Making the most of Instagram


Instagram is one of the most popular social media platforms with over 1 billion active users each month. If you're not already on Instagram or lack a digital presence, this is a great place to start. Instagram has developed from being a simple photo sharing platform, all without overcrowding a user's newsfeed with memes, fake news or irrelevant advertising. The recent developments of this incredibly user-friendly platform have made it a more attractive tool for businesses, especially retailers. Many new businesses or entrepreneurs take to Instagram, or Insta, as a way to share their businesses and products, at no cost and with a lot of opportunity to reach millions of consumers.

With its easy-to-use platform and the ability to explore by names, people, hashtags and other trending topics, Insta is easily tailored to each user. Instagram noticed that businesses and retailers were capitalising on their platform to sell products, so they teamed up with Shopify to create Instagram shoppable posts. Initially, this programme began with a beta group in the U.S., and was exclusively offered to less than 30,000 retailers. After almost a year of major success, it has rolled out this programme worldwide. However, you must have a Shopify account in order to use this feature.

If you already are in the know about Shopify and Instagram and just can't wait to get started, get started here.

What is behind a 'shoppable post'

To begin, a business user on Instagram must also have a business account on Facebook. These accounts must be linked in order to operate on Instagram. The purpose for this is to verify the business as legitimate. If a business has a shoppable post, it means that an Instagram user can directly purchase the goods that are tagged in that post. It will be obvious to users which posts are shoppable and which posts are not. Users will see a white shopping bag in the bottom left corner of an image, which they can tap on to view details of the products for sale, such as the price. A double tap on a white shopping bag will take a user to the website from within the Instagram platform, where a user can buy the item diretly and securely, thanks to Shopify.

Instagram shoppable posts present an exciting opportunity for non-traditional retailers, entrepreneurs and e-commerce only businesses who might not have an extensive advertising or marketing budget. Users often share things they buy off Instagram shoppable posts on their Instagram pages, which is the best word of mouth you can ask for. Instagram shoppable posts also allow you to reach a specific target audience to drive sales, and user promoted content is also a significant driver of sales by reaching potentially millions of consumers you may not have otherwise. This also provides retailers with an opportunity for a greater global presence, thanks to our closely connected digital network.

Instagram has something that other platforms don't

Instagram is a cleaner and simpler social platform than Facebook. Consumers are often turning to Instagram instead of Google, especially Millennials and Gen Z consumers, meaning businesses should put a large amount of time into cultivating their Instagram profile. This includes not only the photos shared on their page, but also their 'bio' to share some more information. Images on a retailer's Instagram should be compelling and enticing to users, while captions remain short. Instagram is intended to be a visual experience and it is worthwhile putting in the time and money to achieve this instead of bombarding users with lengthy captions.

Other than the Shopify system, there are other ways to sell on Instagram, including promoted ads, promoted stories, links in stories or swipe to shop links. Promoted ads or stories are similar to other social media platform advertisements, but swipe to shop links are unique because they can only be done if a business account or user has over 10,000 followers. Unlike Twitter and Facebook, Instagram does not allow a user to include links in posts. Users can include a link in their bio, and that use to be the only option. With the growth of business accounts and influencers on Instagram, swipe to shop and shoppable posts are now the only other links allowed on Instagram's platform.

If shoppable posts are not for you, there are other ways to sell on Instagram too

Instagram shoppable posts are not suitable for every business or brand, but there are still other ways to make use of the platform, especially if a retailer or brand is just starting out and trying to get traction. As mentioned above, user promoted content is one of the best forms of word of mouth advertising and can be little to no cost to a business. User promoted content is something that is hard for people to see on Google but is easy for consumers to find on Instagram. This can be in the form of stories or posted images with details in the caption. It can be especially easy to find information thanks to hashtags and the tagging feature, which allow users to search things that are relevant to them or to find information.

User promoted content can also be achieved by pairing up with influencers. Influencers are Instagram users who have a significant number of followers and should be someone you would want publicly associated with your brand. Often it means sending them free product, but if they share that product with thousands of followers, you are likely to see sales influenced by that. The more well-known an influencer is, it is more likely that they will charge a fee to share your product on their Instagram. After all, being an influencer is their business. Nonetheless, this is still a less expensive form of marketing your product to people who you might not be able to reach otherwise. Ensure you consider the reputation of any influencers you choose to use and don't just focus on the number of followers they might have. The more genuine an influencer, the better the sales.

Finally, do not neglect other sales platforms for Instagram alone

Instagram is a great social media tool, and Shopify makes it easier than ever before to sell on this platform. However, other social media and sales platforms should not be ignored so that Instagram can shine. Consumers are more digital than ever before and are likely to still turn to Facebook, Google and a website for reviews, products and more information about a brand or business.

If you are interested in setting up a shoppable Instagram page, just click here. You can find out more about Retail NZ by heading to our Instagram @retail_nz and clickling the 'link in bio'.

by Scott Fisher, Retail NZ CEO

Originally published in the December 2018/January 2019 edition of the NZ Retail magazine.