Instagram Shopping 101: A Step-by-Step Guide for Marketers
Forget the mall: these days, Instagram is the place to shop til you drop.
Sure, there’s no Orange Julius for a mid-spree snack sesh, but Instagram Shopping brings the retail experience to social media to reach an audience of more than 1 billion monthly users.
Rather than directing customers from your Instagram account to your website, Instagram Shopping allows them to select and purchase products easily from the app.
More than 130 million users tap on an Instagram Shopping post each month — foot traffic a brick-and-mortar shop owner could only dream of. So if you have products to sell, it’s time to set up your virtual storefront. Let’s get started.
In this post, you’ll learn:
- Why you should be using Instagram shopping
- How to set up Instagram shopping posts and Stories
- How to optimize your shoppable posts to drive sales and engagement
Bonus: Download a free checklist that reveals the exact steps a lifestyle photographer used to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers on Instagram with no budget and no expensive gear.
What is Instagram shopping?
Instagram Shopping is a feature that allows ecommerce brands to create a digital, shareable catalog of their products right on Instagram.
Users can learn more about products right in the app, and either purchase directly on Instagram (with Checkout) or click through to finish the transaction on the brand’s ecommerce site.
Sharing products or promoting sales on Instagram is nothing new. According to Instagram, 87% of users say influencers have inspired them to make a purchase, and 70% of avid shoppers turn to the platform to discover new products.
In the past, the only option for e-tail brands to directly drive sales traffic from a ‘gram was either through their bio link, or via clickable Instagram Stories.
With these new Instagram Shopping features, the whole process is streamlined. See it, like it, buy it, in a few clicks: the full Ariana Grande cycle.
Here are a few key details and terms that every Instagram retailer should know before they get started:
An Instagram Shop is a brand’s customizable digital storefront, which allows customers to shop right from your Instagram profile. Think of it as a landing page where users can discover or browse all your products.
Product Detail Pages display all of the key product information, from the item description to the price to photography. The product detail page will also pull in any product-tagged images on Instagram.
Collections are a way that Shops can present products in a curated group — basically, it’s like merchandising your digital front window. Think: “Cute Spring Outfits,” “Handmade Pottery,” or “Nike x Elmo Collab.”
Use a Shopping Tag to tag products from your catalog in your Stories or Instagram posts, so your audience can click through to learn more or buy. U.S. businesses who use Instagram’s limited Checkout feature can also tag products in post captions and bios. (You can also use Shopping Tags in ads! Yowza!)
With Checkout (currently only available in select regions), customers can purchase products directly in Instagram, without leaving the app. (For brands without Checkout functionality, customers will be directed to a checkout page on the brand’s own ecommerce site.)
The new Shop discovery tab on the Instagram app provides a discovery tool for non-followers, too. Scroll through goods from brands big and small, all around the world: it’s window-shopping 2.0.
How to get approved for Instagram shopping
Before you can set up Instagram Shopping, you need to ensure your business checks a few boxes for eligibility.
How to set up Instagram shopping
Step 1: Convert to a Business or Creator Account
If you don’t already have a Business (or Creator) account on Instagram, it’s time to take the plunge.
Besides qualifying you for Instagram Shopping features, Business accounts also have access to all sorts of exciting analytics… and can use Hootsuite’s scheduling dashboard for posts, too.
Plus, it’s free. Get on it! Here’s our step-by-step guide to switching your personal account over (and 10 reasons why you should!).
Step 2: Connect To a Facebook Page
You can’t have an Instagram Shop without a Facebook Page, so hopefully you have one already. If not, set one up in seven easy steps. I’ll wait.
Now, time to link the two!
1. On Instagram, go to Edit Profile.
2. Under Public Business Information, select Page.
3. Choose your Facebook Business Page to connect.
Step 3: Upload your product catalog
Okay, this is the part where you actually upload all of your products. You’ve got a couple of different options here. You can either input every product manually into Facebook Business manager, or integrate a pre-existing product database from a certified ecommerce platform (like Shopify or BigCommerce.)
Hot tip: Hootsuite has a Shopify integration now, so it’s super simple to manage your catalog right from your dashboard!
Let’s walk through each catalog creation option step-by-step.
Option A: Facebook Business Catalog Manager
1. Logged into your Facebook Business account, go to Commerce Manager.
2. Click Get Started and select Create a Catalog.
3. Select Ecommerce (products) and click next.
4. Select how you’d like to add items to your catalog: in this case, choose Upload Product Info.
5. Assign this catalog to your Business Manager account.
6. Enter a name for your catalog.
7. Click Create.
8. Head back to Commerce Manager and select your catalog.
9. Open up the Catalog tab and navigate to Items.
10. Select Add Items, then Add Manually, and hit next.
11. Upload an image of your item — this should be at least 500 x 500 pixels.
12. Enter a name, description, and other details. Get specific so the SEO overlords can help shoppers find your great goods.
13. In the Item Category section, select your specific category.
14. Under Create Variants, add different sizes or colors if desired.
15. When you’re done, click Finish… or hit Add Another Item and start back at step 12.
Option B: Integrate an Ecommerce Database
1. Go to Commerce Manager.
2. Open the Catalog tab and go to Data Sources.
3. Select Add Items, then Use a Partner Platform, then hit next.
4. Select your platform of choice: Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CommerceHub, Feedonomics, CedCommerce, adMixt, DataCaciques, Quipt or Zentail.
5. Follow the link to the partner platform website and follow the steps there to connect your account with Facebook.
Step 3: Submit your account for review
At this point, you’ll need to submit your account for review. These reviews usually take a couple of days, but sometimes it might run longer.
- Go to your Instagram profile settings.
- Tap Sign Up for Instagram Shopping.
- Follow the steps to submit your account for review.
- Check the status of your application by visiting Shopping in your Settings.
Step 4: Turn on Instagram Shopping
Once you’ve passed the account review process, it’s time to connect your product catalog with your Instagram Shop.
- Go to your Instagram profile settings.
- Tap Business, then Shopping.
- Select the product catalog you’d like to connect.
- Tap Done.
If you have a Business or Creator account and you live in the U.S., you may be eligible for Instagram Checkout, which allows users to complete their purchases directly through Instagram. Get more information on setting up your Checkout functionality here!
How to create Instagram shopping posts
Your digital shop is shined up and gleaming. Your product inventory is bursting at the seams. You’re ready to start making that money — all you need is a customer or two.
Let the world know what you’re hawking with a shoppable Instagram post.
- Upload a photo just like a regular post — jazz it up with a caption, effects and filters as you see fit.
- Tap on Tag Products, then tap on the photo where you’d like the tag to appear.
- Start typing the name of the products you want to tag. (Note: this must correspond to names in your product catalog.)
- Select your product and hit Done.
- Tap Share to post your first shoppable post to your feed!
You can tag up to five products per post — that goes for video posts, too!
Shoppable Instagram posts will feature a shopping bag icon in the bottom left corner. All the products your account has tagged will appear on your profile under the Shopping tab.
How to create Instagram Shopping Stories
Use the Stickers function to tag a product in your Instagram Story.
Upload or create your content for your story as usual, then hit the sticker icon in the top-right corner. Find the Product sticker, and from there, choose the applicable product from your catalog.
(Hot tip: You can customize your product sticker to match the colors of your Story.)
How to create Instagram Shopping ads
Either boost a Shoppable post that you’ve already created, or build an ad from scratch in Ads Manager using the Instagram Product tags. Easy!
Ads with product tags can either drive to your ecommerce site, or open up Instagram Checkout if you have that functionality.
Check out our guide to Instagram advertising here for more information on Ads Manager.
How to create an Instagram live shopping stream
In many parts of the world, livestream shopping is a regular part of ecommerce culture. With the introduction of Instagram Live Shopping, the practice is about to go worldwide.
Basically, Instagram Live Shopping allows creators and brands to sell products during an Instagram Live broadcast — like your own personal Home Shopping Network.
It’s a powerful tool, so it deserves its own in-depth blog post. Luckily, we wrote one. Get the 4-1-1- on Live Shopping on Instagram here.
How to create Instagram Shopping Guides
One of the latest features on the app, Instagram Guides are like mini blogs that live right on the platform.
For users with an Instagram Shop, this can be a great way to promote products with a bit of an editorial angle: think gift guides or trend reports.
1. From your profile, click the plus symbol in the upper right corner.
2. Select Guide.
3. Tap Products.
4. Search by account for the product listing you’d like to include. If you’ve saved the product to your wishlist, you can find it there also.
5. Select the product you’d like to add and tap Next. You can choose to include multiple posts for a single entry if available. They will be displayed like a carousel.
6. Add your guide title and description. If you would like to use a different cover photo, tap Change Cover Photo.
7. Double check the pre-populated place name, and edit as needed. If you wish, add a description.
8. Tap Add Products and repeat steps 4–8 until your guide is complete.
9. Tap Next in the upper right corner.
10. Tap Share.
12 tips for selling more products with Instagram shopping
Now that your virtual shelves are stocked, it’s time to catch a potential buyer’s eye.
Here some best practices for encouraging users to shop ‘til they drop. (Or should that be “‘Gram til they… blam?” Hmmm, still workshopping that one.)
1. Use striking visuals
Instagram is a visual medium, so your products better be looking good out there in the grid! Prioritize high-quality photos and videos to keep your wares looking professional and appealing.
Just take a look at the playful way fashion brand Lisa Says Gah displays its tote bags: dangling from an arm that’s holding a bottle of wine.
Make sure you’re up-to-date with the most recent image and video specs (Instagram sometimes changes things up), and that photos and videos are high-resolution whenever possible.
If you can, give your product shots an exciting, editorial vibe, showcasing your goods in action or in a real-world setting. Sharing beautiful details shots can be an eye-catching option too.
Or, get experimental with these photo editing tools to really stand out from the crowd.
2. Add hashtags
Using relevant Instagram hashtags is a smart strategy for all posts, including shopping content.
They’ll increase the likelihood that you’ll be discovered by someone new, opening up a whole new opportunity for potential engagement.
Searching the #shoplocal tag, for instance, brings up a plethora of small businesses — like epoxy artist Dar Rossetti — that I can buy from right on the spot.
Using the right hashtags can also help you land on the Explore page, which has a special “Shop” tab and is visited by more than 50% of Instagram users each month (that’s more than half a billion people).
3. Share a sale or promotional code
Everyone loves a good deal, and running a promotional campaign is a surefire way to drive sales.
Leisurewear brand Paper Label is promoting a sale on its essentials in the caption. Interested users can just click through to take advantage of the deal, and be decked out in spandex in no time.
When you promote the code directly in your shoppable Instagram posts, it’s even easier for customers to act.
4. Show your product in action
The most popular type of video content on Instagram is the tutorial or how-to video. And this format is ideal for shopping posts, because it offers viewers product education and proof-of-concept.
Here, Woodlot shows one of its essential-oil-based soaps in action, lathered right up to transport you right to bathtime.
5. Be authentic
The principles of social media engagement all apply to product posts, too… and that includes the golden rule of authenticity.
There’s no need to stick to product copy. Your personality and voice should shine through here! Don’t miss the opportunity to connect with your audience with a thoughtful caption that offers surprising insight or an emotional connection. What inspired the piece? How was it made? Storytelling is a sales tool as old as time.
Postpartum care company One Tough Mother backs up all of its product posts with empathetic, often funny insights about new motherhood.
6. Play with color
Color is always eye-catching, so don’t be afraid to embrace a vibrant hue as a background for your product shot.
Artist Jackie Lee shares her graphic prints on a neon-colored background for maximum impact.
If you’re noticing a particular color palette trending among influencers, swerve to something that contrasts to stop scrollers in their tracks.
7. Establish a signature style
Having a consistent aesthetic on Instagram will help you improve your brand recognition and establish your identity.
It also helps customers scrolling through their feed or browsing the Explore tab to recognize your posts at a glance.
Sebastian Sochan makes hand-tufted rugs in London, and shoots all of his pieces in displayed in unique ways throughout his studio. The color palette and lighting remain the same in every scene.
Your signature style on Instagram should be consistent with your brand visuals elsewhere. Your website, ads, and product packaging should all fit together, with complementary images.
8. Be inclusive
If you want your brand to reach a wide audience, you need to ensure your images are meaningfully representative.
With over a billion users, it’s safe to say that Instagram users are a diverse group.
But too often, the people in Instagram promotions and images look the same: white, able-bodied, slim. Embrace all your potential customers with models who showcase all the different body types that are out there.
Period-product brand Aisle uses models of all genders, sizes and race in the promotion of its products.
Another inclusivity tip: Caption your images descriptively so that visually impaired users can still learn all about your amazing product.
9. Share user-generated content
User-generated content (UGM) refers to any posts or Stories from Instagram users that feature your products.
Not only do these posts provide new, real images of your photos in action, they also boost your credibility. That’s because posts from real users are considered more authentic, and that authenticity translates to higher trust. They’re like visual testimonials.
Mother Funk boutique in Toronto regularly re-posts photos of locals wearing their clothing.
10. Create a captivating carousel
Show off your range with a carousel that showcases a variety of products. It’s a quick way for users to get a broader look at your latest collection, without having to tap allll the wayyyy to your Instagram Shop.
11. Collaborate with tastemakers
Team up with a tastemaker to help spread your product posts further. Invite an influencer or person you admire to curate a special Collection of their favorite goods from your catalog.
One example: Linens brand Droplet teamed up with Canadian influencer Jillian Harris to create a special line of products. The cross-promotion helped expose its products to a whole new set of eyes.
You’ll tag them in all of your posts; they’ll share with their own audience (and get a warm fuzzy feeling that you admire their sense of style). Win-win!
12. Craft compelling CTAs
Nothing pairs better with a beautiful photo than a compelling call to action. A call to action is an instructive phrase that pushes the reader to take action — whether that’s “Buy now!” or “Share with a friend!” or “Get it before it’s gone!”
Eyewear brand Warby Parker, for example, gives followers the exact instruction they need to shop right away: “Tap the [shopping bag icon] to get yours!”
Brush up on your CTAs over here on the blog, and wield your new power responsibly.
Shopping on Instagram is only going to grow in popularity, and it’s just a matter of time until features like Instagram Checkout is global. So there’s no time like the present to dive in and find out how much it can benefit your business, as part of your overall social media strategy. Let the digital shopping sprees begin!
Save time managing your Instagram presence using Hootsuite. From a single dashboard you can integrate your social networks with your Shopify store, add products to any social media post, respond to comments with product suggestions. Try it free today.
With files from Michelle Cyca.
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