As the industry embraces Instagram’s new slideshow feature, Drapers speaks to retailers about its opportunities to bring a brand to life
Instagram Stories launched last month and allows users to share multiple photos and videos in a slideshow format to create their own narrative. It is being dubbed “Snapchat for adults”, according to Andrew Hall, retail analyst at Verdict.
Topshop is an early adopter of the Stories function and its global digital director, Corinne Suchy, says the way people engage with Instagram and Snapchat is fundamentally different. “Instagram has a focus on edited, high-quality imagery while channels like Snapchat are focused on ephemeral personal moments,” she says.
Charlie Cottrell, head of editorial at social media agency We Are Social agrees: “Instagram makes real-life pictures perfect while Snapchat is cheeky and rough and ready. It’s not about being a secret supermodel,” she says. Instagram Stories enables brands to create a more in-depth story while maintaining the polish, she says.
However, Hall says retailers should take advantage of the reduced pressure on the ”perfect image” that Instagram has previously had: “Instagram Stories should enable retailers to create more relaxed, relatable content, which appeals to the target customer,” he says.
Qasim Akhlaq, managing director of footwear brand Public Desire, says the Stories function takes away the concern that it is spamming its followers. A brand’s daily Story features at the top of a follower’s feed – which Akhlaq points out heightens brand visibility – and a user can choose to click through the images and videos included. “Users have the choice to view the story, which we think is important,” he says.
Sam McCreight, social media manager at Dune, agrees that it gets around the “social faux pas” of overloading followers’ feeds with multiple posts: “It’s allowed Dune to share real-time content within one social platform – rather than our audience having to switch between different platforms, everything is one place,” she says. “It’s also given the ability to expand on a particular story or campaign, adding more context to it, telling our audience more than one single post can.”
Instagram also benefits from a much larger audience than Snapchat. Umar Kamani, chief executive of young fashion etailer PrettyLittleThing, says it has its largest social media following on Instagram, which is also its fastest-growing channel. It is a similar story at womenswear marketplace SilkFred and chief executive Emma Watkinson says the beauty of Instagram Stories is that it brings Snapchat’s storytelling functionality to its vast Instagram following.
“Instagram is a paramount channel for us – it is the window to our shoppers and a place to engage with our #SFtribe, our future and present customers and brands,” she says.
McCreight says Dune is still experimenting to establish the most interesting content for its audience as the functionality is so new. “We are able to produce raw content, with a behind-the-scenes feel, allowing our followers to gain a closer look at the brand, giving a personality behind the polished Instagram posts,” she says. “Giving context to posts with a clear story makes for easily digestible content and we’ve found that content that is created to support a current campaign, promotion or story appears to be the most compelling to our audience.”
SilkFred also uses the feature to give sneak peaks at new brands and trends, using early feedback to help with sales forecasts.
Making an impact
Akhlaq says keeping your content short and snappy is important to make an immediate impact on followers. “Instagram Stories need to engage the user in as little as three to ten seconds. To do this, content needs to be short and immediately engaging to discourage users from clicking to the next story. We are constantly testing content to ensure we are delivering current content with each new story. The way our users interact with content is different across all of the channels so it’s important for us to test the content directly on to Instagram Stories itself,” he says.
Kamani says Stories can bring its loyal Instagram followers closer to the action. “If we’re having a shoot we can show our followers what’s happening live and in the moment. On Friday we had Chantel Jeffries, Justin Bieber’s ex, on a shoot so we did behind-the-scenes Stories. It’s the closest they can get to being there,” he says.
Tomasz Ebbig, who heads up local brand marketing in the UK for Zalando, says Instagram Stories is primed for influencer takeovers. “Influencers that are relevant for the target audience host the brand channel for a certain period of time,” he says.
Topshop recently showcased a book launch in its Chicago store, hosted by blogger Fleur De Force. Instagram Stories allowed users to spend a day with De Force, get a taste of what Chicago is like and see great product. “We believe that people who are watching our stories want to actively engage with what’s happening in our brand rather than passively view it in a stream,” says Suchy.
Cottrell says Topshop is already a master at Instagram, which delivers “storylines” via the images it shares; she believes the Stories function will allow this to flourish.
The narrative and pace are crucial, says Suchy: “Our followers want to move quickly through high-value content, understanding the context in which we’re presenting items and taking screenshots of the products and looks that appeal most to them,” she says.
Kamani says he views Instagram as Pretty Little Thing’s own magazine and believes Stories will help them deliver a more immersive experience: “People have moved away from magazines onto their phones. Social media is where they’re getting that experience. PLT isn’t just a shop, it’s a lifestyle and a culture. I want people to become part of our world and Stories will help them take a bigger step inside,” he says.
Cottrell believes Instagram Stories could be an important tool for smaller boutiques. “With a small budget you can produce content that is highly stylised. In some ways smaller firms might be better placed as they don’t have to sign off every post or image,” she says.
The fact that Stories are only available for a 24-hour period helps create exclusivity and urgency, which renders it a good channel for covering events. In addition, social media already plays a big role to bring fashion lovers closer to fashion shows. Burberry launched a Snapchat Live Story at its spring 16 London Fashion Week show that featured crowdsourced Burberry show-related video and imagery from the red carpet and backstage. Meanwhile, Topshop hired photographer Nick Knight to shoot and post its autumn 16 London Fashion Week show in real time on Instagram and Periscope.
Ebbig says Zalando plans to use Instagram Stories during its Bread & Butter show: “People don’t want to wait any more until the latest stories are getting published. They want to have instant access to what is happening and to what is hot right now. We want to spread Bread & Butter across Europe. With Instagram Stories, we have the best tool at hand and will make content from the Bread & Butter available,” says Ebbig. “In a time when fashion becomes more democratic, we want to reduce barriers and give consumers access to new products and stories in the fashion world first hand.”
With London Fashion Week a week away, the fledging social media feature could soon come into its own and establish itself as a favourite of social savvy fashion fans.