Instagram changed the game.
The rules are a little different for Facebook’s trendy little bro.
Instagram isn’t a place to post links to your website.
It’s not a place to sell your products.
And it sure as hell isn’t the place for long winded blog posts.
It is the place to share the power of your image.
Whether your story is about fulfilling lifelong dreams, making a fashion statement or flaunting your last amazing meal - ecommerce marketers can tap into Instagram using images to resonate with, and grow their audience. Heck - everyone else is...
Many organizations have been burned by Facebook’s changes to their newsfeed algorithm.
Mark Z and co. inserted a pseudo paywall between brands and their communities.
The organic reach of retailer Facebook posts has decreased to an average of 6% or less.
Astute online retailers are making the most of the benefits of Instagram marketing before the Facebook-owned social platform follows its older sibling’s revenue raising strategy (indeed the move to an algorithm-based feed is fast approaching according to Re/code).
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The latest Pew Research Centre social media update stated that approximately half of internet-using young adults ages 18-29 (53%) use Instagram, compared to 37% who used the app in 2013. Half of all registered Instagram users (49%) use the site on a daily basis, which contributes each day to the 70 million photos uploaded and 2.5 billion daily likes given.
Instagram is actively embracing ecommerce brands - launching a ‘shop now’ feature allowing users to buy with a single click.
James Quarles, Instagram’s global head of business and brand development, speaking to The Washington Post, likened the feature to online window shopping,
“a place to potentially win a sale when customers are in discovery phase of finding something and not probably even deliberately looking for it.”
Are there any pitfalls?
Social media is a place for being ‘social’. Promoting your products could be the quickest way to turn your Instagram audience off your brand.
“Because people go to social sites to keep up with friends, they probably will not be in the mindset to, say, snap up a new pair of jeans in between commenting on their friend’s vacation photos.”
Gorilla 360’s very own James Dillon gives some valid insights in his article "Will social media ‘buy buttons’ revolutionise ecommerce?" focusing on the pros and cons of using social media for ecommerce.
If your audience hangs out on Instagram, your brand might want to meet some new potential customers there too. Rikke Thompson from Sleeknote has developed a detailed Beginner's Guide To Instagram for online marketing pro's to learn the basics.
But before you start flogging your wares to the social elite - you just need to be careful you don’t scare off your new buddies with your unwanted promotional megaphone.
Instagram users have little tolerance for insincerity, and a healthy appetitie for an ironic response (and you really don't want to end up on the Condescending Brand Page hall of shame).
I'm here to show you how to use Instagram to supplement a strategic content marketing program and grow your business, with the help of successful examples from 10 different ecommerce Instagram marketing innovators.
How 10 online retailers successfully use Instagram marketing
We’ve picked the very best for you.
The following organisations know exactly what they sell, and who wants to buy.
But the ecommerce brands with the most Instagram success aren’t just selling a product.
They are selling a lifestyle, a culture, often even an idea.
We’ve got a collection of 10 businesses of all backgrounds, budgets and sizes, each with something you can apply to your own ecommerce marketing program.
It’s literally just a watch.
Jewellery for your wrist.
It’s not really for telling the time anymore.
Isn’t that what your mobile is for?
If you’re having trouble justifying the purchase of a new timepiece, make a quick visit to the Fifth’s Instagram account and all your doubts will disappear.
The Fifth is a new kid on the ecommerce block. Their range was first released in November 2014, and they’ve been selling out ever since.
The Fifth is selling a feeling, not a product.
It’s the feeling you get when you know you’re better than everyone else.
Because you have something desirable, enviable - exclusive.
The Fifth are selling you the chance to be a part of something special.
Only the fifth of each month
Only for five days.
That’s the only time you can purchase one of The Fifth’s beautiful watches.
If you’re lucky enough to get your hand on one of these gems, you’re gonna flaunt it.
And what better way to prove to everyone that you were a part of the exclusive community of Fifth watch owners, than by posting a super-hipster pic of your watch on Instagram to score a whole stack of “ohmygod it’s so amazing #want’ comments from all of your friends who’ve never heard of The Fifth before.
Almost all of the Fifth’s content is user generated – prepared by their loving customers for a collection of new potential customers.
Their followers are acting as unpaid marketing employees, because The Fifth is exclusive - and everyone wants to prove they’re a part of it.
Now to the inner workings behind the Fifth.
Why is this brand popular?
Their Instagram game is like clockwork (sorry – it had to be done).
- Use the right hashtags for your products and audience
- Use the right filters (tip: natural works best)
- Post when your users are online
- Steal your competitor’s followers
- Make use of sponsored posts or product reviews
Lay these tips over The Fifth’s Instagram page and it’s obvious why they’re selling more watches to twenty-somethings faster than Macca’s move hashbrowns on a Saturday morning.
Herschel Supply Co. is a brand that takes its customers on adventures.
No destination is off limits.
Herschel’s Instagram feed for the hipster gone wild.
There are bearded men.
There are braless babes.
There are flatlays. Oh #flatlays.
Herschel Supply Co. are nailing the Instagram marketing rule of success - sell the lifestyle, not the product.
Travel, adventure and exploration are much more interesting than bags.
Inspiring your audience doesn’t mean you have to jump on a plane and travel to an exotic location. You just need to create a sense of aspiration from your images.
Herschel’s grams aren’t designed to urge their audience to embark on an eight day hike of the Grand Canyon. And yet that’s where photos are taken with their bags.
For a more economically viable option, create a user generated Instagram campaign. Incorporate an automated email into your post purchase email series urging your customers to post a pic of them using your products, with your own #catchybrandhashtag.
Herschel’s #welltravelled campaign has lead to a serious influx of incredible audience driven content.
You can monitor the other hashtags your customers and followers use on a regular basis to pinpoint groups of new potential followers, and to determine the interests and beliefs of your target audience to inform the future development of your products, and your marketing messages.
Jump on that hashtag bandwagon and pick up a following of like-minded ‘grammers on your adventure.
A picture can speak a thousand words.
1962 pictures can generate 6.3 million followers.
Instagram and GoPro go together like heli-skiing and denied travel insurance claims.
Taking shared content experiences to the next level, GoPro taunt their 6 million followers with the most awe-inspiring images from around, on, over and across the world.
We’ve already taken a deep dive into the beauty of GoPro’s user generated content. If you haven’t already, you need to give this article a read:
The average featured GoPro Instagram photo or video has a minimum of 200,000 likes.
To get your ‘gram on GoPro’s Insta page, you have to upload the shot to their website first, and of course, GoPro’s website doubles as their online store.
These Instagrammers can’t help but indulge in some window shopping.
Potential customers can check out new products, or purchase cameras and accessories as a direct result of an Instagram upload.
Gnarly moves GoPro.
Go you, GoPro!
GoPro’s Instagram feed is carefully crafted to encourage sharing.
Photos and video footage can be tagged using the #GoPro hashtag for the chance to be featured as the GoPro photo or video of the day.
Winners get a discount on products, further circulating their social media activities back to their website. This relatively miniscule financial commitment from GoPro results in an exponentially extreme sharing of content related to the GoPro brand – which in turn gives the business a chance to meet huge swathes of new potential customers.
User generated content contests require a tiny little product or promotion commitment, but the potential benefits can reap real financial rewards. If you’re struggling to find a way to integrate your Instagram marketing with your ecommerce site, just swing over to GoPro’s page and watch the professionals in action.
Stoked to see some of the world's best surfers ride some of the world's best breaks in this year's @WSL GoPro Challenge. Check out this wave from the first stop of the competition by @anthony_walsh_, and learn more about the challenge: g.gopro.com/wsl #GoProSurf #Surf #Fiji
A video posted by gopro (@gopro) on
GoPro don’t just sell cameras, they create memories by reaching their audience based on the personal perspectives of their customers.
I have a bone to pick with Erin Condren.
I bought a planner for 2016.
I was happy with my choice.
And then I discovered Erin Condren Designs.
She’s responsible for making stationary both desirable and customisable, and dammit I wish I’d discovered her in December, not February.
Selling customisable anythings in this day and age will give you a good chance of ecommerce success. Our May Monthly Roundup explored this industry development in detail
A Bain study in 2013 found customers who created their own customisable product remained more engaged with the brand.
So Erin has the right idea. A niche, personalised idea.
In the age where the majority crowd of online shoppers wear the same Asos clothes, use the same Apple iPhone and run in the same Nike kicks – more and more early adopters want to find some new, exciting, independently owned product to be different.
Difference is what helps Erin Condren Designs succeed. She knows her target audience. They love to spark friend envy by showing off their newest stationary buy.
Her story is part of her branding; she’s just a humble mum trying to help others. It’s a story her loyal fans can tell their friends, a story that makes her products mean something more than your average generic Officeworks/Staples/Walmart notepad. It’s a story that allows her to charge more than the moss-producers, because her customers are willing to pay a premium.
With a video like this, it’s understandable why people everywhere have been going nuts over the scrapbook-style planners.
Her content appeals to her target audience, namely women in the 18-45 age bracket.
Guess where these women hang out online?
(Instagram demographics sourced from Sprout Social)
Erin Condren Designs has an Instagram presence crafted to appeal to her audience.
Erin understands the value of collaborating with influencers who have significant existing audiences of people who share the same values, beliefs and interests. Skinnymom and “teacherpreneur” Aris Rossi, are two perfect examples of content partnerships Erin has developed to share her brand’s story, expand her brand’s reach, and grow her audience of potential customers quickly.
By using influencers to help co-create content, Erin is able to align her brand with her partners in the minds of their followers.
No matter your budget, no matter your product – you can find Instagram influencers who share the same ethos as your brand. Reach out, collaborate and add value for their audience. Build your following in chunks, then turn ‘em into customers.
There is nothing to lose, and a whole heap to gained with Instagram influncer marketing.
The Huckberry man is best described as a city dweller who loves to play outdoors.
We like him.
We love Huckberry.
They are a 2015 Gorilla Ecommerce Award Winner.
You can read more about their ecommerce innovation (and 7 other similar brands) here.
Huckberry founders Andy Forch and Richard Greiner saw a gap in the menswear market.
There were only two main options available: expensive high-end designer threads, or rugged performance gear for elite adventurers.
Andy and Richard knew the casual city-slicking wanderluster needed some middle ground.
Enter the outdoor online retail goldilocks.
Huckberry filled this void with aplomb, selling clothing that combines fashion and performance at a reasonable price.
Huckberry’s ecommerce business model is clearly successful - but why are they such effective exponents of Instagram marketing?
A simple scroll through their account screams urban adventure.
Attractive, rugged, stylish dudes doing just about anything. A day on their feed could include a casual hike, a handmade mint julep, a double espresso and a white water kayak.
If Bear Grylls and James Bond had a lovechild, Huckberry’s Instagram account is its photo album.
Kevin J. Ryan shares the framework you need to emulate Huckberry and create an Instagram post worth $10,000 worth of online sales.
- Make it pop. Be sure the subject matter is in line with what your followers expect from your brand.
- Plan ahead. Try drumming up interest for new products with a preview post.
- Worry about the words. Pina, Huckberry’s Managing Editor, writes the posts himself: “People want to see who you really are. Find your voice, hone it, and then stay super consistent."
- Make one link count. Use the link wisely, but with levity--and don't mention it with every post.
This advice will help you turn your Instagram feed into a genuine business asset.
It’s so clever, isn’t it?
Selling a feeling.
It’s a common theme on such a visual platform.
Images evoke emotions, often strong ones.
Passion, envy, happiness.
Blogilates is selling all three - one pair of booty shorts at a time.
The face of Blogilates is Cassey Ho, a Californian gal with big dreams.
She started small, making pilates videos with a dodgy camera in her apartment.
Flash forward a few years, and she’s selling her programs and exercise gear across the online globe.
Cassey’s fashion brand, Blogilates Designs, is on a mission to make her audience feel great about themselves. Promoting the clothes she designs is secondary.
Blogilates has a marketing strategy founded on their audience. Cassey and her team know what colours, styles and designs their audience will love, and Blogilates monetise the data gained from their customer’s social media, and online shopping behaviour.
Case in point:
Joyce here, wanted pastel coloured activewear.
Blogilates’ data supported Joyce’s sentiments.
Cassey and team delivered.
It pays to listen to your audience.
- Determine Your Objectives
- Develop a Content Strategy- Alicia’s advice, “the right approach is one that best showcases your brand.”
- Build Content Themes
- Determine Types of Content & Ratio
- Set a Content Calendar, But Be Flexible
- Consider Curating User-Generated Content
- Create an Instagram Style Guide
You can tell just by looking at Blogilates designs’ Instagram page they understand how to keep their audience happy.
Whether the posts are puppies, cupcakes or booty shorts, Blogilates content consistently reinforce their audience’s emotional connection to the brand.
This emotional connection means trust, and a relationship.
Relationships and trust equals long term customers.
And long term customers means long term $$$.
This is your official content warning.
Budgy Smuggler are a brand you will either adore or detest.
They’re sexy (?)
They’re definitely cheeky.
And they’re not afraid to expose some upper thigh.
One can only hazard a guess as to the comfort of these little packages of bird smuggling, polyester fun-bags.
Budgy Smuggler have created a buzz amongst coastal dwelling dudes and dudettes, with their brief-style swimwear in recent years. Somehow, they’ve managed to bridge the centuries old ocean between swimwear and underwear.
Once restricted to the beach or pool, today no location is off limits for the humble Budgy Smuggler.
This iconic swimwear is no longer restricted to men either.
The introduction of the Budgy Smuggler custom option has seen togs redesigned for anything from football teams...
to matching his-and-hers creations...
At the core of the brand’s innovative ecommerce marketing strategy is a campaign designed to encourage their budgy smuggling crew to share their sun drenched love on Instagram.
These guys are beyond cheeky, so it would seem crazy to expect anything butt.
Calls-to-action to share a Budgy Smuggler glory snap are incorporated into all of the brands communications. The online store, packaging inserts, post-purchase emails and regular social media competitions all seek to generate excitement and competition within their following to see who can post the most outrageous Budgy Smuggler shot.
Celebrity endorsements and European fashion trends have helped the swimwear startup make a splash on the international stage, and encourage subsequent cross border sales. From the Wallabies, the Burgess boys, Prince Harry – and even James Bond have helped drive global growth for this iconic Australian ecommerce powerhouse.
If a Russian oligarch can get on board with these fitted little lycra treats, you’d better get in line.
Docs, Dr Martens, them big-ass boots.
Doesn’t matter what you call them, these UK clod hoppers from the 1960’s have kept in step with the times.
These babies are never going out of fashion.
Or so my bank balance would like to believe. I have three pairs.
Older brands can sometimes struggle when traversing across the wild path to the jungle of digital marketing.
Even Dr Martens battled in the early years of ecommerce amidst their loyal fanbase.
Come 2016, they’ve proved more resilient as their flagship eight hole boots, with Instagram marketing at the forefront of their rise millennial hipster style icon.
How does a brand on the verge of bankruptcy suddenly claw back the elusive popularity and profitability double?
Two things: nostalgia, and customer-focused marketing.
Dr Martens launched a campaign in 2013 called #standforsomething.
Now we Gorillas are the first ones to call red-flag on engagement metrics like this. In fact, we wrote a whole 60 page report on everything wrong with the online advertising industry.
Nevertheless, Dr Martens matched these ‘vanity metric’ with cold hard business results. 30% increase in sales suggests this new marketing approach was successful.
Dr Martens are still delighting the same type of people they were all those years ago; the weirdo’s, the unconventional, the hardcore working class.
The medium might be updated, but the message is the same – and it’s been tried, tested and proven over decades.
If you’re an established bricks and mortar retailer with years of tradition - embrace your history to help you overcome the upstart online competition.
Ecommerce is here to stay, and you need to adapt – but you don’t need to change the parts of your business that built your success.
It’s philanthropy, without the physical commitment.
Lush are a brand you’ll care about if you want to save the world.
If you’re going to spending your hard earned – why not spend it on a brand trying to invest some of your money to make a difference.
As a dedicated professional, I thought it obligatory to embark on a bit of practical consumer research for you.
So I bought a few things from Lush.
I definitely enjoyed the impulse shopping guilt override – knowing that I’d made some small contribution towards social change as I handed over my money.
(That glittery bath bomb turned my soak into an intergalactic dream by the way.)
Lush aren’t revolutionary in their approach to Instagram, they’re simply showcasing the promise of their brand. Instagram allows Lush to prove their social mantra is more than mere lip service.
Lush know their limits.
Their brand is vegan and earth friendly.
Their products are beautiful.
Their image is fresh, colourful and free - with a little fizz of sexiness thrown in to the mix.
No need for elaborate photo shoots, or big budget paid Instagram promoted posts.
Just post pics that match the brand’s image, and communicate their social promise.
It’s not just the beautiful tattooed men that are making me fall in love with Lush. I swear.
It’s their ability to use the platform as an extension of their brand.
You can only use one hyperlink on your Instagram account, and Lush have used their chance to bridge the gap between their social platform and their online store
Lush 'Shop Social'.
When you click the link, you are transported to a page dedicated to buying products featured on their account.
There is no hard sell – Lush are keeping things contextual. Followers with no intention of buying do not have their experience ruined by this functionality, but those interested potential shoppers can buy with ease, in a matter of clicks.
By treating Instagram as the extension of the brand, Lush have kept their sales technique simple: If you like it, click it, and you can get it.
If you’re an impulse buyer, hide your phone.
When you keep social simple - your audience won’t get confused. Be friendly, start conversations, interact and engage with potential fans. That’s your primary Instagram prerogative.
But if your followers want to buy your products – make it as easy as possible. Just a few clicks (or finger taps) can turn Instagram from a cost centre to a revenue maker.
They’re a style icon.
They’re old school, just with new technology.
They make their own rules.
And their Instagram account proves it.
In the days where ecommerce brands are really focusing on the lifestyle instead of the product, Master and Dynamic are choosing to focus on their product, with the lifestyle being secondary to the headphones.
They’re breaking the rules.
Their headphones are the centre of attention.
This flies in the face of the idea that millennials want the experience, not the product.
It’s working for them though. Breaking the rules is paying off.
Their Instagram account is all about their product.
None of this wild nature scenery where the headphones are a small detail. Here the headphones are the feature.
The entire aesthetic draws you in, but not in a salesy way. Master and Dynamic’s Instagram feed is directed at those who know their stuff, and need a high quality product to make it work.
Reb Carlson, Social Media manager at Master and Dynamic gives good insight into why Master and Dynamic’s Instagram account feels like a place for the music and art lover,
“It's exciting to give people a platform, such as our artist series In-Residence, to create and connect them with like-minded brands… I love using Instagram to connect with people through music and art.”
Their branding is centred around the love of music and art, to the point where their hyperlink on their Instagram page links to their Soundcloud profile, not their store.
There's a cracking example of adding value instead of selling product.
This won’t work for every brand, but if you have a niche target market, you might find a longer term payoff from a focus on the community - instead of the hard sell.
The Ecommerce Instagram Lesson – Sell your lifestyle, not your product
If you understand your brand, and what emotionally drives your target audience - you have almost all you need for Instagram marketing success.
A compelling brand story makes the development of a digital content marketing strategy less intimidating than slapping on a set of Budgy Smugglers and strutting down the beachfront.
“Consumers give brands value by developing perceptions and expectations for those brands. Companies enhance the value by delivering consistent brand experiences that consumers can trust.”
Know your brand.
Keep your marketing true to your brand.
Sell the lifestyle of your brand.
When you know your brand, the type of people who will care about your brand, and the influenctial people you want advocating for your brand - you can use Instagram effectively to grow your audience of loyal customers.
Need some more help before you start developing a community of rabidly loyal, repeat purchashing brand ambassadors? There's plenty more online marketing gorilla wisdom where this came from.
Our Ecommerce User Generated Content guide has over 30 pages of learning just like this - with expert advice and insights to help you develop a customer-attracting strategy. Just click on that big button below, and we'll ship that package of ecommerce marketing wisdom straight to your inbox door.