Why Instagram Reigns Supreme for Today’s Retail Businesses

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Instagram has remained one of the top social media platforms since its 2010 launch. The social channel has recently shifted from its primary use as a photo-sharing app to a powerful tool for brands, influencers, and consumers hungry for inspiration. Understanding how Instagram rose to become one of the popular social platforms is key to making it work for your business.

From Filters to New Features: Measuring Instagram’s Success

Instagram is a visual-first platform, making it perfectly intuitive for mindless scrolling to pass the time, or an essential go-to for discovering the latest trends in fashion, makeup, decor, and much more.
When the app launched more than a decade ago, filters were one of the first features that made the app appealing. Users could dress up their photos to hide imperfections or simply add a colorful cast or ethereal glow to their snapshots. In a decade when creative blogging sites like Tumblr were still quite popular, Instagram allowed amateur photographers to express themselves artistically with just a few taps on their smartphones.

Instagram also offered its users less restriction and algorithm competition than Facebook. Brands were quick to notice and embrace this, and soon, influencer marketing became a huge staple of the platform. Instagram created a new space for people to become models, personalities, and influencers, which presented a huge opportunity for businesses to get their products noticed by a wide audience in a more authentic way.

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Over the last 10+ years, Instagram has had staying power because it hasn’t been afraid to evolve, adapt, and introduce new features to keep up with competing apps and changing user behavior. Take its Reels feature, for example, which serves as a direct competitor to TikTok. Snapchat users will also recognize Instagram’s vanishing direct messages and Story expirations as mirrors of the Snaps they send.

Today’s brands understand that storytelling is an important piece of marketing, especially among millennial consumers, which make up Instagram’s largest user base. Social media users with spending power don’t want to be advertised or sold to in traditional ways that worked decades ago. They’re savvy and used to having the Internet and research tools available at their fingertips to make their own informed, personalized decisions.

Shoppers want to connect with brands with compelling stories that speak to their individual wants, needs, and interests. The aptly named, Instagram Stories have proven to be highly effective for brands, influencers, and everyday users alike to speak to their followers directly. Brands have embraced Stories as a way to give their audiences a behind-the-scenes look into the people and processes behind the products they carry.

We can’t underplay Facebook’s purchase of Instagram in 2019 as one reason why it has stuck around and remained so popular. Integrations between the two incredibly popular platforms have further pushed multichannel marketing and sales into the forefront for today’s brands. It’s become easier to sell across a variety of platforms when they are synced or connected in some way.

With shoppable posts and new selling features like checking out via DM, making actual transactions on the Instagram platform is not only possible but rising in popularity for retail brands in particular. The social media channel is not only excellent for marketing via photos, video, Stories, and reels, but it has now become a powerful channel for making real sales as well.

Predictions for Selling on Instagram in 2022

In 2021, the platform got its own professional dashboard for business and creator accounts. It launched new features and updates that align with an overarching goal to make a tool that’s beneficial for brands.

While some social platforms are shifting in the direction of highlighting personal profiles over brand pages, it appears Instagram is only going to become friendlier to businesses this year and beyond. We will likely see more fine-tuning of these features and the introduction of even more new ways to integrate with and sell via the social channel.

We can make the following predictions, based on research by SocialPilot:

  • 58% of marketers are planning to leverage reels in 2022.
  • 130 million users tap on shopping posts each month — as user counts climb, this number will too.
  • Longer post captions (which aid in prompting conversation) will receive better engagement.

The same analysis tells us that new ways of selling—from stories to live video—are likely to grow this year and beyond. Consider these stats:

  • 90% of all users on Instagram follow at least one business account.
  • 83% of Instagram users discover new products and services on the platform.
  • 70% of the people watch Instagram stories daily.
  • Videos get 21.2% more engagement compared to images.

With Instagram Shopping introduced in 2019, Instagram has quickly become a way for customers to discover, view, and order new products right from their mobile devices anytime, anywhere.

Instagram recommends 9 key ways to sell products on its platform, including:

1. Post regularly and build out a consistent cadence.

2. Share User Generated Content (UGC) and showcase customers wearing or using your products.

3. Create “tutorials” on each product, or show how to use or style the item with video.

There are also ways to sell via social media that extend beyond the platforms’ current features. CommentSold, for example, allows sellers to stream live video across their social pages, webstores, and mobile apps at the same time, and viewers can comment “sold” to automatically cart the items they see in the stream.

The Takeaway

Online trends come and go, but Instagram has successfully kept up with shifting behaviors and demands by evolving its features to meet all types of users. It has become a powerful tool for brands around the globe, as well as consumers from a range of demographics to connect with others, become inspired by what they see, and gain opportunities through their own content and showcasing their personalities on the visual medium.

Focusing your attention on one platform to start is great, but brands with longevity embrace new ways of engaging with and selling to their audiences where they prefer to shop.

Consider Instagram as one piece of your overall selling puzzle, and consider utilizing shoppable posts, shopping via Stories, and video to add an authentic touch to your brand’s presence on “the ‘Gram.”

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