Generating Sales for eCommerce With a Winning Instagram Advertising Strategy

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instagram advertising crazylister

Source: Unsplash

Social media has long been the go-to for eCommerce sellers who are looking to generate more traffic to their listings and ultimately gain more sales. Facebook has been very popular but is actually becoming a much too crowded, much too competitive space, which is why I wanted to introduce you to a very attractive alternative: Instagram. Thanks to eCommerceCEO I can now explain why you are better off focusing your energy on Instagram advertising:

  1. Marketing is all about engagement and sales and on Instagram, the average order value per engaged follower is worth $10 more per customer. This may seem negligible but when you are selling to tens or even hundreds of buyers it makes a big difference.
instagram order value vs facebook

2. Another point to take into consideration is how utterly crowded Facebook is. The vast majority (93%) of marketers use Facebook whereas only about a third (36%) use Instagram. This means that there is a lot of space for you to grow your business and a lot of untapped potential customers for you to market to.

instagram marketing

3. Instagram users are more open to advertising and therefore have an increased willingness to engage with brands – 68% of Instagrammers engage with branded content whereas only 32% of Facebook users engage with branded content. In fact, Instagrammers are generally a more engaged audience showing 58 times more engagement when compared with their peers on Facebook. And we all know that engaging a user is the first step of any conversion process.  

instagram engagement

Getting Started with Instagram Ads

Now that I have hopefully convinced you do ditch Facebook for Instagram let me help you get started on your journey to successfully running paid Instagram campaigns.

#1: Who should consider Instagram ads?

Literally, anyone who wants to generate more sales and is willing to explore new social media horizons should consider Instagram ads as an option for themselves. This includes people who sell on eBay and Amazon though these marketplaces do not appear to have rolled out any features to make Instagram advertising more accessible. Audrey_Gertz put out a complete guide to marketing your eBay items on Instagram via the eBay Community which is super informative but is more general and not ‘eBay specific’.  

#2: Which marketplaces integrate best with Instagram? 

But in all honesty, the very best candidates for selling on Instagram are those people who either have a Shopify or BigCommerce store or people who are already selling on Facebook and who maintain a product catalog there. I will get into more detail a bit later on but Instagram has simply chosen to partner with Shopify and BigCommerce and they are owned by Facebook which explains why integrating your Facebook product catalog is integral to selling on Instagram (more on this in a bit). 

  • Shopify – 
shopify instagram

Shopify is a great marketplace to work with when trying to advertise and sell on Instagram as they allow you to add product stickers to your stories as well as tag products in posts:

shopify instagram features

Shopify also allows you to appear in the shopping channel in Explore:

shopify instagram perks

Side note:  A quick side note about Instagram Shopping Channel and Instagram Explore Page for those of you who are not yet familiar with this. These relatively new features create a space where Instagrammers can shop from the different brands they follow and discover new brands as well:

instagram shopping feed

 Source: Later

  • BigCommerce – This platform does not appear to have any special Instagram integrations and yet Instagram has designated them as one of their two official eCommerce partners after Shopify. If you are looking to sell on Instagram it is definitely easier if you already have a BigCommerce account.
instagram bigcommerce

#2: How does pricing work on Instagram?

Similar to Facebook, on Instagram, you will need to choose between CPC or Cost Per Click advertising and CPM which stands for cost per thousand impressions. According to Forbes the average CPM on Instagram is in the $5-$6 range and the average CPC is in the $0.56-0.72 range. 

There are a few factors that influence Instagram ad costs and these should be taken into consideration. These factors are very similar to the way Facebook prices ads as they are ‘sister companies’. Here is what to be aware of:

  • Bidding – You need to choose a bid price that tells Instagram how much you are willing to pay to have your ad placed.
  • Competition and target audience –  When your specific category and target market have a lot of competition this will naturally increase the price of the Instagram ads you are bidding for. 
  • Timing – The time you decide to advertise will also influence ad prices. So if you decide to place an Instagram ad during high season, say Christmas time then you are in for higher costs.
  • Placement – Having ads on more than one Facebook-owned platform will help reduce the price per ad.

On Instagram, your ad budget is calculated on a daily basis. Only you know your own budget but here are some basic indications for the most simplistic Instagram ad campaigns:

  • You should be spending $1 a day if you are using ads based on impressions. 
  • You are looking at a daily budget of $5  if you choose to pay for likes, clicks or video views.
  • If you are specifically interested in impressions, set aside 50 cents per day.

Instagram also allows you to choose a ‘lifetime’ budget for a specific campaign. You can let Instagram know how much you want to spend on a specific campaign as well as the duration of said campaign and Instagram will help you figure out what your daily budget should be. It is also important to understand that ad performance on Instagram will influence pricing – the better and add does the more it will cost you and vice versa. 

What do you get for your money ?

Based on research carried out by Marketing Land and an article in Marketing Hub here is what you can expect to get in return for your marketing dollars on Instagram:

  • For those of you who chose the CPM option you can expect to pay $5 for every 1, 000 visitors.
  • For those of you chose CPC you can expect to pay between 20 cents and $2 for every click. 

According to a different study by AdEspresso:

  • CPC will run you 70-80 cents per click on average.
  • If you are targeting people ages 25-34 you are looking at a premium of $1.23 per click. 
  • Whereas younger age groups who tend to not have cash (ages 13-17) will cost you 37 cents per click. 
  • The study also noted that the cost of advertising on Instagram ($0.70) was double the costs on Facebook ($0.35) when looking strictly at CPC campaigns though they did note that Instagram tends to have 10 times the amount of Facebook when it comes to promotional posts and content.

Can I sell directly from Instagram?

You can’t officially sell an item on Instagram because Instagram doesn’t have a database or catalog where you can store said items. That is why I did some research and according to Instagram, if you want to sell on the platform you need to connect your item catalog. Here are 3 ways you can connect a catalog to your Instagram account:

  1. Connect one of your eCommerce accounts, Specifically, if you are using Shopify or BigCommerce you can connect these accounts directly with Instagram.
  2. Use the catalog manager – You can connect Instagram to an already existing Facebook business product catalog or create a new catalog under ‘catalog manager’. Just remember that since Instagram is owned by Facebook a lot of their infrastructure is based on the latter.  
instagram catalog

3. Add a shop tab to your Facebook page and connect this to Instagram

facebook shop tag instagram

Additionally, I mentioned the Instagram Shopping Channel and Explore page earlier. Instagram will now allow people to click ‘shop’ and search for items based on specific categories such as ‘clothing’ and ‘home decor’. These new features will allow people to not only look for items on Instagram but to also buy them without ever having to leave Instagram (this feature is exclusive to a handful of brands that Instagram has decided to give access to their checkout feature including Nike and Zara. This feature is still in the beta testing phase and is not available to average sellers. ). Most stores sell items to buyers on Instagram but the actual product catalog, listing and transaction will take place elsewhere (Facebook, Shopify etc..)

Instagram Shopping

To actually be included in the explore page and shopping channel you will first need to:

  1. Have Instagram approve you as a business profile.
instagram business profile

2. Put together and connect a product catalog on Facebook using either Shopify or BigCommerce.

connect instagram catalog

3. Wait a few days to have your account approved by Instagram. Hopefully, you will meet all of their requirements:

instagram requirements

4. Turn shopping features on in your Instagram account.

instagram shopping features

Once you are all set up you are going to want to start posting:

  1. Shoppable Instagram posts –  
    • First, upload an image.
    • Add a caption and tag your products. This will appear under ‘Tag people’.
    • Start typing the name of the product in the tag and Instagram will instantly pull up existing options in the catalog you previously connected. 
    • Then all you need to do is share your post and it will appear in your Instagram feed.
Shoppable Instagram posts

Source: Phvntom

  1. Shoppable Instagram Stories
    • Upload your story which can be a video or picture.
    • Click the sticker icon and select ‘product’.
Shoppable Instagram Stories

Source: IconSquare

  • You can now add one item per story and add any item from your catalog as with a shoppable Instagram post. This is what the final product will look like:
shop on instagram

How can I increase my online sales and attract more customers on Instagram?

Beyond shoppable posts and stories on Instagram, there are other things you can do in order to increase your sales and attract more customers via Instagram, these include:  

#1: Having Retargeting Campaigns

Retargeting is a really simple yet effective marketing tactic originally employed by Facebook starting in 2015 and then introduced to Instagram in 2016. The way retargeting works is when someone visits your website or shop, Facebook and now Instagram takes note of this and  ‘hits’ (metaphorically) that person with a bunch of ads related to your service or in this case, most likely, product. Many times people find it creepy that Instagram or Facebook knows where they previously have been and it is a bit unnerving but to tell you the truth, retargeting campaigns actually work on Instagram and have been shown to be very effective. Here is an example of what a retargeting  campaign looks like on Instagram:

instagram retargeting

#2: Find Influencers to Promote Your Brand

Influencers are individuals who have a strong following. I am sure you have heard the term ‘influencer marketing’, the reason why influencers are so, well, influential is because people ‘follow’ them since they admire that person, think they are sexy or have a great sense of style. On the other hand, people today don’t trust brand’s to tell them about themselves and their product but when it comes from someone they like and appreciate, that recommendation goes a long way towards making a positive purchase decision. There are all kinds of deals you can offer influencers from a cut of the sales vis-a-vis an affiliate link, a flat fee, a fee per likes, engagements or comments and if a campaign is successful you can even entertain the idea of turning one of your influencers into a brand ambassador. Check out Jessica Lesaca promoting dieting pills for 3BPlus:

instagram influencers marketing

Source: Considertheconsumer

#3: Showcase your product or service in action

People don’t log in to Instagram to see polished magazine pictures – that’s what magazines are for! People get on Instagram to see “real people” doing “real things”. I would advise you to invest time showing your product in action or incentivizing your customers to do this and then tagging you in that post. When your customers comply it can really help you drive traffic and sales by making their friends aware of your product. Also, when people see all the amazing things they can do with the item you are selling, it ignites the imagination and opens the wallet. Also try providing your customer with value so if you are selling something related to food don’t only show the product next to food but give people a link to a recipe on your website for example. Or if you sell GoPros, then start writing about the top surf sites or the best kangaroo watching spots in Australia. Speaking of GoPro they did an awesome job showcasing their product in action on their Instagram page:

gopro instagram marketing

Pros and cons of using Instagram to promote sales

Now that we understand a little bit about why we should advertise on Instagram and how to do this. Let’s explore the pros and cons of using Instagram for eCommerce promotion and sales generation. 

The pros of using Instagram to promote eCommerce sales:

  • Targeting –  Instagram was bought by Facebook back in 2012 and as such you have access to tools that are similar to the latter which help you target specific demographics. These tools can help you hone in on specific audiences based on their interests, behavior, geographical location and more. When it comes to marketing, targeting is paramount and Instagram, backed by Facebook, knows how to deliver on this. 
  •  Barriers – Or the lack thereof, is another advantage Instagram boasts. Many marketplaces require multiple clicks, pages or even registrations before a customer can actually purchase an item. Instagram has perfected minimalism and ultra simplification in terms of checkout by offering what’s deemed as a ‘one-click’ process. People simply need to click on your post, access your sales page and can begin the checkout process immediately. The proof is in the pudding as they say, with 1 in 3 Instagrammers having made an in-app purchase.
  • Analytics – Again, in a similar way to Facebook, Instagram gives sellers access to a dashboard so that you can view important analytics and data about the performance of your posts/ads. You are able to understand which leads turn into conversions, follow how much a specific desired ‘result’ costs you and see your website action conversion value as a function of the amount you spent on a given campaign. These analytics help you understand which posts and advertising campaigns are profitable and which are not, which require optimization and which need to be maintained. 

The cons of using Instagram to promote eCommerce sales:

  • Demographics – The demographic to whom you market on Instagram is very narrow both in terms of age and gender. 67% of Instagrammers are between the ages of 18 and 34 and one out of five is under the age of 18. If you are looking to target an ‘older’ audience or people above the age of 18 who are more likely to have a job and an income, Instagram may not be for you. In terms of gender, most Instagrammers appear to be women with only 32% of users being men – so again if you are targeting women then great but if you are after a male audience then Instagram may not be for you. 
  • Not eCom Specific – Although Instagrammers are much more likely to make a purchase than people on Facebook and they engage more with promotional posts, Instagram is not an eCommerce focused platform. Many people use Instagram to share photos with friends and family, follow celebrities, look at hot guys and girls, check out awesome cars and houses. Many people will scroll right past your promotional post and you need to be aware of that and ok with it. There are still plenty of opportunities to make sales but it is important to keep in mind that Instagram doesn’t regard eCommerce as its primary function and focus. 
  • High costs –  The cost for Instagram advertising really can add up, especially if you are in a competitive industry. Consider what I mentioned above about costs, If you are paying $5 per 1,000 visitors and you want each post to generate 5,000 visitors, that translates into $25 per post per day. If you have only one of these posts per day, over the course of a month with 30 days, you are looking at a $750 monthly expense just for that individual post. In order to build up a meaningful following and generate the sales you want to generate you may need to invest these amounts of money which can start in the few hundred dollar range per month and reach the thousand or even tens of thousand dollar range depending on how ambitious you are for your brand. Again every industry and product differs and there is always the chance that you are selling in a niche with very little competition but do note that costs can add up.

3 Best tips for beginners

#1: Upload one post with multiple items tagged

instagram ads tagging

Source: Influencer Marketing Hub

You are paying to promote each post and as such you want to make the most of every one of them. Do this by including and tagging multiple items from your store in one post. The added benefit is that you will introduce customers who are interested in a specific item to other related items. This tactic is very similar to a cross-selling approach in which you try to sell related items to an already ‘captive audience’. These additional items will appear in the ‘product page’ once someone clicks on one of them under the heading ‘also featured in this post’ which will help you increase sales via Instagram.

instagram cross selling

Source: Hootsuite

#2: Understand Instagram’s Algorithm for Maximum Results

Instagram is all about visibility. There is so much content that it is important to appear as high as possible both in people’s feeds and in the much sought after ‘Explore Tab’. The number one thing to do in this instance is to share content your target audience actually wants to engage with and not spam them with content which is not interesting. You want to use humor and make posts visually interesting and engaging. Check this post out for some inspiration:

instagram posts

Source: Adweek

Beyond ‘organic’ traffic generation, you should also make use of trending hashtags in your industry. Though this may not sound the most ‘polite’, the best way to do this is to go over competitor’s posts as well as industry influencers and copy their hashtags when relevant to your post. This will help your post appear in your target audience’s feed.

#3: Promote Your Business’s Instagram Every Chance You Get!

You want your Instagram to get as many followers and shoppers as possible. But in order to do that don’t just rely on traffic from within Instagram rather try and promote your brand’s Instagram page at any and every turn:

  • Add a little Instagram icon at the end of business emails.
  • Consider incorporating your Instagram feed on your business’s website homepage. 
  • Promote your Instagram account on Facebook and Twitter. 
  • Include an icon or images from your Instagram feed in your newsletter. 

The platform on which people view your items especially when trying to market to Millennials really does make a difference! A person who regularly uses and who tends to buy via Instagram may be interested in your item on your website yet choose to not make a purchase. But if you get them onto your Instagram page which is fun and ‘young’, you have a better chance of a conversion. 

{h4} Summing it up

Getting started with Instagram in general and Instagram advertising, in particular, can be daunting especially if you feel that you are not ‘of this generation’. I speak to many sellers in their late 20s, 30s, and even early 40s who feel so lost and confused when it comes to Instagram. I just want you to know that this is completely natural and that the world, technology, and eCommerce are evolving at a pace most of us can hardly even begin to keep up with and that is alright. All I am asking is that you familiarize yourself with Instagram as a platform and try your hand at marketing your eCommerce business there. The results may just surprise you! 

If you have any questions about marketing on Instagram or would like to share your personal experiences, please do so below in the comments section, thanks for reading!

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