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February 16, 2021
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If you hadn’t planned on using Instagram Shopping in 2021 for your business, you need to rethink your strategy.

Towards the end of 2020, in one of the biggest updates it’s made since launching back in 2010, Instagram changed the layout of the app….

… and in doing so, it made one thing very clear: Instagram Shopping is a priority

Where your notifications shortcuts once lived, now there is a shortcut that takes you straight to products from your favourite brands and businesses.

For business owners and content creators with products to sell, this is an exciting opportunity to elevate your ecommerce offering. 

Did you know that 130 million Instagram users tap on shopping posts every single month? 

Exactly! So if you’re yet to set up Instagram Shopping and want some inspiration before doing so, we’ve got you covered.

Let’s take a look at some brands making the most of Instagram Shopping in 2021.

Use high quality imagery

It might sound obvious to many, but it’s important to remember that Instagram is an image-first platform.

While it’s enabled thousands of businesses to promote their products and reach new customers more easily, that doesn’t mean the standards aren’t still incredibly high.

In fact, it’s precisely because the platform is so saturated that business owners must ensure their Instagram strategy is as robust as possible to stand out from the competition. And that starts with imagery

Poorly lit, low quality product imagery won’t fly in 2021. If you want to capture people’s attention, your images should be high quality and align to your overall Instagram aesthetic. By using the same editing style or filter across your shopping posts, you’ll create a holistic brand experience that’ll keep people coming back again and again.

For example, take a look at flower delivery company Pelaton’s signature style. A bouquet of flowers held up against a neutral backdrop or positioned on the cement floor makes the colours of the flowers pop. They are the very definition of scroll-stoppable images.

Utilise video as often as possible

This section of the article deserves its own spotlight. That’s because there’s not only different types (e.g. unboxing, reviews, tutorials) of shoppable video you can create but also different formats: feed video, Stories, IGTV, Live and soon – Reels!

Before I dive into the specifics in more detail, let me start by saying that while high quality product imagery is a must for any ecommerce business, high quality video is what will take your marketing efforts to the next level

Ideas for engaging shoppable video include unboxing videos, customer stories, shop or studio tours, and showcasing new products using fun transitions. 

And, one of the most powerful types of video you can share, is an educational video – which brings me onto the next tip.

Showcase your products in action

It’s hard to overstate the power of demonstrating your products via video. Tutorials and how to videos are some of the most popular types of content on Instagram – and for good reason.

It’s one of the best ways to showcase the quality of a product and educate your audience on the “what” and the “why”, convincing people that they simply have to make a purchase. 

For example, Charlotte Mensah shows us how she uses a selection of her products during a Five Minute Hairstyle tutorial. 

In this IGTV, furniture paint company Frenchic shows us 3 ways to use its finishing coat. 

Test the different Shoppable video formats

Now that we’ve covered the value of using video to sell your products, let’s touch on the different formats you can use to do this. Here are your options:

In-feed Instagram Shopping in 2021

In-feed Instagram videos are like the regular videos you see as your scroll down your feed. Your followers can save, share, like and comment on the content.

Here are some best practices to bear in mind when sharing in-feed shoppable videos.

✅ Use thumbnails

If you have auto-play turned off, remember to add an eye-catching thumbnail so that people scrolling through their feed have a reason to stop and engage. A high quality, attention-grabbing visual makes a huge difference to engagement rates, so give your shoppable video the best chance of success right from the get-go. I recommend using tools like Canva or Adobe to create your thumbnails.

✅ Keep them short

There’s a reason Instagram limits in-feed video to 60 seconds. People’s attention spans are short, so the more succinct you can make your shoppable video, the more likely you’ll be to engage and convert them.

✅ Add subtitles

Did you know that a huge percentage of people use Instagram without sound? So if you’re uploading content with no subtitles, you risk alienating people with hearing loss and those that browse Instagram on mute. There’s a few different tools you can use to caption your video content including Threads, Kapwing and InVideo.  

Nike is a great example of a brand that does in-feed videos really well. 

  • Stories Shopping

Product tagging in Instagram Stories is done using stickers. In addition to the poll sticker, question sticker, and quiz sticker, eligible ecommerce businesses also have access to the product sticker. This is music to the ears of businesses with less than 10,000 followers. With the use of product stickers, Instagram accounts with smaller followings can drive traffic from Instagram Stories, encouraging viewers to learn more about a product and ultimately, make a purchase. No “swipe-up” necessary!

For example, Tarte Cosmetics walks its followers through a step-by-step eye makeup tutorial, tagging the featured products throughout.

💡Instagram Shopping in 2021 bonus tip: Create Story Highlights for specific collections or product launches. This way, your Instagram profile can act as a mini website showcasing the latest and greatest products you want your followers (new and old) to know about. 

  • Live Shopping

IG Live Shopping allows you to sell products during a live broadcast, much like a modern shopping channel (QVS anyone?!). The beauty of this is a captive audience watching your product demo, having their questions answered, listening to the glowing review from a happy customer or tuning into your high-energy product launch! 🥳

Using Live Shopping is a fantastic way to tackle common objections you receive from customers (about value, price, quality, results) and present an irresistible offer they can’t refuse. 

  • IGTV Shopping

You don’t only have to show up on Instagram Live to sell your products. IGTV is a great way of showcasing (and tagging) certain products. Why not batch film a set of IGTVs and share them to your feed once or twice a week over the next couple of months?

Here’s an example of IGTV Shopping done well from paint company, Lick. The brand has an IGTV series called “Decorating Diaries”, where it interviews interesting people about how they’ve styled their homes using Lick. 

  • Reels Shopping

At the end of last year, Instagram announced that shopping was rolling out to Reels. Soon, all businesses and creators will be able to tag products when they create Reels, and viewers can tap through those tags to buy or save them. While this particular shopping feature is still very new, now might be a good time to start creating Reels if you haven’t already. Stuck for ideas? There’s lots in our article about why you should be a Reels early adopter.

Feature user-generated content (UGC)

One of the best types of content you can share to convince followers to become customers is user-generated content (UGC). 

UGC is the term for content that’s been created by people rather than brands, and when used in this context we’re referring to content created by your customers.

Photos and videos of your customers using/wearing/enjoying your products is powerful social proof. According to Crazy Egg, social proof “means that people will copy others’ actions, assuming it’s the right thing to do.” 

In other words, seeing content from real customers increases your credibility and alleviates any worries (subsconscious or not) in your followers’ minds that purchasing your product is a risk.  

But there’s other benefits to sharing UGC, which include increasing trust and deepening relationships with your audience. 

This is because UGC shows that people love your brand. Your Instagram account isn’t just a glossy billboard with edited photos and product shots. It features content created by genuine fans of the brand who haven’t been paid to do so. 

According to a recent survey, consumers are 2.4x more likely to say UGC is authentic compared to content created by brands. More compelling is the 79% of people who say UGC highly impacts their purchasing decisions, while only 13% say content from a brand is impactful. Less than 10% said their purchasing decisions were impacted by influencer-created content. 

And, when brands are willing to share this kind of content on their account it sends a message to followers that they value their customers. This encourages positive word-of-mouth marketing and builds stronger, more authentic relationships with followers.

Let’s take a look at some examples of brands who utilise UGC very effectively.

For example, beauty brand Wild Seed Botanicals incorporates UGC into its feed so well, it’s hard to tell which is brand photography and which comes from happy customers.

💡 UGC best practices:

  1. Ask permission from the creator being reposing
  2. Use the original image – don’t use an app to “regram” a photo (this might mean asking the creator to send you the file via email)
  3. Properly credit and tag the original creator
  4. Make sure the photo aligns to your brand aesthetic – while UGC isn’t meant to be slick and glossy (that’s the point!), it should fit in with the content on your grid and capture the essence of your brand

Spread out your product tags

When adding tags to your images, make sure they’re spread out evenly. This way, people can easily click through to view more information without obstruction and a frustrating experience. 

It may be the case that you have lots of products within one image that you’d like to tag. If this instance, I recommend utilising the carousel post feature so that you can disperse your tags across a few different images. 

Craft compelling captions

It might seem unnecessary to consider your captions when sharing shoppable posts because the products should speak for themselves – right?

Not exactly. That doesn’t mean you have to write an essay for a caption every single time you post. But don’t underestimate the power of storytelling to convince your followers to make a purchase.

Use your captions to share customer feedback, explain the benefits of your products or reveal behind-the-scenes secrets. High quality visuals will stop someone scrolling, but a juicy first line in your caption (the “hook”) will encourage them to read more. Your tone of voice and the story you tell might just be the difference between acquiring a new customer or not.

And don’t forget to include a call to action (CTA). Preferably one that encourages participation from your followers. Pose a question, ask them to share their thoughts or get them to tag a friend. This increases engagement on your content and builds relationships with your Instagram community.

For example, a brand making the most of Instagram shopping in 2021 is heirloom jewellery company, Chupi, who uses its captions to share captivating stories from its customers.

Make the most of Guides

Instead of leaving it up to people to scroll through your feed to find the right product, make it easy for them by compiling your best posts into a Guide.

Think of them like mini blog posts. They’re a fantastic way of rounding up your products based on collection, season, or ideal customer.

Not only that, but when your potential customers are inside of Instagram Shopping in 2021, “Explore Guides” is one of the options they can choose from. This gives you a fantastic opportunity for brand awareness and product discovery. 

Here are some ideas for Guides you could create:

  • Gift guides
  • Best products for [X person]
  • Favourite products under [X price]
  • How to 
  • Tips & tricks
  • Product round-up
  • Resources for your ideal customer
  • Customer reviews
  • FAQs 

The benefits of Guides?

  • Increased awareness
  • Enhanced customer experience
  • Very shareable
  • Breathes a new lease of life into old content 

Let’s take a look at some great Guide examples from brands.

  • MLT Scents shares a Guide for each category of the month. In November it was “Feminine” and in January it was “Clean”
  • The Stem shares a gift guide with “Gifts That Grow”
  • Fashion brand Rains has created a few Guides showcasing its latest Spring/Summer collection
  • Designer retail rental brand Hurr has a selection of Guides including How To: Rent on HURR and a round-up of some of their best pieces
  • Shoe brand Aloha speaks directly to its customers’ desires with the Guide: Looking For Shoes In Black?

Use the right hashtags and keywords

Hashtags

If you want your products to get in front of the right people, use hashtags wisely. 

First, think about the specific audience you’re trying to target. Knowing your dream customers inside and out, and the kinds of hashtags they use and follow on Instagram is essential. 

Second, think about the most relevant hashtags for your brand and products. Avoid using hugely popular hashtags that have hundreds of thousands/millions of posts attributed to them. A lot of this content will be irrelevant to your own, and will do nothing for your Reach or help you to get found by the right people.

Choosing strategic hashtags doesn’t happen five minutes before you’re about to hit “publish”. For the best chance of success, put aside some time to research nice hashtags. Split them up according to their size and to the different products you sell and/or different audiences you’re trying to reach.

This way, you can build up a solid hashtag library to pull hashtags from whenever you need. A great place to start with hashtag research is to take a look at the hashtags your competitors are using. The ones with great engagement, that is!

Keywords

Instagram recently rolled out its new “keyword search”, which allows users to search for content on the platform using words rather than hashtags.

Previously, you could only search for an Instagram profile based on keywords they used in their name, username or bio. Specific content (like wallpaper design) required specific hashtags (e.g. #wallpaperdesign). 

Now, when you type a word or phrase into the search bar it will populate suggestions featuring that keyword in the results. 

While Instagram improves its SEO functionality, the search results are limited. “Easy houseplant” won’t surface any results, but type the word “houseplant” into the search bar and it will suggest “houseplant tips” and “houseplant care”.

So, for brands selling products through Instagram Shopping in 2021, make sure you’re using keywords related to your products within captions, Guides, your bio and in the “alt text” of content. And don’t keep descriptions too brief. You want to make the most of the space you have to include relevant keywords!

💡 What is “alt text” and how do I use it? Alt text is the written copy that appears in place of an image on a website. It describes what’s in a photo for people with visual impairments and helps search engines and social platforms better understand what your content is about. 

When it comes to Instagram, the alt text gives you an extra opportunity to include a keyword that will help you surface in the search results of your dream customers.

So, next time you’re about to publish a post to your feed, click “Advanced settings” towards the bottom of the screen. Then beneath “Accessibility” click “Write alt text”. Here you can enter in a few words to describe what is in the image. 

Don’t be a billboard

While you might have a selection of products you want to shout about from the rooftops, it’s very important not to let your Instagram feed become a billboard promoting your latest and greatest products.

Instagram is about the community. Yes people come to the platform to shop, but they also come for a variety of other reasons: to laugh, to learn, and to be inspired.

The better you can cater to those different desires – as well as satisfying their shopping needs – with your brand personality and tone of voice, the more brand advocates you’ll have. According to Edelman’s 2020 Trust Barometer, trust is now the make or break difference for brands.

And trust doesn’t come from selling great products alone. It comes from cultivating a sense of community with people and potential customers. One of the ways you can do this on Instagram is by sharing a variety of content that resonates with your audience, weaving your shoppable posts through.

In a piece by Instagram Shopping merchant BigCommerce, leather earrings brand Nickel & Suede said: 

“[Find] ways to keep the platform personal to your customer […] Offer behind-the-scenes shots or share something personal about employees. Don’t make it all about selling. Instagram users need a personal reason to follow a business.”

Another brand that does this well is health and wellness company, Hers. They don’t only share product shots, but  also funny Tweets, educational infographics and relatable memes that resonate with their target customer.

Conclusion

Are you excited to work on an Instagram Shopping experience that your customers will love?

With these tips and best practice brand examples for Instagram shopping in 2021, we have no doubt you’ll soon be one to watch on the platform. 😉

And if learning how to sell on Instagram still feels a little intimidating right now, don’t worry.

With some time and practice, it won’t be long before you’re a pro at Instagram Shopping in 2021, turning followers into customers and brand advocates with ease.


About the author
Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell

Bella Foxwell is a door obsessive and Instagram educator, teaching small businesses, solopreneurs and content creators how to build engaged communities on Instagram in less time. Read more from Bella on her website: bellafoxwell.com

More posts by Bella Foxwell

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