a limited time. For example, you could tell your followers that the first 10 people to send you a direct message will get the discount or limited edition product. Finally, you ask them to turn on their post notification not to miss anything and then offer a one-time discount code as a thank-you
Credit: Instagram – Glossier
If you provide great content and compelling offers, your followers are more likely to run on post notifications. As a result, you’ll not only increase your online sales, you’ll also reach more people when you post new content.
9. Take Hashtags and Geotags Seriously
Many eCommerce brands have abandoned using hashtags because they think they won’t work. It’s partly true for overused hashtags, but less-saturated hashtags and geotags get a lot of engagement. A good rule of thumb is to use hashtags that have less than 500,000 followers.
Look at this screenshot:
Credit: Instagram – Vocab Rainbow
As you can see, more than half of the impressions that this post received, were coming from hashtags—not necessarily followers
When choosing hashtags, you need to strike a balance between general hashtags and branded hashtags. Don’t forget about geotags; they help you to find local followers. And don’t stress too much about hashtags and geotags—you’ll get real-time feedback on which ones are working for you and which ones are not.
10. Consider Instagram Ads
Facebook ads power Instagram ads and they are pretty much similar. That said, ad recall from Instagram is 2.8 times higher than other social sites. This means your ads on Instagram will likely convert best.
Credit: Instagram – I am Galla
The good thing about Instagram ads is that you can precisely target your ideal audiences using filters. For example, if you want to attract men who are between 18-25, living in New York who love basketball, you can easily find them using these filters.
The only drawback to Instagram ads is that it’s getting a little more expensive than in past years, so make sure to set a small budget to start with to see if it’s going to bring a positive ROI. However, don’t make your budget too small or run your ads for too short a time. You need to spend some money and give your social ads enough time to run to really see if they work or not.
No matter what your business niche is, you’ll always find a place on Instagram—especially as the platform is becoming a more popular place for users to shop. We’re confident that, by implementing some or all of these tips, you’ll start making more eCommerce sales through Instagram.