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Essential Guide to Instagram Shopping 2021

Imagine having free access to a huge shopping mall displaying only the products that you’re interested in — all in the palm of your hand!

Whatever a person’s interests, they are continually self-curating their Instagram feed to create a customized environment of all the things they love. This “sweet spot” is where you are able to engage with committed potential buyers on Instagram who are curious about the products you sell.

Without a doubt, for retail, as well as direct-to-consumer businesses, Instagram offers a unique platform to reach customers that are already excited and engaged with specific categories of merchandise. Especially effective for small businesses, you can easily create a brand offering that communicates your product, i.e., elegant and chic for luxury pieces or more adventurous and outdoorsy for athleticwear or camping equipment.

So Just How Big is this Dynamic Marketplace?

With over 1 billion monthly users worldwide (and over 140 million in the US alone), Instagram continues to grow exponentially. In fact, Instagram engagement grew by 13.8% in 2020 (instead of the projected 1.4%) as people adjusted to life in a stay-at-home environment prompted by the coronavirus.

Instagram recently reported that over 90 million account users clicked on a product tag every month and over 200 million users visit business profiles each day. With those stats in mind, the overall ecommerce marketplace is estimated to be worth over $200 billion per year and growing.

What Types of Products are Successful on Instagram?

Instagram is home to all things visual! Users are drawn to the stunning images that are meant to captivate the imagination. Color, beauty, and a classic design aesthetic can all collaborate to tell a story and inspire the user to visualize how their world might look.

Screenshot of a home décor Instagram shopping account with a “view products” tab and product tags.

With Instagram, you can take a simple product and showcase it in the perfect way. If you sell luxury kitchen wares, it’s a whole lot more appealing to photograph that high-end Dutch oven with a scrumptious looking boeuf bourguignon (recipe included in the post of course). Next to the pan, you include the classic utensils and place setting on the perfect tablecloth with fresh flowers in a matching vase — each with its associated product tag.

Likewise, if your products are apparel, showing how several pieces go together along with the perfect necklace and shoes and you’ve choreographed a hit. Now your customers can link to any tag or the whole collection based on how you’ve set up your catalog.

Screenshot of an apparel Instagram shopping account with a “view on website” button

As a photo and video-sharing app, Instagram shopping lends itself well to physical products that enhance the home environment or fashion sense — in particular:

  • Home décor – furniture, accessories, patio, seasonal decorations
  • Beauty and skincare products (niche idea: custom blend serums, organic, cruelty-free)
  • Clothing, shoes, and accessories, such as jewelry or watches (niche idea: sustainable clothing that’s eco-conscious – vegan leathers, industrial hemp)
  • Kitchen and food preparation
  • Eco Living – reusable bags, bamboo toothbrushes, glass receptacles, metal straws
  • Health and healthy lifestyle options – vitamins, supplements, protein powders, kombucha
  • Fitness – shoes, apparel, equipment
  • Outdoor, camping, and sporting goods and equipment

Exciting Ways to Engage Potential Customers

During the summer of 2020, Instagram launched an immersive full-screen storefront — Shop. With an Instagram business profile, you can set up an in-app shopping destination where people can visit a shoppable storefront through your Instagram business account, as well as through your feed and stories.

Shop allows people to browse your products and collections and then purchase their selections through checkout without ever leaving the Instagram app. You can customize the overall experience by building themes that tell a curated brand story. And if a customer prefers, they can link directly to your website to shop or complete the sale while linking back to Instagram when they’re finished.

Best of all, creating a shop is easy and free!

Setting Up an Instagram Shop

To open your shop on Instagram, here are several things you need to do:

  1. First, be sure you’re eligible. You want to make sure that you are selling an eligible product and are located in a supported market.
  2. Review and agree to the merchant agreement and commerce policies as defined by Facebook, Instagram’s parent company.
  3. You need to have an active website domain or participate with an integrated platform partner, like Shopify or BigCommerce.
  4. Convert your existing Instagram account to a business account or a creator account. This allows you to access shopping features that help you increase your business.
  5. Link your Instagram business account with a Facebook page. While this is not required, it does give you some added features and usability, plus you can market from your Facebook page as well.
  6. Now you’re ready to get creative. Upload your product catalog one of two ways: a) create a DIY catalog through the catalog manager, or b) use an integrated ecommerce platform partner like Shopify or BigCommerce.
  7. At this point, you must submit your account for review and approval before it can be activated. This is where Instagram/Facebook verifies your domain and ensures you aren’t selling anything illegal or problematic. It can take a couple of days, so don’t get impatient – everyone has to go through this process.
  8. Ready, set, go! It’s time to turn on your shopping features and start tagging products in your feed and shopping stickers in your stories. These will all lead to your shop and to ever-increasing sales.

Checkout is Now Available on Instagram

As part of their recent roll out of Shop improvements, Instagram launched their new Checkout feature. With Checkout, customers can be inspired, shop, and select their purchases, then check out through Instagram and return to their feed. In the past, customers had to go to the seller’s website to pay which made people uncomfortable and required filling out shipping and payment information at each new location.

Screenshot of the checkout screen on Instagram Shopping Page. (Facebook Pay)

Now with Checkout, customers can pay using Facebook Pay, Visa, Mastercard, Discover, American Express, and PayPal, directly in Instagram regardless of how many vendors are involved in their order. You as the vendor receive the ordering and shipping information, as well as payment through your designated payment solution.

In addition, in support of small businesses that have been struggling during the pandemic, Instagram is waiving fees for all sellers on their platform through 2021.

Also, checkout-enabled sellers are now able to utilize new shopping capabilities like making Instagram Live shopping compatible, Shopping with Creators (where creators can tag products in your posts), and a new product launch feature that allows you to notify people of upcoming events.

Using Instagram Ads

It’s a small business paradise on Instagram where the engagement rate is higher for businesses with 10K or fewer followers. The higher the number of followers, the less likely they are to engage directly as a customer.

That’s where Instagram Ads come in — Ads allow you to target specific audiences and reach people who aren’t following you just yet. And Instagram, of course, makes it easy to turn posts directly into ads.

Screenshot of an apparel Instagram shopping account with a “Add to Cart” button

When planning an advertising campaign on Instagram, the numbers speak for themselves.

  • Instagram is third in reaching the youth market of over 83 million (behind only Facebook and Snapchat) and over two-thirds of the active users are 35 or younger.
  • 4 million businesses place Instagram Story ads each month.
  • Mobile-shoots outperform studio-shot ads by 63%.
  • Story ads with a specific Call-to-Action perform better a full 89% of the time on Instagram.

Turning a Post into an Ad

First, you want to consider your goal and where you want people to land when they click on your ad. They can be directed to your business profile where you build brand awareness, showcase your products, and strengthen your customer relationships. You can direct them to your website where they can be encouraged to make a purchase, share their email, or book an appointment. Or they can be directed to your direct messages if you offer personalized services, want customers to book an appointment, or want to manage customer support.

Next, you want to reach a target audience. With Instagram, you can use the Automatic Audiences feature which works best for sellers that have a large group of followers and aren’t location dependent. If your business is location specific or you have a smaller group of followers and are interested in reaching out to more people, you can define your audience by interests and within a location radius.

You will also need to determine a budget that will affect how many times your ad is seen and over how long a period of time. At a minimum, Instagram recommends at least seven days so that their advanced ad delivery system can “learn” where to show your post most effectively.

Remember, the one draw back to using Instagram Shop to check out is you lose the opportunity to collect customer information like email addresses when they don’t visit your website.

Instagram Marketing Opportunities

Social media influencers have grown immensely popular over the last several years and are now more sought after than celebrities for their endorsement mojo. Unfortunately, most businesses can’t afford to hire a Kardashian, so here are some practical tips for successfully marketing your Instagram Shop.

  • Be sure to optimize your Instagram profile — Beyond a great logo, there is a lot to fit into 150 characters to convey your brand and make a great first impression. You want to include your business name and username, a clickable URL to your website and Instagram Shop along with a brief description of your category of products and a call to action. Phew…it’s a lot, but a clear and precise profile will serve you well in the future.
  • Create compelling visual content — Without a doubt, Instagram is a visual medium so your posts must be crisp, clear, and eye-catching. Think of your feed as a storyboard where you can engage visitors in your brand and get them excited about your products. And post frequently to sharpen your relevancy.
  • Write captions that grab people’s attention — Your brand “voice” is extremely important, and captions allow up to 2,200 characters. This gives you the opportunity to tell your story in more detail but remember that people will tend to scan captions rather than read them carefully. That said, be sure your captions are relevant, informative, and entertaining.
  • Use hashtags to increase visibility — You can use up to 30 hashtags per post in Instagram, but that may be a bit too many. Best practices say that five to seven are reasonable.
  • Engage your visitors — People will leave comments and part of your success relies on responding to those comments. It encourages people to feel like they are a part of your community and are more likely to follow your account. And, by all means, if you get a negative comment about your business or products, respond quickly and honestly showing that you care about your customers’ experience.
  • Sell digital gift cards — You can now sell digital gift cards directly from your Stories or profile. You’ll find them in the Public Business Information Action Buttons under Edit Profile. They’re a great way to sell product while gaining new visitors.
  • Generate anticipation with a product launch — Try a Countdown sticker on your Stories that creates excitement about an upcoming launch of a new product, sale, or special event.

A Final Word

As you execute your 2021 Marketing Strategy, be sure to consider Instagram shopping where your products can be exposed to a huge, engaged audience. Facebook and Instagram have made the Shop function user friendly and it can now even handle the checkout function, so you don’t have to.

While stay-at-home restrictions may be relaxing, Ecommerce has found an even stronger foothold with consumers that appears to only be growing and Instagram is front and center.

Author

MOHSIN AYUB

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