A Step-By-Step Guide to Instagram eCommerce for SMBs: How to Start Selling on Instagram.

Instagram has become a powerful marketplace for big and small brands to promote and sell their products in-app. And if you’re just starting out, here’s your step-by-step guide to Instagram eCommerce for SMBs.
Val Razo
October 7, 2019 - 13 min. read

Since Black Friday is just around the corner, it’s your perfect time to start selling on social media.

Why? First, it’s considered to be the unofficial start of the holiday shopping season when people spend big bucks: 74% of Americans plan to buy items on either Black Friday and Cyber Monday. Second, modern customers want to purchase through social media networks: 30% of online shoppers consider using social media networks like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter or Snapchat to make purchase decisions.

As one of the fastest-growing social media platforms with a solid database, more and more customers use Instagram to discover new products. Instagram shopping is gaining in popularity, so the company has rolled out eCommerce features like in-app checkout, shop now button for business profiles, shoppable product tags, and shoppable Instagram Stories stickers, and a conversion objective for Instagram ad campaigns.

Popular brands like Sephora, Tiffany & Co., and J.Crew have all found success with Instagram sales. However, long gone are the days when only big brands could sell on Instagram. Today, small and medium businesses can also make the most out of Instagram eCommerce.

Top reasons to use Instagram eCommerce for SMBs

If you’re doubting whether Instagram eCommerce is right for your small business, pay attention to the list of reasons to give it a try:

  • Reach your target audience: No matter your business size and niche, your target audience uses Instagram without a doubt. As specified in Business Instagram, the platform has reached one billion active users and 80% of them follow at least one brand. For companies, this means your potential customers are ready to connect on Instagram.
  • Increase social media engagement: Instagram presence means nothing unless you have followers who are interested in interacting with your brand. In other words, user engagement matters. In comparison with Twitter and Facebook, Instagram has the highest user engagement.
  • Sell products in-app: The number of customers who use social media platforms to research and find products to buy has grown by 30% since 2015, according to the Global Web Index report. When it comes to Instagram, 60% of users discover new products in-app.

With strong sales potential, it’s no wonder more and more small and medium businesses jump on the bandwagon and start selling their products on Instagram. What is more, it gives great results.

Case in point:

In May 2018, J&Co Jewellery hit the milestone of 50k followers, so the company ran Instagram Stories ads to promote its first three-day online sale, featuring attractive images of the brand’s jewelry with discount codes. Just within three days, the ad campaign resulted in 58% of total sales. Today, J&Co Jewellery has 242k followers and the number is growing rapidly.

Pretty amazing, huh?

To drive similar results successfully on Instagram, here’s your guide that tells you exactly how to set up Instagram shopping for your brand step by step.

4 steps to start a shoppable Instagram and optimize Instagram for eCommerce

1. Make it easy for Instagram visitors to understand who you are

No matter how good your product is, this means nothing unless you have potential customers who want to give it a try. And when it comes to Instagram marketing, your follower count matters. Why? Brands have to convert followers to customers. The more followers you have, the more potential customers you get.

But here comes the ugly truth: You need to attract the right audience.

If you’re just starting out on Instagram, it’s more likely no one knows who you are yet. Thus, it’s important to tell your visitors who you are and what you do.

With a short attention span of eight seconds, you don’t have much time to convince your visitors to follow you. To make the most out of your profile, switch to Instagram business account first and get more options on how to tell visitors more about your company, products, and values.

Here’s a great example from Annoushka Jewelry:

Source: Instagram/Annoushka Jewelry

Not only does the company reveal its niche, target audience, and brand owner, but it also makes it easy for offline and online customers to learn more about the brand. Simply put, it doesn’t take much time or effort to understand whether you might be interested in the company’s products or not.

To create a similar eye-catching Instagram profile, do the following:

  • 1: Write an eye-catching bio: Your bio is your visit card that tells about your company. When done right, the 150 character-limit is enough to tell everything your customers need to know about your company-just make sure you’ve fulfilled every section, from the right category to the website link. To learn more, read how to write a professional Instagram bio.
  • 2: Add contact buttons: To retain your existing customers and acquire new ones, you need to put them first and make it easy to get in touch with you whenever they want. Why? 90% of social media users have communicated with a brand or business on social media platforms. Thus, sharing contact options is a must.
  • 3: Make the most out of Instagram Stories Highlights: Since this content appears right below your bio section, it’s easy for both old and new followers to tap on your Instagram Stories Highlights albums to learn more about your company any time they like. Plus, you can save up to 100 Stories in one album, so it’s an actionable way to tell more about your values or products.

Before deciding to follow you on Instagram, visitors scroll your profile to understand whether they are interested in your company or not. If you want to attract the right audience with ease, your profile must grab customers’ attention and make them want to discover your posts.

Bonus tip: Before working on your profile, define your target audience and learn everything you can about your potential customers. This information helps to tailor your profile to their needs, wants, and expectations.

For even more tips on how to perfect your Instagram bio, click here.

2. Spark customers’ interest in your product

If you believe that posting an image of your product is enough to interest your customers, we have bad news for you. With a variety of options on the market, shoppers aren’t interested in your company or product unless you can solve their problems. Simply put, you need to know your target audience’s pain points and always put them first.

Here are several tips on how to spark customers’ interest in your product.

Tip 1: Create a cohesive Instagram feed

For most small and medium businesses, working too much on social media graphics seems to be a waste of time, budget, and effort. However, creating a cohesive Instagram feed is an important step to hooking your audience. As specified in one article, 90% of information transmitted to the brain is visual, 65% of people are visual learners, images are processed 60,000x faster than texts.

Once you have a beautiful Instagram feed, you stand out from the crowd of your competitors. Just take a look at an example from Coffee Table Mags:

Source: Instagram/Coffee Table Mags

While the feed looks eye-catching and stylish, it doesn’t take much time or effort to take flat lay images of your products to create the same collection of photos. Over the long haul, the payoff is huge: Your cohesive feed attracts visitors, makes them follow you for visual inspiration, and turns them into customers.

Tip 2: Show off your products from different angles

While eCommerce is getting more and more popular, there are still some cons of buying online. The inability to physically touch and try on products makes shoppers doubt, and therefore it can turn potential customers off.

To stay ahead of your competitors who sell on Instagram, show off your products from different angles to simulate that shopping experience: Sell the lifestyle, capture the details, show how it cuts and fits.

Cuyana is a great example of this strategy in action. The company makes the most out of the multiple photos feature:

Source: Instagram/Cuyana

And if you want to entice your Instagram followers to make the purchase decision faster, provide them with more information – just create and upload various videos of your product in action.

Tip 3: Collaborate with nano-influencers

Unless you have attracted potential customers to your Instagram profile, posting information about your product means nothing. However, you can work with influencers to enter an already-established community of your target audience.

Having a solid following of loyal fans, mega influencers and celebrities make it easy to attract your target audience fast. But if you’re not a large company with a great budget, you may have trouble securing collaboration with popular influencers. Luckily, small and medium businesses can drive business results with micro-influencers who have up to 10k followers.

To enter an already-established community of loyal followers, Ful Candles worked with micro-influencer Bradley. Not only did it help to spread the word about the product, but it also helped to get user-generated content to feature on business profile:

Source: Instagram/Fulcandles

If you want to reach a wider audience for the same price, you can work with a new breed of influencers, nano-influencers, those who have less than 1000 followers. These opinion leaders have in-person relationships with their followers, so people trust them more. As a result, your nano influencer marketing campaign can get a higher engagement rate.

Tip 4: Become a giveaway sponsor

Being an influencer can bring money, so it’s no wonder bloggers seek out Instagram monetization ideas to make the most out of their following. To attract new followers and increase user engagement, they often run giveaways. When it comes to nano-influencers, they don’t have much budget to entice their followers with expensive prizes. Thus, they are open to collaboration with small and medium brands.

For example, Dunkin’ works with a variety of nano- and micro-influencers to offer their products. In partnership with Dunkin’, Rachel Creech gave away a $20.00 gift card. So, isn’t it a cost-effective way to interest your target audience in your products?

Source: Instagram/Dunkin’

When you sponsor a giveaway, you establish a connection with influencers, spread the word about your product, and allow the target audience to try on your product for free. All in all, you spark interest in your product.

Tip 5: Run Instagram ads

Instagram takes care of its users, so the platform wants to deliver the most relevant content to them. As a result, it’s easy to get buried in the feed – especially if you’re a small or medium business.

Looking for a proven way to target your audience, consider running Instagram ads. Moreover, it helps to deliver your brand message to the right audience fast. For instance, Dear Frances ran Instagram Stories ads to promote its Black Friday sale which resulted in 4.6x more sales compared to the previous year:

Source: Instagram/Dear Frances

To run a similar Instagram ad campaign, consider using an Instagram ad maker that helps to create stunning visuals for your advertising. Why? When you target your audience, you need to make a good first impression, and having an eye-catching image that focused on the main message of your campaign is a proven way to do it. Plus, it sparks interest in your product.

NB: Before launching your campaign, learn how to create Instagram ads that give results.

Bonus tip: Sell solutions, not products. To get your Instagram followers in your products, you need to take care of them and help them benefit from you.

3. Provide social proof to encourage users to give your product a try

The concept of social shopping on Instagram is flourishing. Since almost all modern consumers (92%) trust peer recommendations over branded content, small and medium brands need to provide their Instagram followers and visitors with social proof, and therefore show that other customers choose your product over other options on the market.

Tip 1: Stay authentic

In the era of sponsored posts and paid ads, customers crave authenticity more than ever. When it comes to making the purchase decision, people are more likely to buy from brands they trust. Thus, humanizing your brand is the first step to create credibility with social proof.

Being authentic also means being closer to your target audience, and therefore it fosters relationships with your potential customers. We all are humans, so having a face behind your brand is a proven way to stay authentic. How? Learn from Batch Organics that uploaded a Boomerang video from a new location with a staff member.

Source: Instagram/Batch Organics

Although taking followers behind the scenes helps to humanize your brand and build brand trust, it’s not the only way to demonstrate authenticity.

  • Introduce the brand owner
  • Show people behind your brand
  • Demonstrate the product creation process
  • Post offline events

For more ideas on how to build an authentic following on Instagram, see this in-depth guide here.

Tip 2: Publish user-generated content

Modern shoppers are savvy, so they seek out customers’ reviews before making purchase decisions. If you haven’t got customer reviews yet, you can publish user-generated content (UGC) to prove that other people choose your company.

Not only does UGC increase engagement, but it also increases brand trust. Therefore, Instagrammers are more likely to choose a brand that features images created by their customers. Successful eCommerce brands like Cluse often publish their followers’ images with an author tag:

Source: Instagram/Cluse

When starting out on Instagram, it can be daunting to encourage user-generated content. However, you can ask your workers to take photos of your product, and therefore set a good example for your customers. What is more, you can run a photo contest on Instagram to get user-generated images in exchange for a chance to win something valuable.

Tip 3: Share media reviews

Who else wants to get your product featured in popular magazines?

Once your company is mentioned somehow in authoritative magazines, your popularity grows rapidly. And if you want to optimize Instagram eCommerce for SMBs, this can help you a lot. What is more, getting media reviews means your product is worth paying attention to. Thus, you can get more customers.

Simply put, you need to share media reviews on Instagram. For example, when WWD wrote about Nineteenth Amendment, the company made a screenshot of this article and used a quote from it to go along with the image.

Source: Instagram/Nineteenth Amendment

To make it easier for your Instagram visitors to find what other people say about your company, create a separate Instagram Stories Highlights album for featuring reviews, press releases, and brand mentions.

Bonus tip: It’s in our nature to refer to the actions of people around us, so your company needs to encourage social proof. For example, you can offer a discount or branded freebie in exchange for customer feedback.

4. Improve customer experience

The customer experience (CX) is the customers’ perception of your business or brand that appears in the result of interactions with your company. Providing a great customer experience is a proven way to attract new customers and make existing ones to come back for more. The more satisfied your customers are, the more likely they will choose you over your competitors again. When it comes to Instagram eCommerce for SMBs, there are two main ways to improve customer experience, and we can learn more about these ways from J&Co Jewellery.

Tip 1: Make the in-app shopping process easier

Online shoppers get distracted fast. Attracting an interested customer doesn’t mean closing the sale. To make your Instagram followers choose you from the variety of other options, make the shopping process easier for potential customers. The fewer clicks it takes for a user to complete the purchase, the better. With the introduction of Instagram shoppable posts, it doesn’t take much time or effort to discover new products in-app. Adding Instagram product tagging is the first step to selling on the platform. 

Once Instagram users see a shopping bag icon in the bottom-left corner of the post, they can tap on it to see the featured items and learn more about the name, description, and price. What is more, the interested user can view the product on the website. Here’s how it looks in action:

Source: Instagram/J&Co Jewellery

If ephemeral content is a part of your social media marketing strategy, make the most out of it. Since 500 million users create or watch Stories daily, it’s a perfect way to encourage engaged followers to make impulse purchase decisions. How? Use shoppable Instagram Stories stickers to provide your followers with more information about the featured items and let them buy your products without leaving the app.

Tip 2: Provide customer service on Instagram

If you believe that people follow your brand to get the latest updates about your company, we have bad news for you. Just in a few years, customers’ expectations have changed, so it’s no wonder that 55% of users expect to get a resolution or response on social media.

Simply put, providing customer service is a great way to increase customer satisfaction, and therefore encourage users to choose your brand. Take a look at popular brands on Instagram, and you will see that their posts receive lots of comments that are awaiting moderation. To improve customer experience, you need to take care of your users, and listening to them is important.

Thus, brands need to read comments and reply to them. Moreover, it’s a credible source of useful information that can help your brand improve its products and expand customer base:

Source: Instagram/J&Co Jewellery

Providing customer service on Instagram isn’t limited to comments’ replies. It’s important to monitor all conversations about your brands and solve requests on time.

  • Reply to comments
  • Track brand mentions (comments, posts, Stories)
  • Manage Instagram direct messages
  • Monitor direct messages requests

Bonus tip: Being proactive is the best way to improve the customer experience. Once you know what your customers think about your brand, you can make your product better, and therefore meet customers’ expectations. Just use a social listening tool like Falcon.

The bottom line

With a great variety of business-specific features, Instagram has strong sales potential for businesses of all sizes and niches. As a powerful and affordable social media network, Instagram is a perfect choice for small and medium brands that sell their products on the platform.

To get business results, it’s important to optimize Instagram eCommerce for SMBs: attract the right audience, interest potential customers in your product, prove it’s worth giving a try, and make the shopping process easier.

At first blush, Instagram eCommerce for SMBs takes much time and effort, but the payoff is huge, so don’t miss a chance to stay ahead of your competitors.

Val Razo is a freelance SMM consultant with 5+ years of experience who helps small and medium businesses. Val claims that Instagram has great sales potential, so she recommends both big and small brands to use this platform for business growth. Follow her on Twitter to stay tuned for more.