Social Shopping on Instagram creates sales

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These steps ensure the success of your brand 

Social shopping is one of the leading trends in eCommerce. Social networks are becoming an additional touchpoint in the customer journey, both for marketing and sales. Instagram is particularly in focus due to its strong growth and visual orientation. Our partner TWT Interactive explains how quick sales success can be achieved with just a few steps.

In order to guarantee successful sales, a specific analysis of the target audience, creation of high-quality content, clever use of marketing measures and precisely driven ad campaigns are of crucial importance. The following approaches and measures provide you with the basis for building an active community and developing Instagram as a sales channel.

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Instagram keeps growing and growing

While Facebook is continually losing ground with the younger target group, Instagram seems to know no bounds. The platform’s reach grew again in 2018 – by nearly 20 percent. What’s even more impressive is the development in terms of Instagram advertisers. With one million active advertising customers in March 2017, only six months later that number had already doubled to two million. In addition, users in the 20–29 age bracket make up approx. 42 per cent (7.4 million individual users) of German Instagram fans, accounting for the biggest age group. Compared with the previous year, 2018 saw another rise in the average age from 27 years to 29 years, following the trend towards an older user community. 

First things first: target audience analysis

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Social networks differ widely, and Instagram, with its visual platform characteristics, stands out from the crowd of other competitors. To ensure success, companies need to develop their own tailored marketing strategies.

The first question you need to ask yourself is what target audience you wish to reach via Instagram. For this purpose, highly specific perimeters for defining the target group can be applied. These include age, gender, location, interests, aims and income. The target audience can be categorised in personalised profiles with the help of “personas”, “giving a face” to segments of the target audience. This concept helps to better understand the needs, challenges and behaviour of the ideal type of customer. Content can then be tailored more specifically.

Network searches including hashtags can be used to gain a deeper insight into the interests and profiles of relevant users: which hashtags are popular, in what sort of contexts are they used, how are user profiles structured? It can also be worthwhile to have a look at the content and follower structure of competitors. However, basing the strategy too closely on other companies and brands should be avoided, as mistakes could easily be replicated and this leaves less room for creativity and individuality.  

High-quality content is key

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Interesting content plays a major role in human communication and is of particular importance in social media networks. Still, content doesn’t grow on trees and the creation and control of sophisticated content can be complex and costly, something best left to the professionals. Instagram thrives on visual content and its successful growth is based on user-friendly options for editing photos using filters and sharing them. Emphasis should therefore be placed on high-quality visuals, e.g. for product presentations or user activation. Employees with creative and technical skills in the areas of photography, videography and editing are particularly helpful in this respect.  

Cross-functional teams can function as a powerful content hub. These are especially effective when structures and tasks are clearly defined and properly managed. A team may be made up of editors, PR specialists, creative specialists, video artists or social media managers. Young employees that also belong to the key target group can be of great help too, especially in an advisory capacity. Technical in-house specialists can make valuable contributions and provide input if they possess good communication skills or are provided with relevant support.

An editorial calendar may assist in managing and planning content to keep track of what has already been published and what should be published at a particular point in time. Fixed dates such as internal and external events, product launches or theme days and public holidays can be entered, scheduled and pre-produced if needed. 

The initial question about the frequency of postings should be addressed individually by each company. Everyone needs to find their own rhythm and general statements often fall short of specific requirements. In addition to fundamental questions concerning resources, focussing on quality is of major importance. Quality should always take priority over quantitative considerations.  

Let the brand speak with a single voice

Based on the target group analysis or buyer personas and the existing corporate design, a baseline should be established to present the brand in a consistent manner on Instagram. Similar to other marketing areas, this ensures brand recognition and easy access. This applies equally to imagery, wording and colour selection, but also to the choice of topics or the fundamental approach to current events. 

It can be helpful to imagine the brand as a person. How is this fictitious person going to act? Like a good friend, for example? How should the person appear and speak? Friendly and close, or cool and detached? Entertaining or intellectual?

How do I turn followers into customers?

Once a solid base of followers has been established, initial measures can be put in place to develop these into real customers. Here, too, mechanisms from other marketing areas come into play. 

Advertising campaigns
One of the classics of marketing communication: special offers, discounts and other promotions such as “free trials” or “buy one, get one free” work well to trigger impulse buying. Moreover, they can be promoted as an additional benefit exclusive to Instagram followers. Promotional periods and similar time-limits can provide an additional incentive. 

Teasers
Similar to other social networks, Instagram lends itself to the use of teasers to introduce new products and campaigns. This way, both user curiosity and advertising campaigns can be effectively supported during the early phase. Sharing processes utilised by users provide additional coverage.

Word of mouth marketing
Product tests are an effective way of securing new customers. Competitions and test campaigns result in reviews (mostly positive), suggestions for improvements are created and the visibility of products on Instagram increases. 

Influencer marketing
Almost standard practice these days, influencer marketing can utilise the opinion makers of a community for marketing and communication purposes. The aim is to increase the value and credibility of the relevant brand message. The usually incentivised influencers can use their reputation within the target group to exert a positive influence on the ratings of products, service or brands.

Live product launches
A live product launch can make sense, especially when combined with exclusive offers to trigger impulse buys. 

Using Instagram’s advertising features

Instagram offers several advertising features with precise targeting and tracking options – the main source of revenue for the Facebook offspring company. In 2018, the selection of possible ads was expanded again to up the click rate in particular and increase conversions. Among the new introductions were Collection Ads in the feed and Carousel Ads in the stories. Carousel Ads are particularly suited to presenting several products in a series, for example to display a product range. 

Collection Ads have an integrated product catalogue that can be used to buy products on the spot. The popular Instagram stories that have almost reached style-defining status can also be used to place ads. Relevant images or videos are created in the typical portrait format. The ad appears for a short time as a full screen ad that can be clicked, paused or swiped just like normal stories. Especially when it comes to paid advertising, the thorough analysis of the target group is vital as waste coverage can be costly and impact budget targets. Clarity in this regard allows for precisely driven and controlled campaigns, just like on Facebook for example. 

Bottom line

Instagram is an excellent sales channel, complementing existing touchpoints such as online stores. The network can be used to move the brand up close to the target group. Communication is generally friendly, emotive and characterised by impressive visuals. This not only creates sales but in the best case scenario also ensures long-term customer loyalty and fosters genuine brand ambassadors. The basis for success is a precise and ongoing target group analysis and high-quality content that strikes a chord with users. If all this is done correctly, reach can be scaled via numerous advertising possibilities.