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Comment: How to make the most out of Instagram's impactful Shopping launch

Graeme Moran

As the social media platform finally launches its much-anticipated Shopping update in the UK, Drapers reveals some top tips to boost sales for businesses big and small.

In the most significant and long-awaited update in Instagram’s seven-year history, the Facebook-owned social media platform today announced the launch of its Shopping update in the UK, allowing all British businesses to sell their products directly via organic content posts. (It launched in the US last year).

Embedded tags, connected to products shown in images, can now smoothly link through to Instagram-hosted product description pages. These feature a “Shop Now” button that seamlessly links to retailers’ shopping pages.

While Instagram has surged in popularity, and has more than 23 million users in the UK alone, its disconnected influence on sales has always been difficult to measure. In fact, Instagram’s head of business development Amy Cole told Drapers that shopping capabilities were “hands down the most asked-for update” from both consumers and businesses.

Until now, the platform did not allow for links to be included in any organic posts, which made direct shopping impossible. Despite various platforms set up to externally link Instagram to retailers’ websites, the process remained clunky and disjointed as Instagram remained determined not to allow shopping via organic posts.

By turning uploads into shoppable, clickable content, Instagram is turning itself into a new mobile-based store front for all businesses, simply and seamlessly linking engaging content and commerce in a “one-tap shop” format for the first time.

“We have seen tremendous value and growth over the course of our experience using the tool,” says Noelle Sadler, VP Marketing at American brand Lulus, which has been using Instagram Shopping since last year, when it launched for US businesses. “We’ve found as Instagram users become accustomed to seeing these native shopping experiences, they are more inclined to shop on Instagram. Since launch, Instagram Shopping can be directly attributed to over 1,200 orders and over 100K sessions.”

“[Instagram] Shopping feels like the missing piece in our digital strategy - in fact, it’s exactly what we’ve been waiting for,” says Amber Spencer-Holmes, head of marketing at swimwear brand Heidi Klein, which was part of Instagram Shopping’s beta testing in the UK. “The interface is simple and intuitive, and we’ve already seen encouraging customer engagement over the beta period.”

The implications on the already influential world of mobile shopping are set to shake up the industry once again and put yet more spending power into the phones of engaged users. Instagram’s new potential impact on sales makes this a hugely positive development.

Instagram shopping example from us roll out

Instagram shopping example from American launch

Insider insight: Instagram’s guide for turning your account into an Instagram store:

1. To start with, make sure your Instagram app is updated with the latest software.

2. To create shopping tags your Instagram account must be a business profile. You can do this in the Settings area of your Instagram account.

3. Another essential step is to sync a product catalogue with Facebook Shop, as Instagram pulls the Facebook product feed through.

4. Once you have done this, click “options” on your Instagram business profile, scroll down and select “products”.

5. Authenticate your Instagram business account via its Facebook account.

6. Choose a product catalogue to sync with Instagram for Instagram Shopping.

7. Once set up, upload a photo to Instagram as normal. On the caption page there will now be options to tag both people and products.

8. Select “tag products” and in the search bar type the name of the product.

9. Move the tag to the correct spot on the photo.

10. Instagram will pull in all product catalogue information from Facebook, including a link back to your website from the photo. Up to five product tags can be added per photo.

11. Click “share” to set your shoppable Instagram post live.

Five top tips for getting the most out of Instagram Shopping:

Social web

Instagram shopping example from UK launch

  • In order to use Instagram Shopping, users must have a business profile, sell physical goods and have a product catalogue set up via Facebook or an integration partner. These are three easy steps and do not involve any costs. Instagram then suggests creating at least nine Shopping posts with product tags as soon as you can. This will help introduce your followers to the new functionality and, moreover, after nine posts Instagram will automatically activate the new Shop tab at the top of your account page, which will take your followers directly to your shoppable content.
  • Remember to tag multiple products in posts to increase engagement with your Shopping posts. Instagram’s head of business development Amy Cole suggests aiming for a minimum of two product tags per post to increase the number of clicks through to your product. The social media platform trailed the update in the UK with three test partners – Marks & Spencer, swimwear brand Heidi Klein and slipper brand Mahabis. Check out their content to see how they have tackled the launch.
  • “Experiment with different formats and work out what your customers find most engaging”, adds Cole. Try single images or post multiple images via the carousel format. You can also mix up different types of content: use campaign images of models or still-life photography of products, or repost user-generated content. “We’ve experimented with new ways to inspire followers to shop, from creating unique outfits in which every item is available for purchase, to showcasing user generated content, to giving shoppers real-life ideas for how to wear the items they purchase from Lulus,” says Noelle Sadler, VP Marketing at American brand Lulus, which has been using Instagram Shopping since last year, when it launched for US businesses.
  • Once you are set up, you can go back into old posts and add new shopping tags. Make sure each tag is correct and touches the related images to make the process as seamless and simple as possible.
  • Instagram recommends using the Stories function to introduce your followers to your new shoppable posts. Around 250 million people use Stories every day, and it is an easy and casual way to inform your followers about the new elements you are introducing.

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