9 ways to use Instagram for eCommerce marketing

Updated: Sep 26, 2019

Author: Paul Chaney, Practical E-commerce


The photo-sharing site Instagram is in a transition phase between personal and business use. Unlike Facebook or Pinterest, for instance, the site offers no business-specific features.

That has not stopped retailers from flocking to the site in hopes of garnering the attention of Instagram’s recently announced 300 million user base, 60 percent of whom fall between the ages of 18 and 34, according to data from Adweek. A report from digital research firm L2 found that 93 percent of premier brands have a presence on the site.


The use of Instagram is not limited to large brands. Smaller e-commerce merchants can also take advantage of its benefits.

Here are ten ideas for using Instagram to promote products, highlighting online retail brands as examples.


1. Integrate Instagram Photos into Your Ecommerce Website

In 2014, online jewelry retailer Baublebar conducted an Instagram campaign using a widget on its home page to display photos taken by customers wearing the brand’s merchandise. When users clicked one of the pictures, a pop-up window appeared showcasing the jewelry within the photo, with a link to the product page.


2. Sell Through Instagram

Instagram does not allow users to embed live hyperlinks alongside images. This makes it difficult for merchants to facilitate easy clicks to relevant product pages on their ecommerce websites. However, four app providers — Soldsie, Inselly, Instaorders, and 10Sec— found ways to retrofit the site to make it a sales channel.


Online accessory retailer Prep Obsessed used Soldsie to sell through the comments sectionof its Instagram posts. The brand’s Instagram followers left a comment using the word “Sold,” along with other information such as size, color variation, and email address. Soldsie would receive an invoice for the product to the customer’s email, which it could use to complete the purchase.

It’s worth noting that even though Instagram does not recognize hyperlinks, that does not mean you can’t use them.


3. Showcase Customers Using Products

One means to call attention to products is to post images of customers using them. Eyeglass retailer Warby Parker often applies this technique.

In the example above, a customer shared a photo of items she was packing for a trip abroad that included her Warby Parker glasses.


4. Take Lifestyle Photos

A creative way to showcase products is by using lifestyle photos, which are images that resemble real-life settings. This is a technique employed by many leading brands because it gives customers an idea of how they can utilize the brands’ products.


5. Run a Contest

Contests are a popular way to engage users on social platforms, including Instagram.

Diamond Candles runs contests using Instagram.

Diamond Candlesran a photo contest featuring a ring candle. To enter, Instagram users were asked to follow the brand and tag three friends in the comments. The brand then chose a winner from the entries.

Smaller retailers may opt to use platforms like Offerpopor Iconosquare to create photo contests. Remember to always include a contest-specific hashtag with each campaign.


6. Show Behind the Scenes Photos

Not every image has to focus on products. Allowing customers to go behind the scenes is one way to build a personal bond with the company and get a sense of its culture.

Keen used Instagram to announce a charity event.

This example from Keen Footwear shows a blackboard announcing trivia night, an event the company held in support of a local charity.


7. Celebrate the Seasons

In addition to promoting products, Zapposuses Instagram to celebrate the seasons, creating a sense of goodwill. Here are two examples of graphics that Zappos created for Thanksgiving and New Year’s Day.


8. Use Instagram’s Video Capabilities

Don’t limit the use of Instagram to photos. Take advantage of its video capabilities, as well.

Lululemon utilizes Instagram’s video capability.

This is the tactic that yoga and running gear clothing retailer Lululemon used to show a model transitioning from summer to winter running outfits.


9. Promote New Products

Promoting new or featured products is yet another way to maximize Instagram’s value.

Birchbox showcases new products via Instagram.

Online beauty subscription service Birchbox uses Instagram to show images of products it plans to include in upcoming boxes.