How eCommerce Companies Are Using Instagram to Drive Sales

Instagram has over a billion monthly active users. For this reason alone, it’s hard to ignore its potential if you’re looking to increase online product sales.

Research shows consumers engage with brands on Instagram more than any other social media network. Engagement is:

  • 10x higher than Facebook
  • 54x higher than Pinterest
  • 84x higher than Twitter

So if you want your brand — or your client’s brand — to get noticed online, Instagram is the place to focus your efforts.

But this isn’t always easy.

According to a report by Statista, the average monthly follower growth for brands at the end of 2017 was -0.24%. This means the majority of brands are losing interest — not growing their profile.

If you want to increase online sales using Instagram, you need to put in the work. You need to stay relevant and keep followers interested.

With over 25 million business profiles competing for consumers’ attention, it’s important to stand out from the crowd.

Here’s how successful eCommerce companies are doing it:

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1. They Optimise Their Profiles for Traffic and Sales

This is the first thing successful eCommerce brands do when starting out on Instagram. It’s not enough to set up a basic profile and hope for the best — you need to optimise it to drive traffic and sales through to your website.

Successful companies are already doing this by:

Setting up business profiles.

It’s important to use a business profile, not a personal one. This provides invaluable analytics, displays your industry and allows you to place a contact option directly in your profile.

It is also essential if you want to share links in your stories or promote your posts (more on this later).

Writing clear and compelling bios.

Your bio is your first opportunity to make a good impression and encourage people to follow you.

Let people know what you do. Keep it clear and to the point. And make sure it resonates with your target audience.

Including a call-to-action.

We’ll talk more about the link in your profile later — but it’s not enough to simply link to your website.

You need to include a call-to-action that encourages users to click through to your website.

Using consistent branding.

Your Instagram profile should capture the essence of your brand. Using consistent branding creates consistency between your profile and your website. In turn, this increases the likelihood people will buy from you.

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Brand Focus: L’Occitane.

One brand currently doing this well is L’Occitane, the popular skincare brand.

They’ve set up a business account that identifies them as a Skin Care Service and provides the option for users to call directly from Instagram.

Their profile is clear and compelling with consistent branding. And the call-to-action is simple-but-strong. How does yours compare?

L'Occitane Instagram profile

2. They Create a Consistent and Strong Brand Image on the Grid

Instagram is a visual network. Your profile is important. But your grid is probably the number one factor in determining whether someone is going to hit the follow button.

Successful brands know this and work hard to create a powerful aesthetic.

Here’s how:

They use high quality, unique images.

If possible, you should always use your own images instead of stock photos. This gives you more control over the content and gives you the freedom to create a grid that works for you.

Successful brands find creative ways to include images of their products. Before you post, ask yourself if it’s going to inspire people to hit the ‘like’ button. This is essential if you want the algorithms to be on your side.

They’re consistent.

A consistent theme on your grid connects your content — creating a cohesive and strong brand identity.

It also helps you stand out to make a strong first impression. This leads to more followers, which helps you reach more people with your content.

Successful brands are intentional with the type of layout they choose for their grid. They also use a consistent colour palette and editing style.

Use a grid planning tool.

A grid planning tool, such as the one offered by Sked Social, will help you achieve the desired look on your grid.

As well as ensuring you make an impact, it will help you create a consistent stream of content in advance. It’s especially useful if you have multiple people working on content for the same brand.

Brand Focus: Ugg.

When you look at Ugg’s grid, their product images are pretty simple.

But the careful planning — and consistent theme — ensures their feed creates a strong first impression.

This shows you don’t need to invest a huge amount of money in your product images. You just need to get creative about how you’re going to showcase them to your followers.

Ugg Instagram page

3. They Share Content on Instagram Stories

There are now 500 million people using Instagram Stories every day. Successful brands know this — and use it to their advantage.

Unlike the grid, which should be carefully curated, stories are a great way to share fast, unfiltered content.

Here are a few ways successful brands are using it to drive traffic and increase sales:

Showing behind the scenes of the business.

Giving followers an insight into what happens behind the camera gives your brand more personality. It helps followers connect with the brand, and builds trust — which leads to more sales.

Creating a buzz about product launches.

Going behind the scenes also gives you the opportunity to give fans a sneak peek of what’s to come.

Promoting blog content.

Sharing blog content on the grid requires effort from your followers. They need to click through to your profile to get the link — which reduces the likelihood they will actually do it.

If you have over 10k followers, you can share a direct link to your blog from your stories.

Scheduling stories in advance.

The beauty of Instagram Stories is they can be shared quickly, without too much planning. But it can also be a good idea to schedule them in advance.

Successful brands do this to ensure they have a consistent stream of content going out to their users. This will keep you at the top of their feed throughout the day, and increase the likelihood they will land in your online store.

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Brand Focus: Charlotte Tilbury

The team behind Charlotte Tilbury’s Instagram account knows how to use Instagram Stories to their advantage.

They’re consistent and regular with their content. They use influencers to cover popular events. They answer follower’s questions. They show behind the scenes of the business and photoshoots.

We love how creative this brand gets with their story content — using GIFs and emojis to connect with their audience. A refreshing change from the careful curation of their grid.

Charlotte Tilbury Instagram story

4. They Use Story Highlights

When Instagram Stories first came about, they disappeared after 24 hours — never to be seen again.

Thankfully, now it’s possible to keep your best content visible using the highlights feature. This enables you to display a collection of your best stories under your bio.

Here’s how our favourite eCommerce brands are using them:

To drive traffic to their blog posts.

If you’ve taken time to create content for your blog, it’s important to promote it.

Featuring your blog content on story highlights will drive traffic to your website — especially if you’re able to share a link directly from your story.

To showcase products.

Whenever you release new products, create a new highlight to showcase them. The highlights appear at the top of your profile — a prime location to show off your best offerings.

To answer frequently asked questions.

If you use your stories to engage with your followers (which you should), make a highlight to cover any common questions they have.

This has many benefits. The most important thing is that it can help you overcome any objections potential customers may have to increase sales.

To share customer feedback.

Happy customers raving about you on their stories? Use it!

You can share Instagram Stories you’re tagged in directly to your profile. Turn them into a highlight reel so you can show potential customers what they’re missing.

Brand Focus: Seed

Australian clothing brand Seed knows the importance of Story Highlights.

As you can see from the image below, they mix up their own product highlights with user-generated stories. When they share images posted by their followers, they edit them to include a link back to their website — turning each highlight into a subtle ad.

Seed Heritage Instagram page and story

5. They Drive Sales with Instagram’s Product Tagging Feature

Do you regularly share product images on your grid? Does it frustrate you how you have to send followers to your bio to get the link?

Good news: there’s a better way!

The product tagging feature enables you to link products directly from the post. This makes your Instagram feed shoppable, increasing the likelihood your followers will buy from you.

Sked Social can help you with this. You can tag your eCommerce products when you schedule your posts with us, making it easy for you to get started.

Brand Focus: Zara

This feature is being used by big and small brands alike. It’s one of the key features used by high street favourite Zara — who include a shoppable link in nearly every post.

Tagging feature on Instagram used by Zara

6. They Share Video Content on IGTV

Instagram announced the launch of its video platform, IGTV, back in June 2018. Set to rival YouTube, expectations were high — but users were slow to adopt the new feature. Fast-forward a year, and IGTV is gaining popularity.

Many brands are still resisting.

But not the successful ones. They know the early adoption of technology like IGTV is key to growing their business online. And you should too.

Unlike Instagram Stories, your video content on IGTV needs to be well thought out. Spend time on each video and put the needs of your audience first.

This isn’t the place to focus on the hard sell. With IGTV, it’s all about providing value. Think about your target market. What do they want? What are their main problems and challenges? How can you help them?

Create content that answers a direct need from your audience. It’s still okay to showcase your products — and you should — but only when it makes sense to do so within the context of your video.

Brand Focus: Sephora

If you want to see exactly how you can use IGTV to drive sales, look no further than Sephora.

The makeup and skincare giant has been fast to jump on this trend. And they show exactly how you can make content that resonates with your audience, whilst showcasing your products to drive sales.

IGTV from Sephora

7. They Make the Most of Their Bio Link

One of the most frustrating things about Instagram is the limited capacity to include links. This is especially true if you have less than 10k followers and can’t share links in your Instagram Story.

Even if you do have a large number of followers, there’s still a good chance you want to share more than one link in your bio.

Successful eCommerce companies know how to make the most of this link.

Are you one of the many brands still using this space to link to your homepage? You’re making a mistake. Because there’s a solution to the “one link” problem:

Introducing Sked Link.

Our free tool enables you to link to multiple pages on your website, all from your bio. The most successful brands use this to send followers to multiple types of content, including:

  • Blog posts
  • Product pages
  • The home page
  • A freebie (used to gather email addresses)

For the best results, limit yourself to around five links. Including too many will overwhelm your followers and deter them from clicking through to your website.

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Brand Focus: NY Glass

NY Glass is an eyewear specialist located in New York City. They use Sked Link to send followers to various pages on their website.

They include a small selection of links to their most popular content, taking into consideration the needs of their target audience. This increases the likelihood someone will click through to their website and buy from them — either online or in-store.

Check out the striking visuals too:

Sked Link from NY Glass

8. They Gain Trust with User-Generated Content

Brands who are successful on Instagram know how powerful user-generated content is.

This takes the focus away from direct selling and shifts it to the end-user, with several benefits:

It makes the brand seem more approachable.

People tend to see brands as disconnected and cold unless they’re actively taking steps to change that perception.

Sharing content generated by your followers helps with this. Your followers will rate you more positively, seeing you as the down-to-earth, person-centered brand people want to buy from.

It shows people enjoying their products.

Nothing builds trust quite like seeing the products in action. If you’re a fashion or beauty brand, it also gives followers an insight into what your products might look like on them.

For this reason, it’s a good idea to be inclusive. Share images from a range of body types, skin tones and styles.

It creates a sense of community.

People want to be part of something. In fact, Instagram is nothing without its sense of community. Make the most of this.

It gives you more content.

Struggling to generate enough content for yourself? Successful brands make user-generated content part of their strategy to reduce the load on their marketing teams.

Brand Focus: Target

User-generated content is a huge part of Target’s Instagram strategy. And it works. Here’s what you can learn from them:

  • Make use of the space in your bio to invite people to share their content to feature.
  • Share user-generated content in both your Instagram Stories and on the grid.
  • Inject some of your own personality. Show your followers you care about them and what they have to say. Be more human.

All this will encourage people to engage with you and increase their positive feelings toward the brand. In turn, this will result in more sales.

Target's Instagram and stories using user generated content

9. They Work With Influencers to Grow Their Audience

The use of Instagram influencers is a controversial topic but it’s a trend that doesn’t seem to be disappearing any time soon.

And with good reason: it works.

Unlike traditional advertising, when it’s done right, collaborating with an influencer makes your campaigns seem more trustworthy. People buy from people. Especially when they’ve already invested time into getting to know an influencer.

Here’s how successful eCommerce companies are doing it:

They choose influencers that align with their brand values.

This is important. 

It’s tempting to prioritise reach over everything else. But if you don’t choose influencers that fit with your brand identity, you won’t be successful in reaching the people you want to reach.

They find the right size influencers.

There’s more than one type of influencer. Unless you’re a global giant, the likes of David Beckham or Margot Robbie are going to be out of your reach.

But even if you can afford some of the bigger Instagram influencers, it doesn’t mean you should.

Micro-influencers typically have between 1,000 and 100,000 followers. They tend to have better connections with their audience and don’t take their brand collaborations for granted.

What size influencer is right for your business?

They prioritise engagement.

It’s easy to get blinded by follower numbers on Instagram, but it’s not the metric you need to consider.

When choosing influencers to work with, it’s more important you look at the engagement. Anyone can grow an account with a large number of followers — but it takes skill to keep an audience engaged as it scales.

Use an engagement calculator to evaluate influencers before you approach them.

Brand Focus: Lululemon

Lululemon understands the power of the micro-influencer well.

Despite having a budget to rival its competitors, it works with a network of over 1,500 ambassadors. They focus on people who have influence locally and within their respective niche.

These relationships are mutually beneficial. Lululemon treats its ambassadors well and, in return, they go over and above expectations to promote the brand.

Lululemon brand ambassadors

10. They Make the Most of Hashtags

Hashtags are still a valuable part of any Instagram strategy. They help people find you and grow the audience for each post beyond your existing follower base.

But you need to use the right ones.

Successful eCommerce brands have invested time into this — creating subsets of hashtags they can use for each post. Here’s how you can follow in their footsteps:

Use the right amount of hashtags on each post.

Instagram allows you to use up to 30 hashtags on each post.

Whilst it’s a good idea to avoid reaching the limit, we recommend you choose between 20 and 25. This will maximise the reach of your post and increase the likelihood people will find you.

Find the right hashtags for your business.

You should also opt for a mix of popular and engaging hashtags.

Some of the popular daily hashtags have multiple people posting every second. This means yours is likely to be lost quickly, despite the high numbers of people looking at the images.

To find your sweet spot, look at the average number of likes you receive on each post. Find hashtags that have similarly popular images appearing in the “top posts” section.

When your content gets featured here, it will stick around for longer — increasing the likelihood people will find you.

Keep your caption tidy by using the first comment.

A large number of hashtags in the caption can affect user experience.

To keep your followers happy, we recommend putting them in the first comment. 

It’s easy to do this in our scheduler. Not only does it let you schedule your hashtags in the first comment — but the hashtag manager enables you to save your favourite hashtags too. This can save you a considerable amount of time on each post.

Conclusion

No matter how you decide to grow your eCommerce brand on Instagram, one thing is for certain:

You need to make it as easy as possible for people to buy from you.

This simple truth should drive everything in your Instagram marketing strategy.

All your activities should lead to one of three outcomes:

  1. More followers
  2. More website traffic
  3. Direct sales

Ready to replicate the success of the brands we’ve mentioned in this post? Sign up for a free trial of Sked Social today — and get ready to take your Instagram strategy to the next level.

Picture of Hugh StephensHugh Stephens

Hugh Stephens

Hugh runs Sked Social, and has strong opinions about the future of the social media space.

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