Facebook may dominate the social media marketing scene, but Instagram has taken over with the coveted 18-to-34 age demographic. Millennials and Gen Z users view the site as an essential tool for digital discovery, with a single scrolling session unearthing a satisfying blend of entertainment and inspiration. 

This presents an exciting opportunity in the retail sphere, with many businesses using the social media platform to produce not only greater brand awareness, but also quick conversions.

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Over the years, Instagram has expanded its suite of marketing tools and technologies to include a wide variety of solutions for connecting with potential and existing customers. With so many options available, it can be difficult to know where to start. As you develop your strategy for selling directly on Instagram or leading customers to your ecommerce site, don’t hesitate to implement these helpful suggestions:

Instagram ads

Uniquely versatile, Instagram ads can be displayed in photo or video form — and in permanent posts or via Stories. 

example of retail Instagram post
Instagram ads can be displayed in standard posts or Stories.

The following are among the most effective strategies for displaying ads:

  • Carousel. Rather than rely on a single post to convey an important marketing message, Instagram’s carousel allows for a series of updates. These can be used to highlight a variety of products or go into detail when highlighting a specific item’s attributes. Carousel posts expand the platform’s already-impressive versatility to encourage a creative, story-based approach to marketing.
  • Collections. This tool makes it easy to save existing posts and repurpose them within a series of updates. Many brands rely on this option for managing a large volume of user-generated content, which may otherwise be difficult to organize. Regular users can also be encouraged to make the most of collections, which allow them to save ideas for later reference.
  • Explore. Many loyal Instagram users hold a discovery mindset, which resembles that of a window shopper at a mall or downtown district. In each situation, the consumer enters the digital or physical space with the intention of finding something new. These customers are primed to buy — they just need a little inspiration. Enter Explore, where curated content can be strategically positioned according to each user’s unique interests. 

Instagram Shopping

A useful option that goes beyond typical social media ads, Instagram Shopping provides swift direction during a brief period that the platform refers to as the “moment of discovery.” At this time, users are more persuadable than usual, with many actively seeking out buying opportunities. 

While users tend to picture in-feed tags when they think of Instagram Shopping, this solution actually involves a suite of tools. Its customizable storefront, for example, encourages users to shop via business profile pages. Customers can also look at Product Detail Pages (PDPs), which provide relevant information while also integrating images or videos in which a particular item is tagged. This allows users to see specific products being used by ordinary people and prominent influencers alike. 

Checkout on Instagram

A subset of Instagram Shopping, this service encourages eligible creators or businesses to sell products directly on the platform. Shoppers can discover and securely purchase products directly from the website with help from Facebook Pay. Under this approach, shoppers seamlessly complete purchases without ever leaving the site. This allows businesses to avoid the common abandoned-cart conundrum that so often hurts conversion rates.

Once purchases are complete, customers can use the site to view notifications about shipping and delivery. This inspires confidence in the process and makes followers more likely to continue shopping from your brand’s page or tagged posts in the future.

Organic posts

While paid options can quickly drive sales, there’s something to be said for the long-term strategy of connecting with customers via organic updates. Organic images, videos, and captions are ideal for improving brand awareness while also helping existing followers gain a greater sense of trust. 

Depending on the intended type of content or target audience, this can be posted in the main feed, in Stories, or via Instagram TV. Some brands also deliver in-depth videos on Instagram Live, which is ideal for Q&A sessions or for providing opportunities to learn more about specific products. 

Many organic posts draw on the power of the hashtag to make content more discoverable. Carefully curated hashtags make it possible to reach an audience beyond existing followers. In doing so, they achieve not only immediate conversions, but also long-term customers who might have otherwise neglected to see retail-oriented Instagram offerings. 

Influencer marketing

While many Instagram users follow their favorite businesses online, some find that they trust specific brands more upon observing recommendations or other insights from top influencers. Data reveals that influencers have prompted an astounding 87 percent of users to make purchases.

Influencer marketing can take many forms. It often involves the aforementioned Instagram Shopping, although influencers can also be sponsored when creating organic content for the platform’s feed and Stories. Strategic influencer selection is crucial, however, as the wrong representative can dilute your brand’s core message or even do irreparable harm to your hard-fought reputation.

While influencer marketing can pay dividends when it involves Insta celebrities, it’s often most effective with niche audiences connected by micro-influencers. These users may lack the tens of millions of followers devoted to their celebrity counterparts, but their content often feels more authentic to discerning users. By drawing on a targeted niche and appealing to a specific group of users, micro-influencers are able to form genuine connections that make product recommendations that much more resonant. 

Instagram Stories

A wonderful option for making customers feel like industry insiders, Instagram Stories provide an exclusive edge and a refreshing break from the polished veneer that often overtakes the site’s more permanent posts. 

Users enjoy checking out Stories from their favorite brands. Official data from the platform indicates that one-third of Instagram’s most-viewed Stories involve businesses. It should come as no surprise, then, that as of 2017, more than half of businesses created Stories over the course of a given month.

When developing Stories, keep the following strategies in mind:

  • Keep it concise. While standard posts can sometimes effectively integrate lengthy captions or extensive lists of hashtags, Stories work best when they’re limited to a few short words or phrases.
  • Provide an option for swiping up to learn more about featured products, services, or events. The prompt “swipe up” serves as one of the most effective social media calls to action.
  • Save Stories in the Highlights section. This makes it possible to repurpose temporary content and transform it into an evergreen asset for your social media presence. 
  • Share user-generated content to demonstrate how other followers use specific products. This will create a sense of demand while also rewarding users who produce content that portrays your brand in a flattering light — and encouraging these followers to continue producing favorable content.
  • Clue followers in on time-sensitive deals or promos. These types of Stories should include specific, but concise details such as date, time, or price.
  • Tease upcoming announcements. This can be accomplished by providing a series of visual clues through Stories. Such updates may produce greater engagement among existing customers.
  • Use strong visuals. These will instantly capture users’ attention during the few seconds that each Story is available.

A comprehensive strategy for selling on Instagram can build brand awareness or even prompt instant conversions within the platform. Don’t neglect this powerful app, which offers helpful tools and the engaged audience needed to drive impressive social media sales.

Instagram is just the beginning. Check out The Download for retail, which offers extensive insight into many approaches to digital marketing.