In an era where everybody is fighting against time, most consumers are guilty of swiping (product) images. That resulted in visual commerce to be among the most important trends for 2017. Social media feeds play a significant role in the discovery process of consumers. Facebook, Pinterest and Instagram are widely known as the most prominent parties in this field.

Mobile has changed the way people shop. You browse products while waiting, make purchases while you are commuting and compare prices when you’re at a store to find the best deal. Instagram was one of the first social media platforms specifically designed for a mobile experience. That design approach was logical: Instagram’s core function is sharing photos - and smartphones emerged to be both a camera and a browser in one. Instagram therefore, currently is one of the most used apps of all time.

How big is Instagram, really?

On Monday September 25, the company announced its user base passed 800 million – up 100 million compared to April 2017. Instagram furthermore claims it has over 500 million daily users.

Advertising is one of the major sources of income for Instagram. Its ads are available in various formats (including short videos) and distinguish themselves in creativity. Instagram has now 2 million active advertisers.

Instagram has become very popular the past years through its use by upcoming talent. Trendy designers, fashion labels, makers and creatives have used Instagram as a more authentic alternative for Facebook, exposing their very visual product portfolio.

Major consumer brands like Delvaux or Bugaboo have also discovered Instagram as a marketing instrument for some years now. These companies use Instagram primarily for branding purposes.

Instagram Shopping

Last year, Instagram introduced Instagram Shopping. To qualify for Instagram shopping, your Instagram account needs to be located in the US, it needs to be in English and it needs to be a Business Profile. Only companies selling jewellery, apparel or beauty products are currently still eligible for Instagram Shopping.

As a merchant on Instagram Shopping, you can tag the products you are selling in your Instagram posts. When you tag products on Instagram, you can highlight specific products in your posts and lure people to your website, where they can purchase items. At this moment, you can only tag products in single, static photos. Tagging on multi-image posts, boomerangs, and animated gifs aren't supported.

The user experience of Instagram Shopping is like tagging someone in a photo. Pictures shared by these merchants have a so-called tap to view icon. Once the user taps it, up to five products in the picture can show a label with its product name and price. Each label can then be selected individually, after which a detailed picture of the product shows up with more information. From there on, a link leads the user directly to the product on your website.

Pros and cons for using Instagram in your sales strategy

People use social media with the intention to remain in contact with friends and family. Selling a food processor or a new dress in between seems to be unlikely. When consumers have a specific intention to buy, they often turn to Amazon or Google. Social media plays a role within a consumer’s discovery phase.

The chronological order of the social media feed also makes items for sale less visible. Photos on Instagram pass by quickly and are hard to find afterwards. Also, while Amazon's full product range can be (pre-) ordered, only a fraction of all Instagram content is for sale. Much content is personal and fashion (for instance) of three or four years ago might still be shared on social media eagerly, but unavailable to buy.

An important pro for Instagram is that it is significantly more personal than other social media alternatives. On Instagram, many brands are succeeding to make their customers feel like an insider. They offer behind the scenes shots and other exclusives.

Also, Instagram has strengthened its commercial possibilities in the past year. You can now save posts. Instagram is successfully fighting spam and audiences can be prioritised for better targeting (custom audiences, lookalike audiences and saved audiences).

In conclusion, when you are looking to sell in the US, consider using Instagram. EMAKERS is happy to help you doing so.