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How retailers are using Instagram's Shopping update

Discover some tips and practical examples of how brands and retailers – large and small – are already making the most of Instagram’s new Shopping update.

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Last month social media platform Instagram announced the long-awaited launch of its Shopping update in the UK, following a US launch in late 2017.

UK brands and businesses can now turn their Instagram content into easily shoppable posts, directly linking to online product pages and creating a new, seamless shopping experience.

With 500 million people logging on to the platform every day, this has unleashed Instagram’s power as an important storefront for fashion businesses.

“I think the Shopping update is a great addition,” says social media consultant Lisa Maynard-Atem. “As someone who uses Instagram to make purchasing decisions, I love the fact that I can now buy something I like without ever having to leave the app.”

The former social media manager for Harrods adds: “From a business perspective, the opportunity to drive sales has increased massively.”

However, research by retail technology provider Cybertill reveals that the sales feature has “been ignored by more than 80% of retailers in its first week”.

Big name retailers such as Asos and Zara have still not posted any shoppable content via Instagram.

“It’s surprising that more retailers didn’t begin integrating it into their marketing when it launched,” says Cybertill chief executive Ian Tomlinson. “We researched the top 50 retailers in the UK and found few retailers using the feature a week after its launch.

“The Shopping update is extremely useful to customers because it removes the effort required to find products. Making it easy to push product promotions on Instagram is a game changer, especially if retailers utilise influencer marketing.

“This Shopping feature may even be a tipping point for some luxury retailers already prominent on Instagram that are a little shy of ecommerce to start selling online.”

Variety is the spice of life

Retailers that have utlised Shopping have been experimenting with the type of content used, but the key is to see it as an upgrade – an added layer to engaging posts.

Instagram has always been a visual platform to show off excellent imagery and a number of brands are using content created in-house to show off shoppable products.

“Retailers should do regular photoshoots with products and models to make ‘Insta-worthy’ images, as these may be different from the kind of product shots retailers use on their ecommerce websites,” says Tomlinson.

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Next’s brand-focused Instagram account Label (@nextofficial_label) features some great examples of still-life, “flat-lay” photography of full outfits – including a jacket, T-shirt, trousers and shoes. What stands out here is that not only does the imagery successfully show off several different products in one piece of content, but each item is clickable via the Shopping update, allowing customers to buy the entire outfit in a handful of clicks.

In another example of this, River Island curates a rail of products with each item tagged, which allows the retailer to create a single post with an edit of different products in a visually appealing way.

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Introduce your followers to the update

Instagram recommends using Instagram Stories – the video-based element of the platform – to introduce the new Shopping update to your followers. You can also post to your main feed “how to” guides that explain the new technology, and featuring the update on your email newsletters is another way to boost click-throughs on your first shoppable posts.

Don’t abandon your established shopping tips

While the new Shopping update will make shopping directly from your Instagram feed possible, some retailers have smartly not abandoned the usual tips and tricks used to help customers find the products they want via their social platforms.

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For instance, Boohoo has integrated the shopping tags to new posts but also still includes product codes in captions so customers can search for the precise items they want directly on its website.

For the time being, as Instagram users become accustomed to the upgrade, keeping these details in your posts will help transition your audience into the new way of shopping.

Your followers are your biggest asset

User-generated content – or images created by followers featuring retailer’s products – is a simple way to create shoppable content that will appeal to your audience.

Topshop has utilised this to great effect, while womenswear brand Lavish Alice is also reposting content from influencers and followers.

“Lavish Alice’s strategy of combining shoppable posts with influencer- and user-generated content makes its products much more desirable to its audience, which is a very clever tactic,” says Maynard-Atem.

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Marks and Spencer, which was part of Instagram’s beta testing before the official launch, has also done this well. It has been reposting content created by celebrities wearing its products, which has the double win of a celebrity endorsement and a feeling of authentic, user-generated content.

Don’t overdo it

The much-anticipated Shopping update finally means that brands and retailers can turn Instagram accounts into direct vehicles for sales, but do not overdo it. You should integrate the new capabilities into your current social media strategy, but remember not to shove the sales aspect into your followers’ faces in every single new post.

“Ensure there is a healthy mix of sales and non-sales content,” adds Maynard-Atem. “Sales are important but less is definitely more. If your audience feels that you are being too sales driven, they may switch off to your messaging.”

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