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5 Instagram tips to help boost your online business

Instagram is steadily morphing from a photo-sharing social platform into a sophisticated digital shopping mall. Today, its users can engage in the entire customer buying journey without ever leaving the app. Here’s how Australian businesses can ride on this development.

According to recent data, Instagram boasts 9,000,000 monthly active Australian users (600 million per month globally), with an estimated one in three Australians using the app. More than 80% of Instagram users follow at least one business, and with the recent rollout of new shopping features (some yet to be unlocked in Australia), it’s one sales channel that Australian online businesses can’t ignore as part of their customer journey.

The customer journey is the process prospective buyers go through to discover, consider and decide to purchase a new product or service. Australians are online more than ever before but are harder to reach via digital advertising - over one third of internet-using Australians use ad-blocking software and tools.

This is where Instagram comes in as a platform for businesses to showcase their products and services to new and existing customers. However, brands need to be mindful that Instagram users (and those online generally) expect a comprehensive view of a product which includes its features and benefits, pros and cons (the latter adds authenticity) and of course, price.

One of the keys to social marketing success is ensuring your follower gets enough information at every stage of the customer journey. Do it well, and you are on your way to building brand awareness, increasing brand loyalty, and boosting sales.

Here are some ways businesses can start doing that today.

1. Use influencers

Online customers can’t check for fit and comfort, so you have to help them virtually see, touch, and experience your product. This is often achieved through curated video and photographic content from a number of perspectives and increasingly, through the eyes of ‘influencers’ – trusted opinion leaders in your target market who may be paid to test products and share their review with their online network. It’s like being in a digital mall with a respected concierge walking you straight towards the products that they know you’ll like.

2. Use Instagram Stories to feature your products

Known as ephemeral content, Instagram Stories enable the uploading of video and photo content that expires after 24 hours. According to Instagram, 500 million Instagram accounts use Instagram Stories every day and one-third of the most viewed Instagram Stories are from businesses.

The appeal of Stories for brands is that by its very nature, the timed-to-expire content creates a motivation for the user to view it before it disappears. Stories also make full use of the mobile screen, offering businesses a distraction-less canvas and opportunity to create highly creative and engaging content.

Check out some of Hootsuite’s recommendations for who’s doing Insta Stories well and what you can learn from the best. The main takeaways are to use Stories to build engagement – include fun facts about your product or how other customers are using it - and share behind-the-scenes information about your business or product.

3. Set up shoppable Instagram posts

Since early 2018, brands have been able to tag products directly in posts and Stories so that customers can be taken directly to the item they want to purchase. These ‘Shoppable’ posts are easily identifiable in feeds via the ‘shopping bag’ icon. In September 2018, Instagram added Shoppable Stories.

When a customer taps on the product sticker, they’ll be taken to the product details page, where they’ll be able to see additional product images from your catalogue, product details, similar items, and a link to your mobile site to make a purchase.

You can also go back and add shopping tags to old posts on your business profile. Once you’re set up, you can tag up to five products per single image post, or 20 products for carousel post.

Note, to set up shopping on Instagram, you need to meet certain criteria, including that you’ll need to:

  • Sell products (not services)
  • Comply with Instagram’s merchant and commerce policies
  • Have a business Instagram account
  • Have a connected Facebook page
  • Have your business account connected to a Facebook product catalogue.

If this all sounds a bit daunting, there are third party providers who can help you set all this up and get you closer to selling on Instagram.

Note that the best brands seamlessly integrate Shoppable posts and stories with the rest of their content. The Iconic, Australia’s leading online fashion and sports retailer, uses beautiful images to showcase its products throughout its feed, with Shoppable posts indistinguishable in look and feel from the rest of its content.

4. Harness the power of Instagram as a post-purchase and loyalty tool

Increasingly, customers are reaching out via social channels to brands. According to research by Gartner, 90% of businesses are estimated to use social media for customer support by 2020.

It’s incumbent on brands to ensure that not only are customers supported during the early stages of their buying journey through accurate information about the products – they also need to be taken care of during the acquisition and post-sales period through the same channel.

Being responsive to customers is a proven way to increase brand loyalty, as is offering time-sensitive referral codes and discounts for future purchases.

5. One-tap shopping coming soon

Instagram is moving closer to a one-tap shopping experience. Since March 2019 in the US, a select group of 20 e-commerce retailers (including Adidas, Kylie Cosmetics, Nike and Burberry) have been trialling a beta version of Instagram Checkout, which as the name suggests, enables a customer to buy directly from the app.

This will be a boon for e-commerce once it’s rolled out more widely across the globe (as yet, there is no public timeline for this) so it makes sense for businesses build confidence using the existing shopping features on Instagram so they’re well-placed to take advantage of these new features once they reach our shores in the future.

Aligned with this is Instagram’s Explore tab, which now features ‘Shopping’ as a topic channel. The Explore tab is used by 200 million visitors to discover new content and dive more deeply into their interests every day by browsing the topics the Instagram algorithm has curated for them.

The Shopping channel is based on each user’s specific shopping interests and will display shopping posts from a variety of businesses that the user may like (but which they don’t necessarily follow yet).

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