From Likes to Dollars: Here's How to Sell Your Products on Instagram in 2021
by Amber Cochrane Sell Jul 29, 2021 15 minute read Leave a comment Email Pinterest Facebook Twitter LinkedIn
With Instagram surpassing one billion monthly active users worldwide and over 500 million people using Instagram Stories on a daily basis, Instagram offers marketers ample opportunities to find new customers.
Now, with Instagram Shopping, which links your online store to your Instagram account, the social media site has developed into a thriving marketplace for brands to connect with consumers. Learn how to get verified on Instagram and improve your online store sales with a verified badge.
But incorporating Instagram Shopping into your marketing still requires some creativity. There are many ways you can go about it, after all. So, let’s take a look at examples of how some of the world’s top ecommerce brands are using Instagram Shopping to drive sales and growth.
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Why sell directly on Instagram?How to set up Instagram ShoppingHow to sell on InstagramSelling on Instagram with ShopifyKey takeaways from top brands using InstagramHow are you using Instagram to sell products?Selling on Instagram FAQ
How to Grow and Monetize Your Instagram Account
A free workshop with field-tested Instagram marketing tips. Learn how to grow your Instagram audience and monetize it with an online store.
Why sell directly on Instagram?
Instagram Shopping is quickly becoming the preferred way for consumers to not only learn about new brands and products on Instagram but also to purchase them in just a few simple steps.
In fact, 90% of Instagram users follow a business account, making the expansion of Instagram Shopping more effective than ever for merchants to tag products in their posts, open an online storefront, and simplify the entire buyer journey, from discovery to checkout. If you are looking to get a verified badge on Instagram, check out our guide on how to get verified on Instagram to get started.
From mom and pop shops to major brands, businesses around the world are driving proven results with Instagram Shopping.
Sell more with Instagram Shopping
Start tagging products in your posts and Stories to turn engagement into purchases with the Instagram Shopping sales channel. Shopify’s Facebook channel makes it easier to sync your Shopify products with Facebook and leverage product tagging across posts, Stories, Reels and more.
How to set up Instagram Shopping
First things first. To enable selling your products on Instagram, make sure:
Your personal account is converted to an Instagram business accountYour business sells physical goods that comply with Instagram’s commerce policiesYour Instagram business profile is associated with a Facebook catalog in Business Manager (See Instagram’s step-by-step guide on creating your Facebook catalog with your Instagram business profile.)
Once you’ve taken care of the step-by-step details above, you should be all set to start selling your products on Instagram.
How to sell on Instagram
Before we dive into specific examples of how top brands use Instagram Shopping, let’s quickly outline the five main tools you can use together to drive organic sales from Instagram:
Shoppable Posts. In a nutshell, Shoppable Posts let you add product tags to your content so people can buy directly from them. Product tags on Instagram are similar to tagging other users in your posts, except you’re tagging your products. This allows shoppers to click on your tags and quickly shop your catalog of products.
Product stickers in Stories. With product stickers, ecommerce brands can tag specific products in Stories, just like you can with standard product tags in posts.
The Shop tab on your profile. The Shop tab is where your profile visitors can find all the products you’ve tagged in your Instagram posts, including the content that features them.
Swipe-up links in Stories. While not a feature of Instagram Shopping, swipe-up links are a great tool for driving traffic to specific landing pages directly from Stories. Previously only available to verified accounts, all business Instagram accounts with 10,000 or more followers can now add links to Instagram Stories.
Instagram checkout. When you enable Instagram checkout, people can buy directly from Live Shopping, product launches, and Shopping for Creators. If you’re a Shopify merchant, you can use the Facebook channel integration to set up checkout on Instagram and Facebook. Shop Pay will automatically show for the customer, providing a faster and easier way for them to check out.
Due to the highly visual nature of Instagram, Instagram Shopping’s product tags are a natural fit for various ecommerce merchants across several industries and verticals.
With that said, many brands struggle to create a compelling aesthetic in their Instagram posts, making it difficult to sell their products in a crowded ecommerce landscape. Here are our three biggest takeaways for making the most out of your Instagram Shopping posts.
1. Create high-quality product photos
Brands today cannot afford to post poor quality product photos to Instagram (or any other channels). But don’t worry—today’s smartphone cameras are often more than enough to take high-quality product photos if you’re on a limited budget.
For example, Beardbrand uses flat-lay product shots to showcase fan favorites, adding product tags for each individual item.
But let’s take a look at the three elements that make Beardbrand’s product image “high quality”:
Backdrop. Use a black, white, or light gray backdrop behind your product to give your photographs a clean and consistent look across multiple products.Table. Utilize a table so your product sits higher, which will make it easier for you to photograph it during the shoot.Light. The most budget-friendly option is natural window light. Set up your product and equipment near a large window to allow for ample light in your frame. If natural light is not available, use a larger lamp or rent a softbox-type lighting kit and remember that “white” light is optimal for capturing products.
With multiple products featured in one photo, you can tag each one separately to let shoppers learn more about what they’re interested in.
It may seem like a lot of work upfront in order to capture quality product photos, but it’ll make a huge impact on sales in the long run. Remember: you’re creating assets that you can repurpose and reuse over time.
Of course, staged product images aren’t the only way to crush it with Instagram Shopping.
2. Showcase your products as part of a lifestyle
If you’re looking to lean into the visual nature of Instagram, there’s no better way than to show your product in action. This will help shoppers to actually visualize themselves using your product and take the next step in the buying process.
Herschel Supply is one of the best in the business at helping shoppers imagine a lifestyle with its products.
What makes this Instagram marketing strategy so effective is that, instead of using a call to action like “Shop” or “Buy” in its product photos, the brand simply shares stories from real individuals who love its products. It even tags the people in the posts!
But if you don’t have the time or resources to create high-quality product images of your own, there’s still another way to make your Instagram account stand out.
3. Curate user-generated content
If people are buying and enjoying your product, chances are they’re posting about it on social media. User-generated content is a great way to fill your feed with quality content while still taking advantage of the various Instagram Shopping features.
One of my favorite examples of user-generated content done right is from Inkbox Tattoos. With more than one and a half million Instagram followers, it’s the poster child for how effective UGC can be for brands. This is even more so with the introduction of Instagram’s Shop tab on the home screen.
Instagram first began testing a shopping feature in November 2016, rolling it out globally a few months later. Now, with the addition of the Shop tab to Explore, Instagram’s algorithm selects items it believes users will be interested in. Here’s what it looks like:
Many brands have come to see social media as the gateway that lets them connect authentically with audience members one on one. With user-generated content, brands give users the opportunity to tell real and oftentimes relatable stories—something that is hard to achieve with traditional brand-generated content.
4. Use the right hashtags
Instagram hashtags are a way to build brand awareness and connect your content to a specific topic or conversation. Hashtags make your shoppable content discoverable on Instagram and help it reach more people. When you publish a shoppable post with a hashtag, it shows up in the feed with a shopping bag icon. This tells browsers that an item in your post is available to buy.
If you already have a good idea of hashtags that work well for your brand, consider using them on your Shoppable Posts. You can go broad with a hashtag like #style or #fashion, or be a little more specific (i.e., #earringsaddict) and connect with a more targeted audience.
5. Partner with Influencers
It’s safe to say that influencer marketing can help you sell on Instagram. Instagram influencers are people who’ve built a reputation—and a $5.8 billion industry—around a certain niche on the platform. They work as brand ambassadors for your business, sharing your products with their target audience in exchange for money, free products, or exposure.
Influencers can impact buying habits because of their authority in a particular industry. In the example above, @lizarch, a yoga influencer with 57,000 followers, promotes a giveaway for Savhera Organic Essential Oils. The essential oil brand partnered with Liz because her audience trusts her suggestions and what she promotes.
The school of thought is that influencers are wildly expensive, as though every brand is paying Kim Kardashian $1 million to promote their products. But that couldn’t be further from the truth.
Nano-influencers and micro-influencers tend to get higher engagement rates. My best influencers have been people that are genuinely interested in the product and eager to share it with their followers.
With the rise of nano-influencers (accounts with less than 5,000 followers) and micro-influencers (between 5,000 and 20,000 followers), smaller brands can now work with influencers at a reasonable price and make more sales on Instagram.
Read It’s Your Time to Shine: How to Find and Work With Instagram Influencers in 2021 to set up your first influencer campaign on Instagram.
Instagram Stories has seen rapid growth in adoption and usage among consumers around the globe, with more than 500 million accounts using them daily. Believe it or not, one-third of the most-viewed Stories are from brand accounts.
With the expansion of Instagram Shopping into Stories (and even the Explore page), brands now have even more ways to get their products and services directly in front of eager buyers.
1. Educate or entertain your audience (don’t just sell)
One of the biggest strengths of Instagram Stories content is the fact that it’s less curated and more human due to its ephemeral nature. In other words, where the Instagram Feed is typically a brand’s best content, Stories are much more raw and unfiltered.
Educating or entertaining your audience instead of going directly for the sale will ensure that your content fits well within the Stories narrative, as well as offer your audience a compelling reason to find out more about your product or service.
While product stickers can promote your specific products, you can also use swipe-up links instead (if you have more than 10,000 followers) to surface your content or other key webpages.
Parachute, for example, does an incredible job of creating educational content around what might seem like a mundane topic: sheets and bedding. After posting a series of interesting stats and figures, it encourages its followers to swipe up if they’d like to learn more.
The Stories link then leads shoppers to a landing page with more tips on bedding, several products, and an email pop-up to entice newsletter signups.
Parachute proves you can still sell your products effectively while simultaneously improving the lives of your followers.
2. Use video to showcase your product
Did you know that, after watching a video, 64% of social media users are more likely to purchase a product online? Or that 15% to 25% of Stories viewers swipe up to follow a link and engage directly with a brand’s website?
Needless to say, video should be an integral part of your Instagram Shopping strategy.
Letterfolk, for example, does a great job of using video in its Stories. From product demonstrations to live Q&A, the Letterfolk team knows exactly how to take advantage of this compelling format.
The best video content tells stories that connect on a deep level with the viewer. The better you tell stories about your brand or product, the more likely your viewers are going to understand what your company is offering and what it can do for them. And, in turn, the more likely they’ll be to buy.
Best of all, you can add product stickers or swipe-up links to your video Stories to drive sales and can even feature them permanently in your Highlights to surface them to new profile visitors.
3. Experiment with product stickers in Stories
As you’ve probably gathered by now, Instagram Stories are an effective way for brands to showcase and promote their products in engaging ways. But up until recently, Stories were somewhat limited in terms of directly selling products and driving traffic.
That all changed with the recent launch of product stickers in Stories. With product stickers, ecommerce brands and businesses are no longer limited to trying to get their followers to swipe up to shop.
Users can tap on product stickers to learn more about the featured product, and then tap again to be taken directly to the product page to purchase.
Clothing company Madewell 1937, for example, uses product stickers in Stories to visually showcase their newest line of clothing.
Other cool sticker features Instagram added in 2020 were food delivery and gift card stickers. In an effort to help small businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic, you can now share gift card, food order, or fundraiser stickers in Stories and on your profile.
4. Go live
When you have an Instagram Shop and product catalog set up, you can start an Instagram Live Shopping stream. Live Shopping lets brands and creators sell products over a live broadcast. Think of it like a TV shopping network, but with more interaction and on your phone. Live Shopping lets you showcase products, interact with fans, and partner with other brands and creators.
As the seller, you can tag a product from your catalog to appear at the bottom on the screen during a live broadcast. Buyers just need to click the Add to Bag button, then check out.
The only caveat? To use Instagram Live Shopping, you must be a US business with access to Instagram checkout.
Instagram is now a place where people go to shop. Instagram’s research shows that 84% of people want to discover new products on the platform. With mobile sales projected to reach $3.5 trillion by the end of 2021, 22.3% more than 2020, Instagram launched shoppable ads to capitalize on the mobile commerce trend.
Shoppable Instagram ads are your standard Instagram ad but with product tags. When someone is interested in your promoted product, they can go directly to a product detail page to learn more. If you’re a US business, you can run ads with Instagram checkout too, so people can purchase directly in-app.
These ads run in feed or Explore using single image, carousel, or video formats from your product catalog. They work just like regular Instagram ads: you build them in Ads Manager and can show to a custom audience or lookalike audience to find new potential customers.
Reels let your business create and publish videos up to 30 seconds long. It’s easy to get creative with easy-to-use text, AR filters, and audio to tell your brand’s story. Reels can also appear on the Explore page where anyone on Instagram can see them.
The coolest part? You can tag products in your Reels, so that when someone views your Reels, they can easily access the products or collections mentioned in it.
Selling on Instagram with Shopify
Selling on Instagram with an ecommerce platform like Shopify is simple. When you connect your store to the Facebook sales channel, your Shopify products automatically sync to Instagram so you can create ads and Shoppable Posts easily.
You can use Shopify to create, track, and manage your ad campaigns and orders with Instagram, as well as customize your Shop and bring the look and feel of your Shopify store to it.
Before you start selling on Instagram, you’ll need to make sure you’ve set up a Facebook business page and have products in your Facebook catalog.
From there, use the following steps:
From your Shopify admin, click Facebook sales channel > Overview.Click Set up to start in the Instagram Shopping section.Connect the required Facebook accounts to the Facebook sales channel.Review and accept the terms and conditions, then click Request approval.
It takes 24 to 48 hours for Facebook to review your products. Note that this works if you’re on the Shopify Basic plan or above.
When you sell on Instagram and Facebook with Shopify, there are apps and integrations that connect your inventory, marketing, customer, and sales data into a central database. Sync your product catalog, discover and promote the most popular product features, and create your ad campaigns, all within Shopify.
Key takeaways from top brands using Instagram
As I mentioned in the beginning, with more than 90% of Instagram users following a business account, the expansion of Instagram Shopping offers an unmatched opportunity for merchants to tag products in their posts and simplify the entire buyer journey from discovery to checkout.
Before you dive into Instagram Shopping and start promoting your product or service across the platform, it’s important to keep these three key takeaways in mind.
1. Quality is crucial
Everything from your product photos to the way you describe your product in the captions is an integral part of the buyer process. People make judgments about your brand in a matter of seconds—it’s important to consider all of the factors.
2. Help shoppers visualize
While there are endless ways to use Instagram Shopping to market your product, perhaps the most compelling way is to help potential customers imagine what life would be like with your product. In other words, your Instagram content shouldn’t focus on the features of your product, your ads should focus on what people can do with your product, how it will make them feel, or how it will enrich their lives.
3. Embrace video
Video marketing is here to stay, and it will play a big part in the success of your Instagram content. People are more likely to take action (such as clicking or purchasing) after watching a video compared to content containing a photo or link.
How are you using Instagram to sell products?
Instagram Shopping is only just the beginning for merchants looking to boost sales on the Instagram app. As more and more consumers get used to this exciting new shopping frontier, it’s up to your brand to deliver your products where customers are spending a majority of their time: social media.
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Selling on Instagram FAQ
Can you sell directly on Instagram?
Yes, you can sell directly through posts, Stories, live streams, and ads with a Shoppable Instagram page.
How do you sell things on Instagram?
Create high-quality product photos Curate user-generated contentPartner with influencersUse video to showcase your productsGo liveRun Instagram ads
How do you start an Instagram store?
To start an Instagram store, tap Get Started on the notification, or head to Instagram’s business settings and tap Shopping. Then, select the Facebook Shop you want to use with your Instagram profile. All your products are then synced across Instagram, your Facebook Shop, and your Shopify store.
How many followers do you need to set up Instagram shopping?
There is no follower minimum to activate Instagram Shopping. All you need is an Instagram business account and to abide by Facebook’s commerce policies.Illustration by Martina Paukova