A complete and up-to-date guide to generating ecommerce sales through Instagram
Instagram has come a long way since its debut in 2010, growing from the awkward platform that sat somewhere between Facebook and Twitter to today's potential marketing powerhouse. Have you grown with it?
The social media platform’s recent upgrades has the ecommerce crowd turning heads. With notable features such as Library, Business Accounts, and Shoppable Ads, Instagram joins its parent company (the ad-savvy Facebook) in enabling businesses to reach 500 million active monthly users in a natural and noninvasive manner.
For perspective, Instagram was used by just under a third of U.S. brands with 100 employees or more in 2015. Fast forward to this year and that number is expected to increase by 70.7% (eMarketer). If that’s not a call for ecommerce business owners to mobilize, we don’t know what is!
Start with this guide and learn how to sell apparel on Instagram in 2017.
Step 1: Optimize Your Instagram Profile
We need to start with the basics: your brand’s profile page. In order to leave a lasting impression, you will need to do several things:
Add a high-res profile image – The face of your brand can be an image that says it all or you can stick to your logo. In either case, ensure that it’s high-quality and correctly sized.
Create a professional bio – Unless you've claimed it for your own, this is not the place for hashtags. Keep your bio clean and error-free. Speak to your target user in a manner representative of your brand and briefly convey what you're all about.
Include a link – Add the URL to your landing page in the designated URL section. Why use a landing page instead of your homepage? Put yourself into the shoes of a visitor converting to a buyer and consider how much of an obstacle a homepage presents. The visitor now has to jump through several hoops before they can locate the one item they really wanted. A landing page solves this by smoothly transitioning your visitor closer to the buy button.
Step 2: Gain More Followers
Your Instagram is a repository of future traffic for your store, and the potential to grow this repository is the true power of this platform. In other words, you need to have a strategy in place to actively increase your following.
If you're just starting out and gaining followers sounds like a daunting task, don't fret because you already have a handful of potential followers.
Instagram can link to your Facebook where your friends, family, and fans already reside. Add them through this connection.
Before you jump to promoting your new account through status updates, make sure you have a good reason as to why everyone needs to follow you on an additional channel. Will you have content specifically catered to you Instagram community? Are you running a special incentive for your new followers?
Remember, most people won't go out of their way to follow yet another account without having a good reason.
Cross-promotions are common practice on Instagram. If you’re unfamiliar, it’s simply an agreement between two profiles to give each other shoutouts. The key to implementing this properly requires that you work with a non-competing (think complementary) brand that shares your target audience but not product offering.
As you can imagine by it’s popularity, cross-promotions are an easy and effective method to quickly gain followers. However, the mutually beneficial nature of this tactic means you are limited to brands that share a similar number of followers to your own. Try this approach to start cross-promoting:
Do your research and put together a list of complementary brands that have a similar follower count to you. If you notice an account has recently cross-promoted someone, take it as an indicator that they’re receptive to the idea and prioritize reaching out to them.
Compose short personalized emails to propose a cross-promotion. Briefly explain the benefits of this tactic and why your accounts would complement each other well - you need to demonstrate that you've actually paid some attention to their brand.
Stand out from the many requests that popular accounts undoubtedly receive by sending a follow-up.
Businesses often make the mistake of giving their competition the cold shoulder on social channels, not realizing this is actually an opportunity to poach the competitor’s followers. If executed well, proactive commenting and liking can bring more followers your way. It all boils down to dedicating the time and practicing sincerity.
Do your research and develop a list of direct competitors for you to keep tabs on.
Set aside time on a daily basis to engage fans who have left comments on your competition's recent posts by liking or replying to the comments (when it's relevant).
Go through your competitors' list of followers. Engage with the real and active accounts by liking and commenting on the posts. Make sure your comments are personalized, positive, and clearly show that you’ve paid attention to their profile.
Bulk Follow and Unfollow
If this method sounds familiar to you, it’s because bulk following and unfollowing was formerly a popular Twitter strategy to gain followers.
Many Instagram followers who would love your products don't follow you simply because they’re not aware you exist...yet.
To find the ones with a higher likelihood to convert, comb through the list of followers from your competitors’ profiles and begin following them. These specific followers have already expressed an interest in an offering similar to yours. Give yourself an hour each day to do this. You’ll find that you can average about 100 follows per hour.
Run a quick search on Google Play or the App Store for an “unfollow app” that unfollows people who do not follow you back. Give each batch a full day to follow you back before running the app.
Take note to limit this tactic. Instagram does not take kindly to this technique and has internal triggers in place that may hurt your discoverability if you abuse the system.
Step 3: Create Great Content
While ads are not always ill-received on Instagram, relying on ads at such an early to grow your Instagram marketing can be a waste of money. The platform already gives you plenty of opportunity to garner attention organically. For new or small businesses, organic growth is your ammo.
Figuring out the type of images that return the highest engagement for your brand will not be easy. A lot of this process involves learning and optimizing your images through trial and error.
Use a service like Iconosquare to analyze the post details that works best for your account i.e. time, filters, hashtags, etc. Use these stats to finetune your future posts.
Always stick to the recommended image size. Instagram encourages you to upload photos that have a width of at least 1080 pixels with an aspect ratio between 1.91:1 and 4:5.
Continue testing. Even though you’ve nailed down a few details that seem to increase engagement, your goal should always be to improve it. You will not be able to do this if you stop experimenting with content and context.
You must maintain an active account. Aim for 2-3 posts per day. While this seems a lot when you're crafting engaging content, there’s no guarantee that every follower will catch every post. Sharing more than one post per day also gives you more room to experiment for optimal posting times.
Each one of your posts should sell, but not in the way you think. There’s a limit to the number of times followers can stand to see product posts so it’s critical you find a balance between “other” content and product posts. But that doesn’t mean non-product posts can’t sell your brand and its values! Try adding your branded touch to these ideas and incorporating them into the rotation.
User-generated content – 92% of consumers trust recommendations from friends and family over advertisements. People trust people -- this is the power that user-generated content harnesses. By featuring real customers who are happy with your products, you offer social proof that has the potential to create positive sentiment and heighten brand engagement.
“Behind the Scenes” – Add depth and character to your brand by offering a sneak peek into what happens beneath the pretty surface. Because this part of business typically remains hidden, #bts content can spark interest among followers.
Creative Product Feature – Showcasing your products is important so there’s no need to nix these types of posts altogether, but you can certainly feature them more creatively. Everyone has already seen product on white backgrounds. Instead, try selling the lifestyle behind your product.
Original Memes – So long as your humor is tasteful and rightly aligned with your target audience, posting memes is A-OK. You can even step it up a notch to really show off your brand's creativity by using photos of your team (with their consent of course).
Educational – Your followers obviously find some interest in your niche. Teach them something new about the industry.
Guest Hosts – Similar to cross-promoting, you can enlist the help of someone cooler to take over your account for the day. Guests not only add a breath of fresh air to your profile, but their affiliation also draws the interest of their own fans to your brand. That’s why it’s important you find someone who is representative of your brand and values.
Step 4: Optimize Your Landing Pages
As your follower count increases, your store traffic will also increase. But before you start celebrating, remember that acquiring followers only adds to the top of your sales funnel. The next step is to send followers to relevant pages that are optimized for purchase decisions.
These are critical pieces of your landing page that you'll need to pay particular attention to:
Keep focus on mobile viewability when designing your landing page because the majority of your Instagram traffic will be on their mobile devices when they find you. This will affect your navigation, search, shopping cart, CTAs, and payment options.
Avoid killing conversions by adding a URL like this: http://noonewillclickor.sharethis.URL/becauseitstoolengthy. Instead, create a shortened, branded, and trackable URL with Google Campaign URL Builder.
Just like your Instagram posts, never stop testing your landing pages – whether that means tinkering with product descriptions, alternating product offerings, adding customer reviews, or something else altogether.
Step 5: Retarget Your Visitors
98% of visitors to your site will leave without making a purchase. However, those who return thanks to retargeting ads are 70% more likely to make a purchase.
Until now, we’ve only discussed organic growth because Instagram bridges the social gap between the personal and business space extremely well. At this stage however, retargeting with Instagram ecommerce ads can help support your organic efforts.
If you have yet to install a Facebook Pixel on your site, head over to the Facebook Power Editor to grab a pixel code that you can to place between the head tags of your site’s code.
From the Facebook Pixel tab click “Create Audience” and select “Website Traffic.” Then enter the details that match your Instagram audience such as visitors to your site within the last 30 days.
From the Power Editor click “Create Campaign,” then add a name and objective for the campaign.
Set your budget and schedule, then “edit the audience” so that you only target visitors who have previously visited your site. Next, you need to specify Instagram as the required “placement” for this particular campaign. If this is your first time advertising on Instagram, you will be prompted to connect your Instagram account with Facebook ads.
Abide by Facebook ad guidelines and submit only images with the recommended image size of 1080x1080px. If you include text, it should not take up more than 20% of the space. For more information refer to Facebook’s Instagram Ads Guide.
Review, then launch!
Optimizing ads are an entirely different can of worms that will require another post. For now, experiment with your ad creatives and targeting.
Few ecommerce businesses are implementing a complete marketing strategy when it comes to Instagram and are therefore missing out big time – this means more opportunity for you! However, desirable results will only come with consistent action. Instagram is not a one-time marketing hack. You need to experiment, track, optimize, then repeat.