Less than a decade ago, Instagram was born—and the world hasn’t been the same since. The photo-sharing app has become a source of inspiration for many, a source of income for some, and has led to actual fame for others. “Instagrammability” has become a huge factor in people’s decisions about what to buy, wear, eat, and even where to travel. (Ever heard of the phrase “do it for the ‘gram”?) People come to Instagram to be inspired and discover things they care about, whether that’s makeup, food, or even things like poetry and self-care reminders—and increasingly, brands and businesses are providing that content.
The platform describes itself as a place where “visual expression from business inspires visible action from people around the world.” While the ad business remains the app’s primary focus, Instagram has incorporated a number of formats and features in the past few years that support its push into e-commerce and in-app shopping. With 80 percent of users following at least one business on Instagram, 60 percent of users using the platform to discover products, and 75 percent of users taking action (such as visiting a website) after looking at a brand’s post, it’s clear that Instagram is becoming the place to go on social if you want to drive product sales.
But all of that begs the question: How exactly does a brand drive commerce on Instagram? Glad you asked—keep reading to learn about a few tactics that have proven successful for brands in the world’s “digital mall.”
1. Collection Ads
In early 2018, Instagram began transforming e-commerce on the platform, beginning with the launch of the collection ad format. This type of post serves as somewhat of a digital catalog—it includes one hero image or video as well as three smaller images beneath it which are usually used to showcase a variety of products. Once the user clicks, they will be able to experience the products in full screen in what’s called an “instant storefront,” and from there they are able to go to the brand’s website to purchase. Being able to discover, browse, and buy products in a visually immersive way drastically improved the user experience with shopping on Instagram and paved the way for what came next on the platform.
2. Shopping-Specific Features
After the collection ad format, Instagram released a few more shopping-specific features that made the e-commerce experience on the platform even more seamless. Both shoppable posts and shoppable stickers in Stories allow brands to place tags on specific products within a post or Story so that when the user clicks, they will be brought directly to the brand’s “Add to Cart” section on its website. Additionally, the app launched a Shopping channel in the Explore page, as an addition to the other channels like Art, Travel, and Decor. These features, which are a bit more subtle than collection ads, allow brands to post lifestyle imagery that looks native to the Instagram feed as opposed to product shots that look like they are better suited for a catalog.
And most recently, Instagram announced its newest feature, Checkout. As the name suggests, Checkout allows users to purchase products without leaving the app. When users tap to view a product from a brand’s post, they will be able to select “Checkout on Instagram” button, then they’ll enter their name, email, billing information, and shipping address. After the first order, a user’s information is securely saved for convenience—and the best part? They can easily keep track of the purchase because they’ll receive notifications about shipment and delivery right inside the app.
If you’re a brand or business with a physical product, these features are calling your name! Don’t miss out on the opportunity to share your product with Instagram’s 1 billion monthly users.
3. Influencer Partnerships
Instagram has led the charge when it comes to influencers, with 77 percent of people deeming it the most important influencer marketing channel. And with a whopping 87 percent of shoppers having been inspired by an influencer to make a purchase, influencers have really lived up to their name. The influencer marketing industry is poised to reach between $5 billion and $10 billion by 2022, so it’s worth considering whether or not an influencer can help sell your brand’s products effectively.
If you’re looking to leverage influencers, the best place to start is to see if there are any influential people already talking about your product. If that doesn’t work, try to find influencers whose audience aligns with your desired target, even if they’re smaller influencers, because some smaller influencers will post content in exchange for product. Want a full breakdown of the pros and cons of different types of influencers? You’re in luck—we just wrote a blog on it.
When it comes to driving commerce on Instagram, take advantage of the platform’s ad formats and features, and see if influencer partnerships are a natural fit for your brand as well. Just remember, although some of the features allow for shoppable posts to really blend into your feed disguised as lifestyle shots, don’t inundate your feed with them. Keep these posts to about 25 to 30 percent, because you don’t want to lose sight of the content that made your fans follow you to begin with.