Thinking about expanding your product-based business to Instagram, but don’t know where to start… or how to actually make it profitable and worth the time? Instagram is now one of the more common ways to both shop online and sell physical goods, alongside the giants like Amazon and Walmart. In 2019, a study conducted by Facebook showed that 54% of responders made a purchase in real-time or shortly after seeing a product on Instagram.

Why Should I Sell on Instagram?

Instagram Shop is an ecommerce gold mine on social media because it gets rid of the extra steps customers would have to take on a regular Instagram page. Instead of having to redirect from the post to the profile page to click the link in the Instagram bio, then having to redirect to the company’s website, find the product, and check out, the user gets to check out straight from the post of the product they want.

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Source: Instagram

That said, because with shoppable posts, you are eliminating the number of steps the potential buyer has to take to place the order, you are also shortening the amount of time between the initial moment of “wanting” your product, thinking about it, and the final moment of clicking “buy”. This, in turn, results in increasing your chances of converting more sales.

If you’re looking to start another avenue for your ecommerce store to collect sales, you can incrementally grow an Instagram Shop into a good chunk of change over time, given you’ve put in the effort, resources, and proper strategy. On the other hand, if you don’t have a large Instagram following, the time to grow one, or a budget for Instagram ads, you might conclude that selling on Instagram isn’t worth it right now for you and your business, and that’s okay too.

To gain success with an Instagram Shop, you need to put in the hours, the funds, and social media strategies. You, as the business owner, are the one responsible for setting up the shop, listing the products, creating Instagram shopping posts, social media marketing, and providing customer service via comments and direct messages. The part that Instagram takes care of is the store hosting, updating the tools for you to make shopping more user-friendly, the ability to add links, and having a pool of users who might be interested in what you have for sale. 

There is a multitude of separate costs that could be obstacles to your business growth outside Instagram selling, including:

  • Purchasing a domain
  • Monthly subscription to web hosting
  • Figuring out google ads and digital marketing
  • Web design
  • Separate phone for customer support

Why You Need A Free Instagram Business Account

Starting an Instagram business account, especially an Instagram Shop, is ideal if you want to take advantage of all the features the platform has to offer to help you run a professional online store. Maintaining a website with a storefront can cost a lot more money, especially in the beginning stages of your ecommerce business, than running a free Instagram business account. Think of your profile as like a free landing page.

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With a website, you have to have enough capital to pay for the domain, web hosting, design, plugin features, and the list goes on. When you have an Instagram business account, you get rid of the need to set up a “store location” on the web, the tools are built into the app and you simply “fill in the blanks’’.

Having an Instagram business account does not keep you limited to one social media platform either. Because Facebook, now called Meta, owns Instagram, this opens up your potential customer reach to people on your Facebook business page too (if you’re planning on running ads, it’s as simple as checking off an extra box during the process). 

What’s awesome too, is that because of the built-in business features with Instagram, you have an avenue to promote your products where you don’t have to be too salesy.

How to Sell Your Products on Instagram 

There is a lot more involved in setting up a business profile and an Instagram Shop than just figuring out your username, writing your bio, typing in your business address, and taking pictures of your products. You are going to want to be one hundred percent certain that your Instagram app has all of the features properly set up from the beginning, this way, the sales process will be smooth. If you follow the step-by-step guide listed below, you will be a step closer to launching an awesome ecommerce store on Instagram.

Shop Directly in the App With Instagram Shopping

The first thing I recommend before setting up your Instagram Shop is to actually start shopping directly in the app yourself from an Instagram post. In any business model, you are going to want to do market research, so if you start shopping on Instagram yourself as a consumer, you will pick up on how you want your shop to look and what the potential buyer might be thinking. If you already have opinions about what you like about this one store, and what you wish this other store had, then your store can have a head start in the game. 

If you aren’t sure what to buy or where to look, start by simply looking up Instagram shoppable posts for what you usually buy elsewhere. For example, if you already have a pair of running shoes in the cart on Nike.com that you are going to get your son for Christmas, take out your phone and check out the same pair of shoes from the @nike shop to see for yourself. Be on the lookout for promos by the way! Many times you can take 20% off your purchase on your first Instagram order.

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Once you know how you want your Instagram Shop to look and how easy you want the shopping experience to feel for your customers, you’ll be warmed up for the setup process.

How to set up Instagram Shopping

Got your Instagram profile switched from personal to business? Perfect. Let’s move on.

Like with any product listing on a third-party site, you’re going to need to meet criteria and get your store approved before the list of your products becomes available to view and purchase by the public. Check to see that your location has availability for your Instagram profile to participate with Instagram Shopping, read through Instagram’s policies, and also get your Instagram connected to your business’s Facebook page.

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To get your catalog of products uploaded for review, if starting from scratch you can create each listing by hand in Facebook Business Manager, or if you already have an ecommerce site with a popular provider like Shopify, you can do an auto-connect.

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Once your listings are uploaded, you can go ahead and submit them for review. Once submitted, the next step I’d recommend you take is to have patience, and focus on your Facebook page or other parts of your ecommerce business in the meantime. You might not hear back from Instagram for a few days, and when you do, you might need to answer a few more questions, in addition to claiming your website domain if you went the auto-connect route.

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Tag Products In Your Posts to Boost Sales

Got approved by Instagram? Did you make it through to the other side? – Congrats! That was the hardest part. Here’s where the fun comes in, it’s time to write some Instagram captions and schedule posts.

Tagging products is the easy part because it’s only adding a few extra steps to creating posts (which you already know how to do).

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Source: Oberlo

Go to create posts as you would normally do. Once you’ve got the product photo uploaded from your camera roll, go to product tags (similar to how you would tag your friends!). 

Simply tap where the product is on the screen, and instead of searching for your friend’s account, search for the matching product.

Then, continue with the usual posting flow. Easy peasy, I told you, right? Once you have 9 posts with tagged products (think one full grid’s worth), then you will get the “Shop” tab to show up on your profile.

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Highlight Products with Collections

It’s a good practice to get in the habit of tagging a few products at a time. For example, if you have a jewelry business and you just launched an earth tones collection for Fall, try posting a picture where the model is wearing the earrings, the necklace, the ring, and the bracelet. And tag each product! This increases the chance of catching the eye of the viewer who’s scrolling, who might find something they like that’s different from the next person. 

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Then it increases the chance of someone loving how it all looks together and ordering a few pieces, if not, the whole collection, thus increasing the amount you earned from one Instagram sale!

Share engaging content on social media

Since you don’t ‘need’ to pay to increase engagement, you can do so by taking advantage of the different features Instagram has to offer for free, and by incentivizing participation from your audience. It’s an affordable skillset that will save you money on ad spend in the long run if you can create more engaging content in the first place.

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An easy way you can make your content more engaging is simply by remembering to include a call-to-action at the end of your caption such as, “tap to shop”. It’s not complicated, to the point, an accepted term on the platform, and doesn’t come across as too salesy. Break up the shameless plugs with questions for the audience, where they can answer in the comments. 

Every now and then, remind people in your posts to direct message you if they have any questions. Providing customer service in the DMs makes everyone’s life easier, and your customers will respond to that.

Oh and don’t forget those hashtags! You only need a maximum of 6-8 per post.

The Power of Instagram Reels

Gaining attention from potential buyers on your Instagram account is much easier to do nowadays than say, on Twitter, because of video content. And specifically, Instagram Reels.

Adam Mosseri, the Head of Instagram made an official announcement that the platform is transitioning into a video-sharing app.

Marketing for a product-based business on Instagram with a tight budget relies heavily on using whatever the latest feature the platform has recently launched in order to gain algorithmic favor. Right now, Reels are what’s in.

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Source: Later

I know you can take a million amazing product photos under the sun, and that’s great! Don’t let go of that. However, don’t put off Instagram video marketing either!

If you get started posting Reels today for your ecommerce business on Instagram, you can increase the number of Instagram users’ eyes on your product dramatically without ad spend! You don’t have to reinvent the wheel either. The important thing is that you just incorporate it into your content strategy. 

Check out the trends, see what other creators are posting that you’re seeing the same themes, buttons, or hashtags over and over again. That means it’s a trend! If you “hop on the trends” with your product making a cameo appearance in your Reels, I can guarantee you won’t regret it.

Connect With Your Audience Using Behind-The-Scenes Content

Before we go too far down a rabbit hole here with tips and tricks and strategies and marketing, let’s take a step back to remember that Instagram is social media, it’s a social platform, meant for, you guessed it, socializing!

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At the end of the day, no matter what business model you have or how comfortable you are as a salesperson, people buy from people. Some of the most successful small businesses on Instagram right now are having so much success because they’re having fun on the app with their followers. No amount of product stickers will ever outperform being a human being.

Highlight Products with Appealing Flat Lays

Branding is all about having a unique look, a certain aesthetic, that when people see your colors or your layout, they feel a certain way and subconsciously connect that photo to your company.

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Having a clean, branded Instagram feed is a lot more feasible today for small businesses than it was just a few years ago. Need to start from scratch? I know of a great branding guide here that will show you step by step how to pick your brand colors, fonts, and set it up in Canva (for free ninety-nine!) 

Instagram started as a photography platform, and its roots in the importance of visuals still stand strong. 

Here are some quick, rapid-fire tidbit tips:

  • Lightbox or solid background at ground level with a camera and ring light pointing down at the product
  • Making graphics? Have at least two go-to background colors, two font colors, and two font types.
  • Make a list of 5 Instagram accounts that their ecommerce business is crushing it right now, and save at least 5 photos to try to recreate with your products. Pay close attention to getting the lighting and angles right!

Educate & Spark Inspiration with Tutorials 

Let’s use Sally The Soap Maker for an example here. Sally went viral on Instagram and got a huge influx of orders overnight thanks to her all-natural, all-purpose cleaner spray recipe Reels.

She showed people a little behind the scenes into her kitchen where she makes her soaps and fulfills orders. She showed, using her soap products of course, how you can take her one product and stretch its value by also using it as an inexpensive alternative to chemical sprays that are price gouged at the stores. 

By showing people how, with just one bar of her soap (the same price as a 16oz bottle of spray cleaner at the store) you can create literally gallons of all-purpose cleaning solution, she educated the public on how to save money. And inspired them to transition into using non-toxic products around their children and pets.

By showing how her product is multi-use and provides more benefits, more people connected with her through this tutorial, and that inclined them to click “buy now”.

By gaining all this attention and hopping on the algorithm wave with Instagram, Sally now has more brand awareness and engagement on her account, making getting people to check out a bit easier going forward.

Moral of the story? Be like Sally.

Integrate Shopify with Facebook & Instagram

Nowadays complicated code isn’t really an obstacle anymore when it comes to smoothly integrating two tools to actually do what they want you to do.

Shopify is one of my favorite ecommerce platforms because they easily integrate with Facebook and Instagram, saving you time and making it easier to market your products.

Partner with Affiliates & Influencers

Many Instagram influencers use affiliate partnerships to sell products as a passive income stream for their business model. If a morally sound influencer naturally uses and loves your product, odds are they will mention it, be asked about it, or show your product(s) in their content.

This is why they love affiliate partnerships. They are the ones who grow Instagram followers, tag branded content, list affiliate links on IGTV videos, and use similar tactics mentioned above to start selling your product for you so they get those commission checks.

Having affiliates is relatively easy to set up with tools like Shopify, and in a sense, the more affiliates your ecommerce store has, the more salespeople you have. The best part is, you don’t have to pay anything upfront if you don’t want to! Making it a lucrative way to drive people to your Instagram business profile and sell more on Instagram, even if you’re starting from scratch.

What Is Affiliate Marketing?

To put it simply, Affiliate Marketing is when a retailer provides a content creator a link or code to plug in their copy. When a viewer clicks on the link or types in the code and completes a purchase, the retailer provides the content creator a commission for the sale.

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Selling on Instagram logistics-wise is relatively easy, even for micro-influencers, because a personal account has access to certain features for branded content.

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If you set up an affiliate code and make some genuine connections with influencers who have genuine audiences, word of mouth will take it from there.

Instagrammers will help sell your product for you using these same features in the app! Because they genuinely love your product and want to make that commission.

What Is Influencer Marketing?  

Instagram sales also can come from Influencer Marketing. You might want to consider partnering with influencers and sending them free products, or perhaps, paying them to do a campaign of sponsored posts. And you definitely want to do your due diligence beforehand.

These days, Joe Schmoe with 5,000 human being followers could bring more sales your way through influencer posts whereas Wally Wattles with 10,000 followers that he bought from China could leave you at a loss (cue the crickets or cue world’s smallest violin).

Before you pass go and they collect two hundred dollars, definitely use a tool for detecting fake followers on their social media platforms (Influencer Marketing Hub has a free one).

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It’s super important to get exactly what the influencer’s Instagram insights are because you want to make sure they will be able to help you build brand awareness, bring more traffic and potential customers your way, and drive sales as much as possible. There are a number of tools out there to help you with managing influencer relationships, personally, we use BuzzSumo.

Share User-Generated Content (UGC)

Repost people wearing or using your products, and give them a shoutout as a thank you! It’s a great feeling when people get attention from their favorite brands, it’s connections like these that help build those lifelong customers who will support small business owners and rave about your company.

Leverage Instagram Stories

Don’t forget to tag your products in Instagram Stories too! 

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Some people scroll their feed, others let their stories autoplay through, and we can’t forget about them.

Tease products with countdown stickers 

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You can make your content more engaging by using the countdown sticker in Instagram stories to build hype for product launches. I definitely recommend posting a countdown sticker for every single launch and sale.

Go Live to share new product launches 

Customers love to be involved in the process, appreciate other people’s talents and craftsmanship, and when they see that skincare routine in action, or their orders being fulfilled by you, it’s not only cool but they gain more trust in you as a provider!

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Source: Instagram

For example, try going live for an ASMR soap-making sesh with cool lighting of you packing and shipping orders on the day of the launch. You can save the recordings to turn into Reels too!

Use the link sticker to drive site traffic 

Now available to ALL accounts as of 10/27/2021

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Remember the swipe-up feature? Yeah, well it used to be that you needed to have 10,000 followers on your accounts before you could even have access to that feature for selling!

Now, as an incentive to help out small businesses and ecommerce enthusiasts just getting started on the app, Instagram has switched the feature to link stickers.

Check your stories to see if it shows up on your account. Technically, link stickers should be available for everybody as of October 27th, 2021.

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Consistency is key. Definitely take advantage of this new feature that we didn’t have before, and increase your chances of conversion! Make sure you’re posting at least once every day on stories using a sticker linking to one of your products.

Create Exclusivity with Instagram-Only Promotions 

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We already mentioned before how awesome and user-friendly shopping on Instagram has become. What’s even more awesome about shoppable Instagram posts is you can incentivize people to shop through your product catalog with platform exclusive discount codes, bundles, and free shipping if they buy multiple products.

Final Thoughts 

Well, there you have it. You’ve got the resources listed here on how to start selling on Instagram today. 

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Marketing on Instagram is a gold standard for product-based businesses these days because it’s a lucrative platform to sell your products in a user-friendly way without a lot of upfront costs. Plus, you get to build your brand awareness and make face-to-face connections with your customers for long-term growth! While having funds set aside to invest in boosting your posts and creating full-on ad campaigns can help, it’s not required to get started on the app, list your products, and get to selling. You just need to put in the effort, the hours, and use your time wisely to implement the content strategies that work with the algorithm. If you remain aware of the trends on the platform and act on them, you can get a nice chunk of change by fulfilling orders through Instagram. Just remember to stay true to your brand values and be a human being on there. Have fun with it, be kind, be consistent, and watch your ecommerce business blossom into a beautiful flower (each petal a repeat customer!)

How to Sell On Instagram

Posted by Contributor