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How to Sell on Instagram: Your E-Commerce Guide To More Sales

September 13, 2018
Kyra Goodman

It’s no secret that social media garners a lot of attention and emphasis when it comes to marketing your business. So, naturally, we think most brands should make it a priority to learn how to sell on Instagram. For good reason. A

It’s no secret that social media garners a lot of attention and emphasis when it comes to marketing your business. So, naturally, we think most brands should make it a priority to learn how to sell on Instagram.For good reason. A presence on social media engages your followers, helps you find new customers, and contributes to your brand identity.But, with all of those benefits aside, most people still get stuck on this one question: What’s the return on investment? Is your time spent crafting strategies and creating posts quite literally paying off? What impact does this have on your business’ bottom line?Measuring the ROI of your social media efforts presents a challenge.But, make no mistake, you actually can leverage Instagram to close deals and make more sales. And, as the platform continues to evolve, the capabilities for selling are only going to grow. If you're apprehensive about learning how to sell on Instagram, don't be! We're breaking it down into 9 easy and essentials below.

How To Sell On Instagram: 9 Best Practices to Follow

What a wonderful world it would be if you could post a few product photos and watch as the money came rolling in.But, converting your followers into paying customers requires a little more strategy and elbow grease than that.So, what do you need to know about Instagram e-commerce sales? We’re covering some key tips you should know to actually turn your Instagram efforts into dollars. Let's jump right into showing you how to sell on Instagram.

1. Be Authentic

Imagine that you’re flipping through channels on your TV and you land on an infomercial.Do you stick around for long to hear more about whatever product they’re peddling? Or, do you click away immediately—because you know they’re only trying to sell you something?What about if you’re walking through a shopping mall, and someone steps out from one of those kiosks and attempts to stop you and ask you some questions. Do you stay and talk? Or do you say, “No, thank you!” and keep on walking?I’m willing to bet that you do whatever you can to avoid those overtly "salesy" and pushy messages and interactions.You aren’t alone. Perhaps you’ve heard the sentiment that goes a little something like, “People love to buy, but they hate being sold to.” Which is why being authentic is our first tip when it comes to learning how to sell on Instagram.All of us have this innate distrust of sales messages—as if someone is trying to pull the wool over our eyes and con us into some sort of scam.This is why authenticity is so important, particularly on Instagram where sponsored posts and ads are the norm. In fact, Statista estimates that the volume of sponsored content will rise to 32.3 million posts in the year 2019.Of course, there’s nothing wrong with sponsored posts and influencer marketing (it can actually be a great strategy when done well).But, the thing you need to keep in mind is this: Users don’t want to feel as if you’re constantly shoving your products down their throats. You can use Instagram as a sales tool, without being "salesy" all of the time.The best way to do that is ensuring that you’re posting a mix of content.For example, if you’re a startup trying to spark interest in your new fitness tracker, you should post photos of your products and relevant details.But, not every post should be dedicated to making a sale. You could change things up by also posting:

  • Fitness and nutrition tips
  • Inspirational quotes
  • Workout videos and routines
  • Behind-the-scenes peeks at your office or staff.

The list goes on and on. Just make sure you aren’t on a constant cycle of sales message after sales message. You’ll lose followers, and it won’t be long before you foster a reputation as an account that resembles an infomercial.

2. Make Your Posts Shoppable

Let’s focus specifically on including your products in your photos. This is absolutely something you should do—with a certain level of moderation—if you want to master how to sell on Instagram.But, here’s where things can get tricky: Instagram still doesn’t allow for clickable links in photo captions. So, how can you drive people directly to your product to make a purchase?This is where the shopping on Instagram feature comes into play.Using this feature, you can tag products directly within your photos (or use the new shoppable Instagram Stories feature). When people click your photo, the tagged products will appear. They can then click on those products to be brought directly to a purchase page. You can even set up product tagging within Sked when scheduling your posts.Sounds pretty great, right? However, be aware that you need to meet some criteria in order to utilize this feature. According to Instagram, you must meet the following requirements:

  • Firstly, your business must sell physical goods that comply with Instagram’s merchant agreement and commerce policies.
  • Your Instagram account must be converted into a business profile.
  • Lastly, your business profile must be connected to a Facebook catalog. This can be created and managed on Business Manager, through Shopify or BigCommerce platforms, or directly on your business’s Page on Facebook.

Check those boxes? Then you’re all set to use the shopping feature.Let’s go back to our fitness tracker example, except we’ll take a look at an existing fitness tracker company that uses shoppable posts—Fitbit.Within Fitbit’s feed, you can see which posts are shoppable by looking for the shopping icon in the corner of the post.

How to Sell on Instagram - FitBit - Sked Social

Image Source: FitbitWhen you click the shoppable image, you’re presented with information about the product (including the price). You also have the option to click through to learn more and purchase.

How to Sell on Instagram - FitBit - Sked Social

Image Source: FitbitHow do you accomplish this same thing for yourself? Again, as long as you meet Instagram’s criteria above, then using the shopping feature is pretty simple. Instagram provides some detailed instructions.To get started, you need to enable product tagging.Head to your profile and tap on the “Get Started” alert at the top of your profile (or on the gear icon for your settings if you don’t see the alert). From there, tap “Shopping,” then “Continue,” and then select a product catalogue to connect to your business profile. Press “Done.”You’re now able to tag products. To actually tag products within one of your Instagram posts, do the following:

  1. Select a photo and add a caption, effects, and filters.
  2. Tap the products in the photo that you want to tag.
  3. Enter the names of the products you want to tag, then select them as they appear in the search box.
  4. Tap “Done.”
  5. Tap “Share.”

That’s it! You’re ready to make your own Instagram posts shoppable and send people directly to your physical products.To make things easier, you can also tag your products within Sked when uploading your posts. This way will save you, and your team, any time lost from doing it manually in Instagram, and allow you to manage it all within the same platform.

3. Use High-Quality Images

Instagram is a completely visual platform. So, if you think you can post grainy, dark, or out of focus product photos and master how to sell on Instagram? Well, you need to think again.As reported by Shopify, over half of online shoppers think product photos are more important than information, reviews, and ratings. That means you should be prepared to knock your own Instagram photos out of the park.Rest assured, you don’t need to be a professional photographer in order to create awesome Instagram content. We have plenty of tips to help novices take striking photos in our guide to taking good Instagram photos.Once you’ve familiarized yourself with the basics, what exactly should your product photos look like? There isn’t one right way to go about showcasing your products.For example, Australian phone case company, The Dairy (who have clearly master how to selling on Instagram), posts many photos where their cases are the center of attention. With flatlays and product-specific photos, your eye focuses on the case—and not people or other things happening in the background.

How to Sell on Instagram - The Dairy - Sked Social

Image Source: The DairyIn contrast, the fitness clothing brand, Lululemon, uses lifestyle photography to show their fitness gear. Photos include people engaging in various athletic activities. While their products aren’t necessarily the primary focus of the photo, their clothing is still being advertised and promoted.

How to Sell on Instagram - Lululemon - Sked Social

Image Source: LululemonWhile those examples are different, they both include clear and bright photos, rather than snapshots that are dark or unprofessional.There are many different ways that you can include your products in your Instagram photos. The important thing is to make sure that your imagery is always high-quality.

4. Research Your Hashtags

Driving your existing followers to purchase your products is great. But, ideally, you’ll also capture the attention of some new followers—who eventually decide to make a purchase.One of the best ways to get your brand and your products out in front of new audiences is by using hashtags.Users rely on hashtags to find similar content to what they’re already interested in. For example, someone who’s interested in the outdoors might look at content grouped under the #outdoors or #nature hashtags.If your photos show up in one of their searches and you’re able to snag their attention, you could have a loyal new fan and customer in your grasp.Your first step is to research hashtags that are popular and frequently used by your target market. How can you find this information? There are a few recommended places to look:

  • Your competitors: Are there certain hashtags that they use again and again?
  • Influencers in your industry: What hashtags are they including with their own posts?
  • Your followers: Pick out a few followers who seem like they fit the criteria of your target customer. What hashtags are they frequently using?

Make a list of hashtags that are relevant to your industry or niche, and then test those on your Instagram posts to see what sort of engagement you get.If you’re frequently using the same hashtags on your posts, then using Sked’s Hashtag Manager allows you to save and create lists of your favorite hashtags—making it easy to keep them organized, and then use them while scheduling your posts.Boutiquefeel, an online women’s clothing boutique, uses a large mix of relevant hashtags on their photos—things like #womensfashion, #instafashion, #outfitoftheday, and #stylediaries.

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: Boutique FeelREI, an outdoor outfitter, uses a hashtag that shares the location of a photo (things like #Oregon or #Alaska)—along with their branded hashtag of #OptOutside.With those location hashtags, they capture the attention of people who are interested in exploring those particular areas but might not be looking for an outdoor outfitter.

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: REIWhile using hashtags on your posts might not directly lead to a sale, think about it this way: Hashtags help you grow your audience. The bigger your audience, the higher your likelihood of making more sales through the platform. So, hashtags certainly can’t hurt.

5. Leverage Instagram Stories and Highlights

Today, you probably won’t get through any sort of Instagram-related advice or tutorial without a mention of Instagram stories.Instagram recently reported that stories are up to 400 million (yes, 400 million!) daily active users. That means Instagram stories have twice as many users as Snapchat. There’s a huge audience here—making it a good place to promote your products and make some sales.How? With the sense of urgency that Instagram stories inspire (since they disappear after 24 hours!), you can use them to give a heads up about a current sale or promo code. That will inspire users to head on over and buy something.Instagram also has story highlights, which allows you to save certain clips in a category that appears at the top of your profile.Whether you’re providing a demonstration, talking about sizing, or giving a sneak peek at an upcoming product launch, your Instagram story highlights are the perfect place to gain more interest about your products.Clothing brand, ASOS, is one that leverages Instagram stories highlights and the basics of selling on Instagram. They have categories for things like brand new products and activewear. Users can access those clips at any time in order to get the lowdown on the products they’re most interested in.

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: ASOSThat all helps to get your products in front of more eyeballs. But, what about actually making the sale?Brands who have made the switch to a business profile and have more than 10,000 followers can add “swipe up” links directly to their stories. When users swipe up as instructed, they’re brought directly to the product page to get more information and make a purchase.

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: ASOSIn short, don’t neglect Instagram Stories as part of your Instagram marketing strategy. They’re highly engaging and an effective way to drive more interest in your products.

6. Encourage Fan Participation

It’s all about engagement. Are you groaning? I know—you’ve heard it a million times, but it’s true. Learning how to sell on Instagram is a group activity whether you like it or not!Here’s the thing, though: While a high level of engagement is necessary to make a sale, getting that level of commitment from your followers isn’t easy. In fact, it’s pretty challenging most of the time.This is why you need to incentivize them. You need to give them a reason to interact and ultimately purchase.In reality, incentivizing a sale can be as simple as offering a limited-time promo code. Followers who were previously on the fence about ordering will feel more motivated to buy when they feel like they need to snag a discount before it goes away.But, while blasting out a promo code might lead to a brief uptick in sales, it doesn’t really do much in terms of your engagement.Here’s where giveaways and contests come in. You encourage engagement on your posts as part of the contest, and then pick a winner from those participants.For example, perhaps you’ll post a contest photo that people need to comment on in order to enter for a chance to win one of your products for free (like e.l.f. Cosmetics does in the example below).

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: Elf CosmeticsNot only are you skyrocketing your engagement on that one photo, but you’re also (hopefully!) identifying some brand advocatesWhen you choose your winner(s), encourage them to post a photo of themselves with their free product and tag you in it. They’re spreading the word about your brand and products to their followers, which expands your reach beyond your existing audience.Plus, if that person happens to love their free product? Chances are, they’ll come back to purchase more. You just gained a loyal customer and brand ambassador—for very little effort.

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7. Seek Out Influencers and User-Generated Content

Influencer marketing is big business on Instagram. A whopping 81% of consumers state that social posts from their friends or peers directly impact their purchasing decisions. And, one study found that influencer marketing generates 11 times the ROI of traditional digital marketing.Put simply, people are more likely to buy when a brand is recommended by someone they admire—rather than the brand pushing their products themselves. Which is exactly why influencer marketing makes up a large part of learning how to sell on Instagram.Start by finding some relevant influencers in your niche that you’d like to work with, and then reach out to them to get the ball rolling. Make sure you’re clear on:

  • Your expectations in terms of sharing, frequency, hashtags, etc.
  • What you’ll provide (such as a brand guide, free products, etc.)
  • What the influencer will get in return (be forewarned, most influencers expect to be paid).

Now, what exactly do these influencers accomplish for you? Well, Instagram sales are the obvious one. As mentioned earlier, a recommendation from an influencer in your niche can go a long way in terms of inspiring other people to buy.You also can’t neglect the benefit of greater exposure. That influencer has an engaged following—and, chances are high that the influencer’s entire audience doesn’t yet follow your account.Finally, you’ll also get something else that’s highly valuable: user-generated content. As part of your agreement, the influencer will be taking various photos and videos of your products. That’s content that you can use on your own Instagram account and even on your website—provided you have the influencer’s consent, of course.Retailer TJ Maxx is a leading example when learning how to sell on Instagram. The retailer uses tons of photos taken by their customers and followers on their own Instagram account.They always give photo credit, and it’s a great way to highlight their products in a way that increases their exposure, solidifies relationships with their customers, and feels far more authentic than "salesy".

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: TJ Maxx

8. Advertise Your Products

While getting your products in front of more eyeballs authentically and organically is always great, that doesn’t mean you can’t support your Instagram sales with some dollars. Master how to sell on Instagram by mastering your social ads.This is where Instagram ads carry a lot of power. You can pay to get your products in front of an audience that you want to attract.Before you can leverage the power of ads on Instagram, Instagram states that you’ll need two things to get started:

With those things in place, you have your choice of numerous different ad types to run, including:Photo Ads: These ads appear in user’s feeds as they’re scrolling and feature just one attention-grabbing photo and a link to learn more or make a purchase.

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: AvaWomenVideo Ads: Much like the photo ads, these appear directly in feeds with a link to learn more and purchase, but they feature a video instead of a photo.Carousel Ads: Just like a photo ad, except users can scroll through more than one photo.Stories Ads: These advertisements (which are often videos) pop up as users are clicking through their Instagram stories.

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: FableticsExactly how much Instagram ads will cost you depends on the type of advertisement you choose and how long you plan to run it for. However, ThriveHive reports that the average cost is somewhere around $6.70 per one thousand views.But, that’s money well spent. Instagram has the highest engagement rate when compared with all digital ad placements.

How to Sell on Instagram - Sked Social

Image Source: Forrester Research via Karola KarlsonPlus, Instagram ads give you the opportunity to go beyond your existing followers and get your brand out in front of other users who might be interested in what you offer. You’re growing your audience and making sales!

9. Use Third-Party Apps

If the above 'how to sell on Instagram' tips have taught you anything, it’s that there are plenty of ways to leverage Instagram to bolster the bottom line for your business.But, if you’re also thinking that all of this sounds like a lot of added work, we certainly can’t blame you. Fortunately, there are tons of different Instagram tools and third-party apps that can help to ease the burden.

Summary: How to Sell on Instagram

  • Be Authentic
  • Make your posts shoppable
  • Use high-quality images
  • Research your hashtags
  • Leverage Instagram stories and highlights
  • Encourage fan participation
  • Seek our influencers and UGC
  • Advertise your products
  • Use third-party apps

How To Sell On Instagram: The Future of Instagram Shopping

While ROI from your social media strategy has always been challenging to measure, there are plenty of ways that you can directly tie Instagram to sales for your business. Analyzing your strategy is a vital part of marketing how to sell on Instagram.In terms of what’s next? Well, it looks like the platform will continue to become even more shoppable and e-commerce driven.Instagram recently rolled out a payments feature to select users in the U.S. and the U.K. This allows users to store their payment information and make purchases—without ever leaving the Instagram app.While the feature is starting out only with services—such as booking an appointment or a reservation—as opposed to actual products, we can only imagine that the latter isn’t too far off into the future. An integration with Instagram’s existing shoppable posts is more than likely in the works.Even more interesting? Instagram just recently announced plans to launch a stand-alone shopping app. Make sure you know how to sell on Instagram before the official launch comes along.So, without a doubt, e-commerce and ways that brands can leverage Instagram to increase sales are at the forefront of Instagram’s mind—and it should be at the front of your mind too.Now that you know how to sell on Instagram, why not start carving out hours in your social media workflow by signing up for Sked’s 7-day trial. Our all-in-one Instagram scheduler allows you to automatically post images, carousels, Stories, videos and more. Tag locations, users and products and manage all your hashtags in one place to save 5+ hours every week.

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