How to Drive Sales with Instagram

This is a guest post by our friends at Later, a simple platform for scheduling and managing your Instagram posts.

Instagram is great for sharing unique and engaging visual content (and #selfies), but it’s also an effective platform for driving ecommerce sales. In fact, according to recent study, 78% of consumers make purchasing decisions that are influenced by a brand’s social media. Whether you’re selling t-shirts or software in your online store, here are 7 steps to follow to drive e-commerce sales with Instagram:

Why Instagram for Ecommerce?

Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has grown to over 500 million users, with more than 300 million people using Instagram every single day! What makes the social platform so popular is that it’s basically Facebook, boiled down to its single most engaging function: sharing visual media. Throw in some brilliant photo filters and you’ve got one of the biggest and most engaged online communities to date.

But Instagram’s success as a sales channel has less to do with its number of active users than it does with the type of users it attracts. Instagrammers are, overwhelmingly, online shoppers. According to a study by Iconosquare, 70% of Instagram users have searched for a brand on Instagram, and 62% follow brands on Instagram because they “love the brand.”

Because of this, Instagram is an ideal marketing platform for ecommerce. Instead of having to push sales, ecommerce businesses can leverage the power of indirect selling by building customer trust and loyalty without the sales pitches.

So if Instagram is all about the indirect sell, how can ecommerce businesses get more sales from Instagram?

1. Curate an Awesome, Branded Instagram Feed

Your Instagram feed is the first thing people look at when visiting your profile, and as in life, you want to make a good impression. But curating an awesome Instagram feed is about more than just taking beautiful photos, it’s also about influencing purchases.

To keep your Instagram profile engaging, be sure to post a variety of content. The best feeds have a good mix of subjects that are evenly spaced out. The goal is to create a balance with your Instagram feed as a whole. If you posted a product photo yesterday, you’ll want to balance it out with a lifestyle or behind-the-scenes photo today.  

But isn’t it bad practice to post product photos? Nope, it’s actually super common!

Posting content that showcases your product is an incredible way to drive sales with Instagram because it allows your followers to engage and relate to your brand personally. And as we established earlier, Instagrammers are used to a brand’s presence on social media (many even hope for it!).

2. Show Your Products in Real Life

Many businesses embrace Instagram because it lets them showcase their products visually. Unfortunately, not all businesses have solid strategies for using images to their maximum potential.

The key to driving sales with Instagram is finding new and interesting ways to connect with your audience through visuals. By thinking outside the box and holding contests, using short videos or Instagram Stories, and posting creative product images right in your Instagram feed, you can build awareness and drive sales with Instagram.

A great example comes from Lo & Sons. The Brooklyn-based travel bag company is an expert when it comes to showcasing their products in real-life situations -- whether it’s walking the unmarked streets of Pyrgos, Greece, or spending the afternoon on Newport Coast.

Remember: if your audience can imagine it, they'll buy it!

3. Optimize the Link in Your Bio

Your Instagram bio is prime real estate to promote your brand, and it’s the only place your community can click through to learn more, shop, or read a blog post. As such, optimizing the link in your bio is key to capturing your audience and getting your community to engage with your website and business.

While many brands will provide a general website address, if you want to make the most of turning your followers into paying customers, you should create a direct path from Instagram to the specific products and content that you your users want. One of the best ways to make sales from Instagram is to create a shoppable, Instagram-specific landing page with Linkin.bio.

By creating a shoppable Instagram feed through Linkin.bio, you can add direct links to different product pages for each of your Instagram posts. For example, if you are posting a photo of a new t-shirt design, you can link your Instagram post directly to the page where your followers can buy the t-shirt! The goal is to get your followers from your Instagram feed to your product page(s) in as few clicks as possible, and by using a service like Linkin.bio, you help close the gap between your feed and the checkout process.

It’s also good practice to add a trackable link (such as, Bit.ly) to your Instagram bio to not only track sales, but to also understand where your customers are coming from.

4. Write Instagram Captions with Calls to Action

Writing a good Instagram caption is important because it could be the key to having your post perform well in the new Instagram algorithm. Instagram captions with calls-to-action can help you get more comments, and with the new Instagram algorithm favoring engagement, comments can directly affect the effectiveness of your Instagram ecommerce marketing strategy.

To create a call-to-action on Instagram, all you have to do is ask your followers to do something after reading your caption. You can ask them a question about what they’re up to this weekend, or what they think of a new product, and aks them to leave their answer in the comments.

Don’t save your call-to-action for the end of your caption – it’s important to put your most important information first, because after 3-4 lines of text, Instagram captions are truncated and the reader has to click to read more. Make the first part of your Instagram caption super engaging and enticing, so your followers will want to click to read the rest and answer your call-to-action by leaving a comment!

5. Create Instagram Promotions or Exclusives

Social promotions can be great ways to drive sales, and Instagram is no exception. In fact, 41% of Instagrammers state that they follow, or would follow, a brand to take advantage of perks and giveaways, so it’s important to give your followers that incentive!

One of the best ways to keep your customers and community engaged and excited about your business is to offer Instagram-only incentives, perks, rewards, or discounts. Whether it’s a discount code they can only find on Instagram, or an Instagram giveaway, giving a little can result in a lot.

You can also send out exclusive announcements of new products and sales so that your followers can jump on the trend before anyone else. It helps creates a sense of urgency that if they don’t buy now, it may go out of stock. By posting shop updates with item release times on Instagram, you allow your customers to plan ahead and be ready to purchase right when new items go live.

6. Work with Instagram Influencers

Instagram influencer marketing is an easy, inexpensive, and super effective way to grow your business on Instagram. You can quickly increase your brand awareness and follower base, but best of all, you can also drive ecommerce sales with Instagram influencer marketing. In fact, when it comes to influencer marketing, Instagram is the best performing channel for social action, with an average 3.21% engagement rate (compared to 1.5% across all social networks).

Typically with influencer marketing, you would identify relevant influencers, bloggers, or photographers who have a large social following and reach out to them to see if they’re interested in working with your business. You will usually have to negotiate a rate for sponsored posts with influencers who have tens of thousands of followers, but if you don’t have a huge budget, there’s plenty of influencers who would still be happy to trade your product for promotion. It’s all about finding the right fit for both the influencer and your business!

A simple way to promote your business is to work with a handful of influencers and have them post about your products on their channels. This helps increase your brand awareness through exposure to their audience, but it can also help your ecommerce business make some serious sales through Instagram.

Instead of just trying to increase their brand awareness, Daniel Wellington used influencers to directly drive sales of their watches. They gave each influencer a free watch and a unique promotional code that gave their followers a 10-20% discount on their purchases. The code was only valid for a limited time, which created a sense of urgency from their followers to act fast and buy now!

instagram sales

7. Grow Your Email List with Instagram

Growing your business with Instagram isn’t limited to gaining followers and getting more likes on Instagram. In fact, one of the best ways to grow your business using Instagram is to take your relationship with your followers off Instagram and into their inbox. Even in the age of social media, email is still one of the best ways to establish an ongoing relationship with your audience. Why? Because it’s the most direct contact you’ll have with potential customers.

When you send an email campaign, not everyone will open your email, but at least you know they got it! With social media, and specifically the new Instagram algorithm, you don’t have control over how many of your followers will even see your posts. Growing your email list with Instagram is an effective way of building your ecommerce marketing funnel and driving sales!  

Instagram is an incredible channel for ecommerce, not only showcase to your products, but to sell them as well. By putting these tips into practice, you’ll be well on your way to driving ecommerce sales with Instagram.

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