Looking to sell your products online but don’t have a website or online store set up yet? Learn how to sell on Instagram without a website!
Most of us know Instagram as a popular platform for sharing visual content. What some people don’t know is that it can be an effective ecommerce platform when done right. No website? No problem! As long as you have a bit of know-how, you can set up a successful online store that runs entirely on Insta.
Why should you sell products on Instagram?
Of Instagram’s 1 billion monthly users, about 200 million visit at least one business profile a day. This means that a good chunk of Instagram users are interested in purchasing from businesses on the platform. Instagram is also one of the most brand-friendly social media platforms out there. They’ve shifted their focus as of late to building out their shopping features and giving brands more opportunities to thrive.
Instagram is a perfect solution for some. But it isn’t for every business. While it provides a unique way to sell products, some of its features have specific use cases and can be difficult to scale.
Here are some key questions you should ask yourself before you jump into selling on the ‘gram:
Can your product be easily showcased using images or videos?
Instagram is a visual marketing platform. That means it’s a lot easier to sell products that have a strong visual appeal or aesthetic. Physical products like apparel, accessories, beauty products, home goods and outdoor/sporting goods are a great fit. Increasingly, we’re also seeing digital products like presets, custom fonts, and graphics have great success on the platform.
Do you already have an established web presence and website?
If you’re an established business, you’ll likely want to place most of your focus on driving traffic to your online store. Instagram has great features for this, such as Instagram Shopping Tags. However, it doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to use Instagram as your primary storefront if you already have a high volume of sales coming in through your website. You want to choose your sales channels wisely, and taking orders through Instagram could create too many channels for you to manage effectively.
Do you have the infrastructure in place to track and fulfill orders outside of Instagram?
It doesn’t need to be a full website. But you’ll still need to use a tool to track incoming orders from Instagram and collect important customer info. This can be as simple as an Excel sheet or you can use a more advanced spreadsheet tool like Airtable or Smartsheet.
If you’ve reviewed the questions above and determined that you’re a fit – congratulations! You’re ready to learn how to sell on Instagram without a website. You can use Instagram to make sales, build brand awareness and create traction for your business until you’re ready to launch a full online store.
Setting up your Instagram account for sales
You’ve established that your business is a great fit for selling on Instagram. Now it’s time to set yourself up for success.
First things first: make sure you have an Instagram Business Account
If you’re setting up your account for the first time, make sure you create it as a Business Profile. Instagram will prompt you during the setup process, so don’t sweat if you’re not sure where to look.
Having a business account unlocks features like the ability to add a phone number and email to your bio, insight data, and using paid ads to promote your products. Insights in particular are hugely valuable to assess what content is generating the most sales.
Already created your account as a personal profile? No worries – you can easily change it to a business one by logging into your account, going into “Settings” and tapping the “Switch to Business Profile” option.
You’re almost there! Once your business account is set up, you’ll need to connect a Facebook Business page and set up a Business Manager account. Even if you don’t have a website to connect to just yet, you can still create a catalogue that allows your customers to shop and checkout on Instagram (more on this below!)
Nail your bio
Without a website to add legitimacy, you need to give your audience all the info they need right away so they know you’re the real deal. For pointers, check out this article on how to set up your Instagram ecommerce bio for success.
To start, make sure you have your business name, a high-quality profile photo or logo, and a short description of the types of products you sell. You can also add a location to your bio. Community is huge when it comes to Instagram. If people know where to find you, they’ll be more likely to support you.
Lastly, make sure you fill out the email and phone number in your bio. Since your customers can’t contact you via a website, you need to add as many touch points as possible. This also helps build trust, which is important for any brand when selling online.
Organize your Instagram Story Highlights by product or collection
Without a website, it can be difficult for potential customers to know where to find a particular product or service. The more frictionless you can make the sales process, the more likely you’ll make the sale. And making sales is what we’re all about!
Organize your highlights into specific products or collections. This makes it easy for customers to access all the content you’ve created about a product in one place. To grab their attention, add a custom cover for each highlight. Here’s a great example from Letterfolk:
You can learn more about how to create engaging Instagram Story Highlights with this handy guide we made!
Create engaging Instagram content
This one goes without saying. Since Instagram is a primarily visual platform, you need to create content that’s visually appealing and showcases your products in fun and creative ways. We break these down further below.
Showcase your products with eye-catching content
Make sure your content showcases your products. While it can be useful to mix things up and throw in a graphic or a non-product photo every once in a while, your products are the star of your account and should be treated as such.
Here are some of our favorite accounts that have created a cohesive, eye-catching product feed.
Nice photography or videography goes a long way. It can also be fun to create unique, eye-catching designs that incorporate your products. Canva is a great tool and has a ton of templates to create product-based graphics. Check out some examples:
We recommend using a scheduling tool to visually plan an attractive and cohesive feed. Sked Social allows you to automatically publish posts of all types and analyze and learn from each post. Try a free 7-day trial here.
Use Instagram Reels and Instagram Live to build awareness
Reels are one of the best ways to grow brand awareness in 2021. Don’t sleep on this one! Since launching Instagram Reels in response to TikTok’s popularity, Instagram is pushing the feature hard and rewarding accounts that use them. Instagram’s CEO has even said that Instagram is moving from being primarily a photo-sharing platform to focusing more on video content.
Reels prioritize keeping people on the app which means serving viewers more content they like and increasing the chances of your content going viral. This is a golden opportunity for business owners. You’re getting more eyes on your content, which means potential customers will have a higher chance of finding you and seeing your products.
Instagram Live is one of the app’s fastest growing features. The platform puts you top of mind by sending out notifications to your followers once you start a video. It also creates a sense of urgency since these videos typically disappear when you stop recording. This increases the odds that people will tune in to make sure they don’t miss anything important.
Get creative with it! Share customer testimonials, give people a behind the scenes look at how the product is made, or do a Reddit style “Ask Me Anything” where you invite your audience to ask questions about your business.
With Instagram rolling out Live Shopping, you can even make sales while you broadcast! Businesses and creators can now tag products when they go live so viewers can buy or save products added to the shopping video. Keep in mind that only products that have been approved by Instagram can be added to live videos.
Use social proof
HubSpot defines social proof as looking to other people for guidance on how you should respond in a particular situation. In a business context, this means that potential customers often look to people they know and trust before deciding to purchase a product.
There are a few ways to generate social proof for your brand without a website. One is to share testimonials or customer reviews on your page. But by far, the most effective method is to run an influencer campaign.
89% of brands say ROI from influencer marketing is comparable to or better than other marketing channels, with Instagram being reported as the most important channel for influencer marketing. Partnering with an influencer allows you to tap into an established audience that the influencer has built trust with. It can also be a great way to get your product or service in front of an audience that isn’t aware of you yet.
If you’re considering using Instagram influencer marketing for your business, check out this awesome guide we created on running a successful influencer campaign.
Create Instagram shoppable posts
Did you know that Instagram has built-in features to make your posts shoppable? With 130 million people tapping on shoppable posts each month, you’re leaving money on the table by not utilizing these features. Here are two ways you can make your posts shoppable:
Product Tags let you highlight items from your catalog in your content so people can easily tap to learn more. These can also connect right to your shop for in-app purchasing with checkout on Instagram.
Businesses with Instagram Checkout can now announce upcoming exclusive drops. This allows your audience to preview details and set reminders to buy when new products are available.
How to sell on Instagram without a website
This is the most important part of your sales process: choosing the right sales tool. We picked some of our favorite strategies and laid out the pros and cons of each so you can find what works for you.
Checkout in two steps with Instagram Checkout
Instagram’s Checkout feature is now available to all eligible businesses in the US. To use it, all you have to do is create a shoppable post that customers can tap. This creates an easy, streamlined process to turn your followers into loyal customers.
How it works: When your customers tap to view a product from a shopping post, they will see a “Checkout on Instagram” button on the product page. They can tap the button to select options like size or color and proceed to payment without ever leaving the app. They’ll need to enter their name, email, billing information, and shipping address the first time they check out. But Instagram keeps this info on file for future convenience.
Image via TechCrunch
While Instagram is still in the process of rolling out these features globally, the future looks bright for brands who want to sell on Instagram without using a website.
Pros: It’s the easiest way for customers to purchase your products without ever leaving the app. Remember: less steps = more sales for your business.
Cons: Transaction fees. According to Instagram’s Business Help Center, the fee is 5% per shipment or a flat fee of $0.40 for shipments of $8.00 or less. This may not seem like a big deal to some, but if you’re a small business or have slim product margins, these fees can take a chunk out of your profits.
Sell on Instagram using the comments
This method was more popular before Instagram created their own checkout feature, but it’s still a fun, easy way for people to shop.
Comment Sold allows you to convert your Instagram comments into sales. When a buyer comments on your post, they’ll be sent a link to an invoice with various payment options. Even better – you’ll receive a fulfillment order while your inventory is updated in real-time.
Image via Bloomberg
Pros: It’s exciting for customers because it’s highly interactive. You can also use customizable options to create a sense of urgency, such as limited-time sales and custom cart expiry times.
Cons: If you have a large following, your comments can get clogged up quickly and create a large influx of orders you may not be ready to manage. Make sure you have a plan in place to handle larger order volumes beforehand.
Sell using your Instagram DMs
You’ve created awesome content via Reels, Stories and Feed Posts to attract and nurture your ideal client. Now that you’ve got their attention, you can sell to them through Instagram Direct Messages.
Never start a DM convo with the intent to sell. This is the easiest way to scare off a customer, as they might find you too pushy. Instead, use this feature to provide value to your audience and deepen the relationship.
If you have a customer who regularly engages with your content, send them a DM thanking them and offer them a free product with their first purchase. It’s also a great way to retain existing customers. For instance, you can personally thank someone for their recent order and offer them a discount code for next time.
These transactions require some back and forth to collect the necessary information. For payment, you can use e-transfers, PayPal or Stripe’s new online marketplace for payments, Stripe Connect. You’ll also need to make sure you’re collecting and storing the customer’s contact information in a secure place, such as an Excel sheet.
Pros: Great for smaller businesses who want to build close connections with their customers. Adds a personal touch that ecommerce websites sometimes lack.
Cons: Difficult to scale. You must be organized and put external infrastructure in place to collect payments and store customer info.
Turn your link in bio into a storefront for your business
With a traditional ecommerce website, you’d normally use your link in bio to drive traffic to your online store. Nowadays, online businesses are getting much more creative with the link in their bios.
You can use Linktree or our tool, Sked Link, to create a custom storefront with clickable buttons. These buttons can direct customers to a simple landing page. Or ff you’re selling through Etsy or Amazon, you can drop those links in there. You can even connect it to something as simple as a Google form to collect orders.
Businesses are quickly realizing the value of having a social storefront. L’Oréal has a Linktree storefront, as does Roxy and a handful of other small companies. Even Shopify recommends that Instagram sellers direct people to a landing page like Linktree.
Check out this Linktree storefront for Bluchic, a company that sells website templates:
Pros: Your link is fully customizable, allowing you to list multiple products in one place, and drive traffic to a landing page.
Cons: Works best if you have your own landing page set up. It can become difficult to track orders and payments if you’re only using a Google Form, and linking to external websites like Amazon or Etsy drives traffic away from your account.
No matter which approach you take to selling on Instagram, there are tons of ways to take advantage of the platform and convert your followers into paying customers. Lots of brands have already had success selling on Instagram. The future looks bright for ecommerce brands on the platform.
Try out different things until you find what works for you! There’s no one-fits-all solution, but as long as you keep your customers top of mind and make the buying process as seamless as possible, you’re on the track to success.