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How Instagram can Elevate your E-commerce Store in 7 Steps

Author's avatar By Expert commentator 23 Dec, 2016
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Example of how to harness Instagram to capture new audiences and convert that attention into sales

Instagram is one of the most effective ways to boost your e-commerce marketing. In a recent Yotpo survey of over 165,000 e-commerce businesses, 75% of them reported being active on Instagram. Customer research data is on their side. In fact, the research found that:

  • Traffic from Instagram is the most engaged: this means that visitors from Instagram stay on a site for an average of 192 seconds – that’s longer than visitors from every other channel, including Facebook, Pinterest, and Twitter.
  • 30% of Instagram users have bought something they first spotted on Instagram: meaning the potential for the browsing conversion to sales is high.
  • 83% of Instagram users reported that they were influenced by friend’s posting about a brand on Instagram: meaning Instagram is a powerful megaphone for your brand’s messaging.

Instagram attracts highly engaged customers and providing a giant signal boost for your brand’s message, so here are 8 ways to put Instagram to work for your eCommerce store:

Integrate Instagram user-generated photos into your website

User-generated content, UGC, is proven to be far more effective in catching the eye of internet shoppers.
According to a survey on user-generated photos, 77% of shoppers reported that they’d rather see customer photos than professional photos when making a purchasing decision.
In fact, 72% said that seeing Instagram photos of a product increased their chances of buying.

One of the best ways to capitalize on this is by harvesting customer Instagram photos of your product and featuring them on your product pages.
A recent A/B test of a major E-commerce company’s signature product revealed that displaying customer Instagram photos on the product page increased the product’s checkouts by 24%!

Inspire with creative hashtag campaigns and contests

Hosting a hashtag campaign or contest is a great way to encourage your customers to engage with your brand on Instagram. Here are a few tips to make the biggest possible splash:

  • Offer an irresistible reward: An exciting prize will definitely draw crowds. In the #Castmemarc campaign, Marc Jacobs offered a modeling contract to the user who posted the best photo with the tag. This not only generated a huge number of responses- 12,000 selfies in the first 24 hours, to be exact- but caught the attention of bystanders who were intrigued and watched the drama unfold.
  • Call on customer creativity: In the #PutACanOnIt campaign, Red Bull challenged customers to take photos of their cans in clever ways that made the can appear to be in unlikely places. Fun or unusual tasks that let customers get creative inspire customer engagement.
  • Go beyond product photos: While getting customers to take photos of your product has obvious advantages, it could pay off to think in a different direction. In their #withoutshoes campaign, TOMS donated one pair of shoes to a child in need for every Instagram pic of barefoot customers with the hashtag. These photos required that they not include the product - yet the buzz created for the brand was enormous, with over 296,000 links leading to TOMS.
  • Keep contest durations short: The internet moves quickly. Contests should be a week in duration or less. This inspires fast action and keeps things interesting for your customers.
  • Make sure your introduction is clear and compelling: Don’t spoil your own contest with a poor introductory post, such as a text-only image or an unclear call to action.

Create a Shoppable Instagram gallery

Instagram currently does not allow clickable links in photo captions, so the easiest way to sell directly through Instagram is to set up a shoppable Instagram gallery, which is a parallel site to which you link in your Instagram bio.
This link will take customers to an augmented version of the Instagram storefront, which contains clickable images that lead to different product pages where items can be purchased. You can also place checkout links in image captions.
The key benefit is that a Shoppable Instagram creates a direct link between your Instagram and product pages. Without it, a potential customer would have to search through your eCommerce store for a product that interested them on Instagram, which could cost you a sale - or a client.

Get Instagram Influencers on your side

Remember the 83% of users that said they were influenced by a friend’s Instagram post? That power is multiplied if you get an influencer posting authentic content about your brand on their Instagram.
Influencers can have hundreds of thousands and even millions of followers, garnering a similar reach to celebrity endorsement with a much lower price tag.
PuraVida bracelets are Instagram marketing pros, and their co-founders know more than a thing or two about the strategic use of influencers. They recently shared with Yotpo some key influencer advice:

  • Choose an influencer wisely: Gone are the days when just any influencer will do. Since UGC on Instagram is effective because it’s authentic, it’s important to partner with an influencer who truly fits your brand, enjoys your products and whose followers match your target audience.
  • Allow influencers to choose which products to feature: In the same vein, influencers will post more compelling content if they’re showing off a product they truly find valuable. Give influencers a choice in your product line so their reviews will be more sincere.

Place dynamic Instagram Ads

In addition to organic content, Instagram is also a strategic spot to place ads. Forrester reported that engagement from Instagram ads is 58% higher than Facebook ads and 120% higher than ads on Twitter. To fully take advantage of this potential:

  • Include reviews: Including a short review or testimonial with your image boosts your ad’s relatability and authenticity. According to Facebook, ads with customer reviews have a 4x higher CTR and a 50% lower CPA.
  • Use customer photos: The key to success on Instagram is to blend in, not stand out. Your ad should appear similar to the other posts in a user’s feed so it is not easily skipped over, and the best way to achieve this effect is to utilize the unique UGC you’ve cultivated from the steps above.

Engage with customers

An Instagram hashtag gallery on your website is one way to shift the spotlight to your customers and increase their brand loyalty. Such a gallery not only shows off your product being used in real time, but it also makes those featured feel valued by your brand and encourages their continued engagement, while inspiring new customers to get involved and connect.

Use your Instagram bio link

Your bio link is the only place on your Instagram that you can post a live URL, so make it count!

Here are a few ideas for making the most of your bio link:

  • Link to your shoppable gallery: If you have created a shoppable gallery as described above, your bio link is the perfect place to connect your two Instagram galleries.
  • Change it up: If you’re not using a shoppable gallery, alternate posting your homepage, your Instagram hashtag gallery, or a featured product, and mention the link in new posts. If you post an image of a particular product, include in the caption that a link to the product is in the bio.
  • Tread carefully: There are many websites that Instagram bans links to, such as competitors. Linking to another one of your social media sites, for example, would be risky. Do your research and check that your bio link won’t get banned.


The numbers are undeniable, Instagram is a major game changer in eCommerce marketing. As you make Instagram work for your brand, remember these main take-aways. Your Instagram page should:

  • Inspire - The design and activity of your page, from Influencer posts, to ads, to a shoppable gallery, should inspire potential customers to create and share their own content around your products.
  • Feature - You should then feature the customers who deliver the most authentic and appealing content, inspiring those clients to participate more and tempting others to join in.
  • Engage - Take that participation to the next level by incorporating featured customer content on your website, and rewarding the best contributions through contests and special campaigns.

If you can achieve all three, your Instagram will not only boost your sales - it will create a dynamic, organic fan base which will only grow and attract new customers to your brand.

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