How E-Commerce Merchants are Driving Sales with Instagram

The rise of Instagram has been meteoric in the past 5 years. Since its launch as a free mobile app in 2010, it took just 2 years for it to be bought out by Facebook for $1 billion.

80% of internet users now own a smartphone and mobile commerce in the US alone is worth more than $100 billion every year.

In September last year Instagram surpassed Twitter’s user count of 400 million users. However, it is widely ignored by ecommerce businesses as a valid marketing option.

The preconception with retailers is..”It’s just pictures, how can I get sales to my site from that?”.

This can be understandable, but below are a few practical tips that can ensure that you are utilizing Instagram effectively.


In order for Instagram to categorize your photo and for potential customers to find your photos you need to be using hashtags effectively.

A free tool like Hashtagify can help you identify other potential hashtags. Let’s say for example that you sell Protein Shakes, you could enter the keywords below so it would bring in a relevant audience.


Content = Inspiration + Promotion + UGC

It’s important to remember that with social media, you can’t just constantly upload product pictures.  If your content is engaging then the odd promotional post will be acceptable to your followers.

This example from Shopify is a great example of posting something engaging, but is also subtle in its message. Shopify offers an ecommerce solution and this post suggests that what they offer could help you achieve your goals.

Try and challenge your followers. Let’s use the example of protein shakes again, show a statistic of how many people only use their gym membership once. This will empower people and give them an opportunity to prove people wrong.

A good free tool to create great designs on Instagram for free is Canva. This allows you to use stock image and fonts with no design experience.

When you are receiving engagement on your posts and you feel it’s time to promote your products… Use Canva again to add a discount code to your photo. Make it exclusive to Instagram so you can monitor the performance of it.

Here’s an example from Blakely Clothing which highlights this brilliantly. Unfortunately Instagram doesn’t allow for links to be clickable in the caption, so stick the link in your bio and mention it’s there in the caption.


A great way to increase your followers and to drive sales to your website is to create a contest.

The biggest thing to remember with a contest is…KEEP IT SIMPLE. This example from Protein World simply asks for a regram to enter and win.

Grow Followers

It’s common sense but the more followers you have, the more chances you have of converting them. With Crowdfire, not only can you gain more followers but you can ensure that they are relevant.

Just simply enter a competitor’s name or relevant account that contains your target market into the search bar. You are then able to bulk follow people and unfollow any that don’t follow back.


Blindly posting pictures at any given moment isn’t a tactic worth deploying. With Skippr you can monitor growth, track your competitors, review hashtags and most importantly discover the times your audience is most engaged with you.

Social media, in general, can be a time-consuming process, however, Skippr makes Instagram marketing easier and quicker. Additionally, you can schedule tweets and use captions as templates to speed up your posting.

User Generated Content

Another great way of using Instagram to increase sales is via user generated content (UGC).

Black Milk Clothing does this very well by using a specific hashtag for each of their products. If this is used on Instagram, it is then pulled through to the product page.

This is a great way of showing your product in use and displaying its popularity. A plugin such as Instagration can make this possible.

You should also look to post pictures of your products in use on your Instagram feed, as this creates a real community feel.

Influencer Marketing

Perhaps the best way to increase sales via Instagram though is to get someone else to do it.

Consumers are becoming much more savvy now and don’t want to be directly sold at, so if you can find somebody they will listen to, then even better.

The example above is how Lyfe Tea used Kylie Jenner to promote their product. Of course, you may not have the budget to afford a celebrity, but there are cost-effective ways of doing so.

Using a tool like Webstagram can help you identify influential accounts related to your store.

Simply enter a hashtag into the search bar and this will bring up a list of accounts that would be suitable.

What you can do from here is scour the bios of the Instagram profiles to find an email address. Additionally, you can follow the accounts and if you get a follow back, you can direct message them.

Simply request whether that account can post a picture of your product and mention your Instagram account. Some might do it for free, some might request a fee, others might not promote at all, so don’t get too disheartened.

Time to Act/Your Turn to Get Active on Instagram/etc (make it a call to action)

Social Media is playing a big role in referring customers to your website, with Instagram sitting to the side, waiting to be untapped. Through the use of UGC, influencer marketing, contests and a growing follower base, you can ensure you’ll be one step ahead of your competition.

Richard Protheroe

Richard Protheroe is a marketing executive at Veeqo. They provide inventory management software for retailers selling on multiple channels.



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