The year is 2040. You open Instagram on your phone, and after scrolling past Apple’s announcement of the iPhone 100 and your college acquaintance’s third marriage, you see it.
You love that jacket. You’ve been wanting a lightweight jacket like that for the summer, and it’s being sold by one of your favorite eco-friendly and sustainable brands.
You press the one-touch buy button and Instagram chooses your correct size based on your saved measurements, applies a promotion the company is running (saving you a cool 10%), and withdraws the correct amount of cryptocurrency from your saved payment information. It arrives on your doorstep within one hour by drone.
Okay, let’s rewind back to 2019. Sure, maybe that’s the amazing dream of shopping on Instagram in the future, but the current reality is getting pretty cool too!
So, as an eCommerce seller, what can you do for your customers on Instagram right now?
How can you sell to them through Instagram?
You’ve heard there’s a new update where they don’t have to leave the app anymore — how can you implement that?
How do you utilize Instagram’s selling capability to its fullest potential?
Woah there, that was a lot of questions. Don’t worry, we’ll answer all of them in this article. We’ll dish the news on Instagram’s latest seller update, explaining who can use it and why it’s great. We’ll cover everything you need to create a seller’s account on Instagram, how you should be using Instagram, and anything else you need to be fully prepared.
Ready? Let’s go.
Remember those shouts to hop on Instagram a couple of years ago? We’re pretty sure that the desperate screams for mobile optimizations have been going on for even longer — and for Instagram, it actually matters a lot.
We mentioned in the beginning that with shoppable tags, your user has to leave Instagram to go to your site. When they like a product, and they use the shoppable tag to check it out, they’re shown a call to action to visit the site to look at it there.
This is the biggest point of friction for any interested user who you’re trying to convert. They don’t want to change what they were doing. They probably weren’t intending to shop. They may not entirely trust you. The list goes on and on. If you can get them over that hump to visit your website, every single thing they want to do after that should be as seamless as possible.
Mobile optimization has its own set of best practices to follow, just like Instagram. There are the basics, like fast load times, and the stuff you may not have thought of, like what size your call to action buttons should be. For some data-driven advice, check out these mobile marketing optimization tips and make sure you can actually convert that browser to a customer.
Instagram Update: Checkout
So you may have heard the news that Instagram rolled out a new update last month that users can buy products within the app. You may be wondering everything from, “Couldn’t they already do that?” to “where is it?”
Fear not, we have the answers.
The update that Instagram rolled out was indeed to buy products within the app, called Instagram Checkout. However, this update was not for you (or your business, anyway). This is a limited beta testing with a couple dozen major brands, where users can buy products without ever leaving Instagram.
However, that begs the question: What makes that different from Shoppable Tags?
Shoppable tags have improved greatly since their debut, and now allow users to browse the items that are present within the image, as well as the rest of your catalog, all within a small pop-up on Instagram.
However, if they want to start adding to their cart, they’re confronted with the dreaded button: View On Website. *record scratch* That’s the point when a lot of users exit, and you lose that potential business. Instagram Checkout is a way to smooth that friction, keep them in the app, and dramatically increase conversions — unfortunately, you’ll have to wait, and settle for the shoppable tags for the foreseeable future.
So now that you know the difference: How do you sell on Instagram?
There are just two steps you need to follow to start selling on Instagram.
Let’s start from the beginning:
1. Business Account
Let’s start with the easy stuff.
You need to have your account set to a business account, instead of personal. If you’re already there, congrats!
A business account provides numerous benefits, and not really any downsides. If not, go ahead and make the switch. There are rumors floating around constantly that the algorithm is working against businesses, but we’ll go over how you can avoid that later.
By switching to a business account, you get access to tons of valuable information about your followers and your content (as soon as you have at least 100 followers). You can see how much engagement you got on each post, how many people viewed it, where your followers are from, when they’re most likely to be online, and so much more. Most importantly though, you can now sell your wares on the platform.
2. Shoppable Tags
While Instagram Checkout is still out of reach, you should jump in as soon as possible with shoppable tags! They still allow users to more seamlessly interact with your brand and view your products, even if they do have to leave the app to make the final purchase.
Shoppable tags have improved dramatically since their first release, as well. Up until very recently, the tag was simply a way to show the name and the price of each item in the photo, up to five items. Now they’re contained in a sleek little window that appears when the user clicks the small shopper icon, and it shows everything in the photo, along with the rest of your catalog.
To enable shoppable tags, you have to connect your Facebook page and product catalog. The catalog can be through the Facebook Catalog Manager, Shopify, BigCommerce, Magento, WooCommerce, or even your Facebook Shop. If you don’t have any of those, well, you know what to do.
Once you connect that, your account will be under review, and they’ll let you know when it’s accepted. Easy as that! And once it is accepted, all your future posts should include them. It’s non-intrusive enough to not feel like direct advertising, but available enough to feel convenient when it’s needed.
Speaking of advertising…
Effects on Social Marketing
You may notice that the line between advertisements and regular content is getting blurrier and blurrier. Advertisement is more and more integrated into regular content, and in the case of shoppable tags, is indistinguishable from it. In fact, the case can be made that using shoppable tags on your post is both advertising and content.
You’ve undoubtedly noticed the meteoric rise of social media influencers who promote products to their followers (with a #ad for “transparency”) — and the brands that are willing to pay them to do it — but there are other ways that ads fly under the radar too. Everything you do as a brand on social media is advertising, and users who choose to follow you and interact with your posts are saying that they like you enough to accept it. You should be treating your social media marketing as the most valuable “free” thing you do.
Social media has also opened a whole new channel of remarketing, which involves retargeting leads who visited a product on your site and left without purchasing. Now you can track them down and show them an advertisement in the midst of their Instagram feed that looks exactly like the rest of their content, reminding them how interested they were in that cast iron pan. Boom, lead recaptured. If remarketing seems to complicated, don’t forget that people still love free swag — and it’s easier than ever to make beautiful, branded graphics for giveaways.
If you ignored the calls to get on Instagram a couple of years ago, you’re probably regretting it now. Never fear, though; you can create your profile and start posting at any time. And the reality is that an Instagram profile is no longer a “nice thing to have” — it’s a necessity.
However, the only thing worse than not doing it is doing it really wrong. Make no mistake, you will make posts that flop or use hashtags that make the fellow kids cringe, but ignoring the culture and tone of Instagram would be the worst mistake you can make.
The general rules for Instagram are:
- Use high-quality photos, but not too “fake” or “staged.” Try to show your products in their natural habitat, being used in a real way, and show how using them will benefit the customer.
- Repost content from users. It’s free content from highly engaged customers. Need we say more?
- Pay attention to trends. Keep an eye on large, popular brands and note what they’re doing. Note what does well and what tanks, and incorporate what you like into your strategy.
- Authenticity. In the end, that’s what Instagram wants to be all about. Everything should feel real and genuine, from the style of the photo, to the caption, to the way you interact with customers.
Make Way for the Future
Phew, that was a lot! It’s hard to believe that Instagram has been looked down on as the center for the vain, narcissistic millennial for so long that it’s been passed over as the powerhouse it is for eCommerce stores. By implementing shoppable tags, you’ll get a lot closer to converting those social media followers into real-life customers.
But make no mistake: Shoppable tags are not the way of the future. Instagram Checkout will, one day, be used by all approved businesses, and you’ll want to be one of them. But you don’t want to wait until it’s available! Fully utilize the shoppable tags until the day they release the floodgates, and gain the extra benefits of building your following, learning about your potential customers, and fine-tuning your social media marketing.