20 Instagram tips to grow your e-commerce business
Instagram is fast becoming the new social media home for businesses. Catering mostly to the brand-conscious under 35s, it’s an effective way to get your brand and products out there, generating loyal customers and boosting your sales. Once you have your strategy in place, these Instagram tips for e-commerce growth can be applied to ‘traditional’ or ‘direct’ approaches to selling on Instagram.
Tips to grow your e-commerce business using Instagram
We have gathered these tips and tricks to sell more using Instagram from our customers and around the web. Many of them can be implemented without spending much money at all.
1. Write a compelling profile
Follow these rules and suggestions when setting up your profile:
- Ensure your business name and @Username (or handle) resemble each other and that they are easily searchable.
- Add an ‘on-brand’ profile picture – normally your logo.
- Use the 150 characters you have in your bio (the top of your profile) to tell Instagram users clearly who you are and what you do.
- Also use this space to inspire action, for example:
- Include your one and only clickable link here. This link ideally needs to be for your website and, more specifically, it should lead to a landing page that changes regularly. For shopping purposes, it needs to take customers to where they can buy your products (more on this later).
- You may also include your brand hashtag (e.g. #comalytics), so users can easily find your content. Ideally use the same # on other platforms too.
- If you’re going to make use of user-generated content, also include a hashtag users should use to get featured (e.g. Tag photos with #OnlineWithComalytics to get featured). If your customer uses this specific # then you know they have given permission to re-use their content.
This bio from LornaJaneActive is a great example. Her clickable link goes to her website:
This is another local example:
2. Maintain brand consistency
A major part of your Instagram strategy should be to get your brand known, liked and trusted. That means your audience should immediately be able to recognise your brand, and know what to expect from you (and when).
- Make sure your brand look and feel runs consistently through your website, Instagram page and any other channels you use.
- Aim to create a personal connection to your audience with images and stories they can relate to and that grab their attention.
- Plan to post at least once a day to attract followers and optimise engagement.
- Pre-plan your content so it flows well from day to day and helps you to meet your goals. This guide will help.
- Schedule regular time slots to create your posts and to respond to your followers, creating the sense of a conversation (or delegate a staff member to do it).
This local ceramics brand has a beautiful feel flowing through their page:
Take note of the Linktree link in this Instagram account. We will explain more about this under the landing page section.
3. Use the highest quality images possible
Quality definitely wins out over quantity here. Remember that the content you post represents your brand, and your reputation rests on how good it is. You also want to attract high-quality followers and they’re likely to have high expectations. Make sure you fulfil those expectations or they won’t bother visiting your page again.
4. Keep things interesting
There’s a place for simple product photos on a plain background – and that place is mostly in your product catalogue. On Instagram, rather try to display your products in surprising and creative ways like Fedex has done here:
This magnificent view from LornaJaneActive makes you yearn for adventure:
Mix things up in your Instagram feed by creating content categories and cycling through them. Categories could include:
- Manicured or professional photos of your products;
- Candid photos or videos of your products in use;
- Photos of the people who use them;
- Photos of your staff packing them;
- Images from the manufacturing process; and
- Any relevant memes or other interesting content.
This example from Chris Jones shows how he cycles through his categories:
5. Set up landing pages for your one clickable link
The action you want your followers to take will depend on your goals and could change periodically. It could be to subscribe to your newsletter, register for an event, download an app or buy from you.
You only have one clickable link though, so if you’re selling online, we recommend that your link goes to an Instagram landing page on your e-commerce website. You can choose a category page to land on, or you can create landing pages to direct visitors specifically to the products you referred to in your posts e.g. new arrivals, Mother’s Day treats or Christmas gifts.
Many Instagram accounts use a free service called Linktree to create their landing page. Instead of your one clickable link leading to your website, the user goes to a landing page on Linktree (or Bio.fm or Campsite, as alternatives). This offers visitors the choice of different types of actions or directs traffic to pages on other digital platforms and/or to your website.
If you use the free version of these services, you don’t have the option to brand your page. And after all, why use the paying option if you can create a branded landing page on your own website instead? These services are limited in analytics and not always totally reliable. Also, they accumulate traffic – while you may lose traffic because of the ‘extra click’ required. We recommend using landing pages on your website instead.
Here is an example of Yuppiechef using Campsite as a service:
6. Create Instagram Stories
With nearly one in five stories resulting in a direct message, Instagram stories are one of the best ways to create audience engagement and get new followers – despite their typically short lifespan. More than 500 million people use stories every day.
- Learn how to use Instagram Stories here. They give you access to useful tools like stickers and drawing options that bring your brand to life.
- Include hashtags and location tags to put your stories in front of a new audience.
- Add stickers to highlight important points.
- Boost engagement by including polls and questions.
- Choose your best stories to highlight on your profile page. Highlights will stay there until you remove them, unlike most stories, which disappear within 24 hours.
- Post behind-the-scenes content using Instagram Stories.
- Use stories to pique interest for upcoming product launches.
7. Master hashtags
Hashtags help the right people to find your business amongst the millions of others out there. Once they do, your job is to build the relationship with them, converting them into loyal followers and eventually into customers.
- You’re allowed up to 10 hashtags per story and 30 per post. Use them wisely.
- Include a location tag to boost engagement with your post.
- Tailor your hashtags to get the attention of your specific target audience. For example, if you sell top quality chocolates, #handmadechocolate, rather than the more generic #chocolate, will help you stand out from the crowd and encourage chocolate connoisseurs to like, share and comment on your posts. Learn more about finding the right hashtags for your business here and here.
- A hashtag like #handmadechocolatelovers takes that a step further, creating a community feel around it.
- Use a free tool like Inselly to encourage buying. Adding the #Inselly tag to posts notifies users who search the tag that your image is shoppable.
Use #Inselly to sell more:
8. Engage with related hashtags
Research common hashtags in your field, then make time to like, share and comment on other’s posts that include your hashtags or related ones. This builds your brand’s reputation and is also an excellent opportunity to keep an eye on what is happening in your industry.
9. Boost engagement with user-generated content
Sharing content from your customers (obviously with permission) is very effective as it provides social proof and creates massive engagement.
- Ask your audience to tag photos with a specific hashtag if they are happy for the photos to appear on your Instagram page.
- Reward them by following them in turn, or giving them a shout-out or a voucher.
- Always tag the original poster of the image when you share it.
- Select the best quality, most creative images and share them, giving the creator due credit.
- For more on creating a user-generated content campaign, read here.
Burberry used this strategy to give new life to their brand with a highly successful campaign using #ArtOfTheTrench:
10. Leverage your Instagram nametag
Your nametag is a code that Instagram users can simply scan to follow you. Make it easy for them by exporting the image and printing it on all your transactional, promotional and packing material, for example:
- Invoices and receipts
- Business cards and posters
- Packaging and labels
11. Cross-promote on your other social media platforms
Widen the exposure of your Instagram posts using your other social media channels:
- Begin by creating some content on your Instagram page. When you have at least 12 posts, you can start cross-posting.
- Share posts to Twitter, Facebook and Tumblr.
- Raise awareness of your Instagram page by running a competition on other platforms and making it a condition of entry to follow you on Instagram.
- Use an app like Buffer to set up an Instagram feed on your Facebook page.
In this example, Buffer’s Facebook page displays links to their Instagram, YouTube and Twitter pages in the left menu. This helps their Facebook fans to easily discover their Instagram page:
12. Get featured on feature accounts
Feature accounts, some of them huge, are collections of Instagram content from various users (with Instagram itself being one massive feature account). Getting one of your posts included can expose your brand to a whole new audience of potential followers, who may become new customers for your e-commerce business.
- Find feature accounts by researching hashtags related to your business.
- Read their bio or the relevant post that tells you how to get featured there, which might be by tagging them, following them or using their hashtag.
- Keep posting great content on your Instagram page, following their instructions.
- Engage with the feature account by liking, sharing and commenting on other posts.
- Be patient.
13. Use Explore Tab and Explore Ads to widen your audience
The Explore feature shows Instagram users content they may be interested in, based on their personal interests and organised by topic channels. They may then choose to follow those pages they’ve uncovered via Explore. Read here to find out how to work towards getting featured on Explore and consider including Explore Ads in your marketing budget to reach your target audience.
14. Take advantage of the power of influencers
With over 150,000 Instagram influencers in South Africa, there’s a good chance you can get one to favourably mention your brand, creating engagement with a whole new audience.
This is an example of an influencer shout-out giving extra exposure to Your Tea:
15. Preview upcoming products in your Instagram posts
In this blog, we featured one of our customers who uses this technique to sell out the products on her website:
For this method to work, your followers need to feel comfortable (preferably even excited) to search for this particular product on your website, using the homepage link you provide in the bio. Otherwise rather make use of the landing page method explained above.
16. Get the most from your posts and stories with Instagram Shopping
While you have your visitors’ attention, you want to expose them to as many of your products as possible and make those products easy to buy.
- To use Instagram Shopping, the items you tag must be in your Facebook product catalogue.
- Make sure the image in the post is a true reflection of the product as it appears on the product page of your e-commerce site.
- Double-check you are tagging the right products, especially if you sell other similar ones.
- Tag up to 5 products per single-image or video post, or 20 per multiple-image post.
- When you tag multiple products and the user clicks on one, the others are also displayed under “Also featured in this post”.
Contact us to discuss how to become approved for Instagram Shopping.
17. Make your products shoppable without Instagram Shopping
Even if your Instagram account isn’t approved for Shopping or integrated to your e-commerce site (read more about this here), you can still use a third-party tool such as Like2Buy to achieve a similar result. This tool links your Instagram photos to the relevant product pages on your website, so the customer can easily find and purchase the items they love.
18. Use comments to sell
Spreesy offers a free tool that helps customers buy using comments. When you link Spreesy to your Instagram account, customers can comment on one of your posts and include their email address. They then automatically receive a secure link to your branded Spreesy checkout page and can pay using either PayPal or a credit card.
Some customers may not feel comfortable to make their email address public in the post but many do. To encourage those who are wary, we recommend you suggest that they delete their comment once they’ve received the link. Find out more about this Spreesy tool here.
19. Create excitement with Instagram Live
Instagram Live is a great way to give people a chance to get to know your brand. Live videos allow you to make announcements about new products, answer questions or even interview influencers in real time. As you begin the video, a notification automatically goes out to your followers, encouraging them to join you before the recording ends and the video disappears. The extra sense of excitement and urgency helps to generate real engagement with your followers – and engagement leads to brand loyalty and sales.
20. Explore other tools that may help you sell on Instagram
Finally, you may find this list of tools to sell products on Instagram useful. Some of them have already been mentioned in this blog, for example, Instagram Shoppable Posts, Instagram Stories, shoppable stickers, Like2Buy and Inselly. We hope you find something that works to help you grow your sales.
The bottom line…
There are many very effective ways to grow your e-commerce business using Instagram. The more of them you put into place, the faster it will grow. Do your research to identify how best to apply each of these tips to your specific business, so you can make the most of this powerful social media platform.