How to create an Instagram ecommerce strategy that sells

July 30, 2021
Kyra Goodman

Selling on Instagram takes more than shoving your products into your feed. To generate crazy amounts of revenue from your followers, you need strategy - here's how you can create yours.

Instagram is an amazing platform to sell your goods on, but turning your feed into a store takes more than uploading your products. To make your 'gram a revenue generating machine, you need a solid Instagram ecommerce strategy. The good news is you don't need a business degree to get started - all you need to create a strategy you can rely on can be found in the following 10 steps. Here's a quick look at what you'll be learning:

Assess if Instagram is right for your ecommerce business

Don’t create an Instagram ecommerce strategy just because you feel like you have to. Instagram can be a great tool for ecommerce marketing. It allows you to bring awareness and promote your products while building meaningful relationships with your customers. But it isn’t the perfect fit for every single business out there. Here are some questions to consider before creating your ecommerce Instagram strategy:

  • Instagram is a primarily visual platform - are your products easily represented visually?
  • Are you willing to invest in different types of visual content, such as photography and videography to be used in Reels and IGTV?
  • Do you already have an online store and are looking to increase traffic?
  • Are you willing to invest the time and energy to post consistently?
  • Will you share about other sides of your business, such as yourself, your employees, company culture and your values?

If you answered yes to these questions, Instagram could be a great fit for marketing your ecommerce business. Now, it’s time to get down to logistics. Start by reviewing Instagram’s Commerce Eligibility Requirements to see if your products comply with their policies and community guidelines. Additionally, double check that you are in an Instagram supported market. Once you’ve got the green light, it’s time to set up your account to take full advantage of Instagram’s ecommerce features.

Set up your account for Instagram shopping

Instagram has a plethora of features that make it easy for people to buy from your business. Nearly half of people surveyed use Instagram to shop weekly use the features that Instagram has to offer. It’s important that you know how to set up Instagram shopping so that you can use Instagram to its fullest. To start, make sure your Instagram profile is a business or creator account and is connected to a Facebook page. Next, set up a Business Manager account. This will allow you to create your shop in Commerce Manager. Once your business account is ready to go, it’s time for the fun part - setting up your Instagram shop! Check out some of Instagram’s latest shopping features below:

Instagram storefront

It all starts with your storefront, or Instagram shop. Your shop is your place to sell and share your brand story. It allows your audience to use the Instagram shopping tab to browse products and explore collections without ever even leaving the app.

You can easily connect your ecommerce store to Instagram using Business Manager. Check out this helpful guide on how to set up your product catalog for instagram shopping.

Product detail pages

Product detail pages provide relevant information on items from your product catalog. This includes things like pricing and descriptions.

Checkout page

As an alternative to sending people to your website to checkout, Instagram now allows people to make purchases directly in the app. Keep in mind this feature is only available to eligible U.S. businesses and creator accounts, so if you aren’t eligible, use Instagram’s other shopping features to drive buyers to your website instead.

Product tags

Product tags allow you to highlight items from your website or catalog directly in your Instagram posts and stories. This way, people can easily tap to learn more or make a purchase.

Get inside your buyer’s head

You can’t market your product if you don’t know who you’re selling to. Do your homework. Conduct market research to figure out who your target customer is and what their interests are. By identifying your target audience, you can figure out who you’re posting for. One way to do this is to create a buyer persona. A buyer persona is a fictional profile of your ideal customer. If your product is highly specialized, you may only need one, but most businesses tend to have a few. Buyer personas are built partly with data and partly by imagining what need a person might have that would make them want to buy your product. Here’s an example from HubSpot:

Your buyer persona should include demographic information (e.g., age, gender, location, and income) but more importantly, speak to your ideal customer’s motivations and desires. Good marketers empathize with their customers. What are their thoughts, feelings, and attitudes? Try to get inside their mind to figure out what problem your product would solve for them. Once you’ve created your buyer personas, think about how you can tailor your ecommerce experience to fit their needs. For example, an Amazon store looks different to each person who opens it. How can you create a more targeted experience for your customers? One way is by segmenting your accounts for different target demographics. For instance, a common strategy that brands employ is to segment their accounts by location. Take Nando’s for example:

While the content across accounts may look similar, you can use a different voice, language, or offers depending on where your customers are located. Not all teams have the resources to manage multiple accounts for each target demographic. This is where content planning comes in. You can tailor different content pieces to speak to different segments of your target audience. We’ll explore this further below.

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Make your buyer’s journey effortless

Creating great Instagram content is important, but ask yourself: are your Instagram marketing efforts translating to sales on your ecommerce store?T o achieve results, you need to optimize your buyer’s journey. Think of your Instagram audience’s journey as it relates to the marketing funnel.

  • Top-of-funnel: This is your awareness stage. Potential customers enter the top of your funnel when they first come across your Instagram page. They may see a post from you on their explore page, see your content reposted to one of their follower’s accounts, or go to visit your account after you follow them or interact with their content.
  • Middle-of-funnel: This is the consideration stage. Now that the potential customer knows your brand and has seen your content, they want to engage with you to learn more. On Instagram, this might mean following your account, viewing your Instagram shop or product catalog, or watching a Reel or Instagram Live on a new product launch.
  • Bottom-of-funnel: This is the conversion phase, or the point right before your buyer makes a purchase. This means you’ve given them the information they need to make a decision and you’ve managed to direct them to your link in bio or the checkout page on your Instagram shop.

As a marketer, look for opportunities to streamline your buyer’s journey. For example, you can make sure your link in bio is optimized to drive people to the product page they’re looking for. We recommend Sked Social’s link in bio tool, Sked Link. Sked Link allows you to make better use of your Instagram profile link by adding buttons to anywhere on the web. You can create a gallery of your Instagram posts that easily directs users to the right product page. Check it out:

Create content that resonates

When it comes to Instagram ecommerce, it goes without saying that you need to post pictures of your products. However, if every post you share is a product photo, your audience is going to get bored quickly. Successful ecommerce brands evoke an emotion or feeling from their audience.

Strive for content that resonates. One of the best ways to do this is by showing different, more human sides to your brand or asking a question that elicits a response from your audience. Take Starbucks for example. By asking a question that speaks directly to their target audience, they’re able to showcase their products in a fun way that evokes emotions of fun and adventure.

To ensure you’re giving your audience a good variety of content, we recommend dividing up your content into four general categories:

Promotional posts – these showcase your products or any other services you might have available on your ecommerce store.

Conversational posts – these posts inspire your followers to engage in conversations with your business. You can start a discussion thread, offer giveaways, or run contests to get people buzzing about your brand.

Lifestyle content – this content brings your buyer persona “to life” by highlighting interests beyond your product or brand.

User-generated content – these are photos you’ll repost from customers, industry influencers or other people who champion your brand or products.

Activewear and yoga brand Lululemon does a great job of incorporating different types of content. Check out these recent posts showcasing a feature on local artists, a piece of user-generated content from one of their ambassadors, and a product post featuring one of their new sports bras:

Rather than coming across as “salesy”, it showcases the community they’ve built around their brand and inspires people to become a part of it by purchasing their products. Content is important. But what’s more important is building trust with your audience. You can do this by posting consistently. One of the ways you can ensure that you’re posting consistently is to use an Instagram scheduling tool. This ensures that you’re filling your Instagram with high-quality content to keep your target audience engaged. Lastly, don’t forget your shopping tags! When the user clicks on the tag, it will automatically take them to a page that allows them to purchase that product. This is a great way to turn leads into conversions or get them to your website or sales page to learn more about your products.

Use the right ecommerce hashtags for Instagram

Love them or hate them, hashtags are an important part of your Instagram ecommerce strategy. Using the right hashtags will help you extend your reach, engage your audience, boost your brand’s visibility, and improve your content’s performance within the Instagram algorithm. A good rule of thumb is to try and use a variety of hashtags and always make sure they are relevant to the content you’re sharing. We recommend using a combination of trending, niche, and branded hashtags for optimal results. Check out our guide to the ten best Instagram hashtags for ecommerce. You can also use product specific hashtags. These will allow buyers to view content around a specific product by clicking on the hashtag’s page. GoPro does it here for the GoPro HERO 9:

Reward user-generated content

No content is more effective than organic, user-generated content. User-generated content is unparalleled for its authenticity - you should always be looking to repost content from your followers. This can include things like highlighting a positive review in a story post or reposting a video where a happy customer raves about your product. Pay attention and recognize the followers who generate this content. This encourages others to do the same and expands your organic content repertoire. Check out 15 examples of big brands using user-generated content and successfully adapting it to their campaigns.

Smaller instances of user-generated content such as positive comments can also act as a major validator for your products. Don’t be afraid to ask your audience questions in your posts such as which product is their favourite or how their experience with the product has been so far. Many people look online and to the comment sections to find product reviews – this is a great way to make those comments an easy find.

Foster an online community around your brand

Instagram has something that most social media platforms don’t: the ability to create a community around your brand. To do this, you need to find relevant industry influencers and top fans of your business. People don’t become fans overnight. Just like all relationships, brand relationships must be cultivated and maintained. Instagram is a social platform and that means that engagement and conversation is important. Allocate time to engage with your followers each day. You can spend this time responding to comments on your posts or answering DMs. If your ecommerce store is gaining a large volume of sales or inquiries from Instagram, consider integrating your customer service team into your social media efforts. Aside from direct engagement, the best way to build a sense of community is by inviting people to participate. Show them behind the scenes looks or have them choose between two different products through a poll in your stories. Ask them their opinion of a new product or how they incorporate your products into their daily routine. For instance, Etsy speaks to their creative community by asking them what creative projects they find most relaxing:

The more you work on building your community on Instagram, the more you attract the type of buyer that is looking for the types of products you sell.

Stay on top of your analytics

We cannot stress this enough: check your insights and analytics on Instagram. These are the numbers (besides your sales numbers) that will tell you if your strategy is working. They can tell you if your posts are landing in front of the right demographics and what types of content are most popular. Organic ROI from Instagram can be hard to measure. Since Instagram doesn’t allow clickable links on most posts, you’ll need to rely on metrics like followers, likes, comments and link in bio clicks to assess if your Instagram ecommerce strategy is effective. Aaron Orendorff of Shopify encourages you consider these metrics as they relate to your Instagram marketing funnel:

  • Top-of-funnel: Followers and likes
  • Middle-of-funnel: Comments, saves, shares (i.e., engagement)
  • Bottom-of-funnel: Link tracking on your bio through a UTM or a unique link in bio tool

Together, these metrics tell you the health of your Instagram ecommerce strategy and where you can improve. Looking for an analytics tool that does all this and more? Check out Sked’s analytics for robust reporting that’s tailor made for Instagram.

Optimize, optimize, optimize

You’ve checked your analytics. Now it’s time to apply the learnings from the metrics you analyzed. Are your posts getting a lot of engagement but it’s not translating to link-in-bio clicks or sales? Maybe you’re using shop tags in your feed posts but forgetting to add them to your stories. Nobody’s perfect. There are always opportunities to improve and adjust.

Return to your buyer’s journey and see if you can streamline the process. Break down each stage of the funnel and clearly identify what steps you’re taking through Instagram to move customers through. If you’re getting too much top-of-funnel action, work on your CTAs and optimizing your link in bio. If you’re getting a lot of engagement but not a lot of follower growth, consider running an influencer campaign to boost awareness of your products. Try to come up with three to five ideas per funnel stage where you can improve. This ensures that you’re constantly learning and improving. Your Instagram ecommerce strategy should constantly evolve. The best way to boost your ecommerce sales is to keep things agile and try new things. Instagram is constantly updating its shopping features, so make sure that you’re staying up to date with the latest news and tools to maximize your success.

Ready to turn your Insta feed into a shopping experience?

With Sked Social, you can create shoppable tags, add your location, and create seamless funnels from your Sked link-in-bio to specific products and pages. See if it's right for your business with a 7-day free trial.


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