How to Market Retail & Ecommerce on Instagram

Learn everything you need to know about marketing your retail or ecommerce site on Instagram, from setting it up to building it out and promoting it.
Updated on July 9, 2019

This past summer, Instagram hit 1 billion monthly active users. More than 80% of Instagram users follow at least one business page. Add to that the fact that the newest generation of shoppers, Gen Z, cite social media as their lead media influencer on purchase decisions and you have an undeniable business case for establishing a business profile on Instagram.

If you’re reading this, you probably know this already, but need some help getting started. This guide will walk you through the basics of setting up a presence on Instagram, one of the most popular social networks for retail and ecommerce.


How to Market on Instagram

Setting it Up

Getting started on Instagram takes as little as five minutes. Here are the steps, taken directly from

Step 1: Download and launch the app

Download the Instagram app for iOS from the App Store, Android from Google Play store, or Windows Phone from the Windows Phone Store. Once the app is installed on your mobile phone, tap to open it.

Step 2: Let people know who you are

Tap Sign Up, then enter your email address and tap Next, or tap Log in with Facebook to sign up with your Facebook account.

Step 3: Set up a free business profile

Within the app, find settings, then scroll down to Switch to Business Profile. Once you have a business account, you can add in pertinent business information like store hours, business address, or a phone number.

But don’t be fooled by the simplicity of the sign-up process. Make sure you have these things together ahead of time to ensure that your Instagram account starts off on the right foot.

  1. Your photo. Using your logo here is a best practice. If you have a great photo of your product in action, that’s an option, too, and a good way explain who you are through imagery (which is, of course, what Instagram is all about).
  2. Your bio. You have 150 characters here – make the most of them! Appeal to your audience and leave space for a call to action and a link.
  3. Your link. This is the only link you get, as your posts can’t include links. Rather than your home page, consider linking directly to a product category page. If you’re tight on space, shorten your link with a URL shortener like

Here’s a good example from Madewell:

Social Media Networking

Building it Out

Instagram is visually driven, so posting beautiful product shots is a great start and should be a primary focus. But don’t stop there, or you’ll risk boring, or worse, annoying your fans. Follow these tips to create an Insta that fans will enjoy following:

  • Add some personality. Don’t be afraid to share a little bit about yourself and add some human touches to your account. It doesn’t have to be pictures of you—it could be photos of your office space, or the coffee you’re having at your favorite spot around the corner from your store—anything that reminds fans that you’re more than a logo and a product catalog.
  • Have fun. See that picture of the goats in the Glossier example below? It has nothing to do with makeup, but it’s really cute. And it got more than 20K likes and 129 comments. A post that makes someone smile or laugh goes a long way toward building loyal fans.
    Social Media Networking
  • Tap into their emotions. Motivational or inspirational posts always perform well. People love to tag their friends with these kinds of messages, which helps broaden your exposure. Here’s an example from Free People:
    Social Media Networking
  • Include video. Watches. Video. Add some interest to your profile by adding video clips. To add or create a new video, tap the + at the bottom of Instagram and either tap Library (to upload an existing video) or tap Video (to create a new video). Per Instagram rules, keep it under 60 seconds.
  • Aim for a consistent visual theme. Have a key brand color, or specific photography style that you use in your marketing? Use it on Instagram too. Glossier does this well, weaving their famous pink hue throughout:
    Social Media Networking
  • Use your bio section. Running a special promotion, or want to feature a product? Use your bio to add a link where fans can get more information. Here’s an example from J. Crew:Social Media Networking
  • Don’t be afraid to explore the different tools that Instagram offers. Play around with adding text and stickers to photos (available at the top of the screen once you take a photo), try Boomerang, or experiment with creating Stories.  
Promoting It

Your Instagram feed looks beautiful! Now you just need some fans who think so, too. Here’s how to grow your numbers:

  • Add Instagram buttons to your site. Just like with Facebook, be sure to add the Instagram icon to your website, and share buttons to your product pages. NOTE: Social plugins are subject to GDPR. Obtain legal guidance before implementing any social buttons to ensure compliance.
  • Pair up with influencers. Influencers are popular Instagrammers in your specific industry that have a strong following. Pairing up with these influencers can expose your brand to new audiences and thereby grow your Instagram. Influencers don’t need to have millions of followers – just a good bit more than you and strong engagement (lots of comments and conversation). You can find influencers by searching your own fan list, doing a hashtag search on Instagram (just be sure to keep it specific to narrow down your list), or using a service like BuzzSumo or Ninja Outreach.
  • Use hashtags. Hashtags are a way of categorizing your posts so that others can find them. They can attract new followers and increase engagement. If someone is interested in organic food and they follow the #organicfood hashtag, anything you post using that hashtag will be seen by them. And if they like what you’re posting, you’ll win a new follower. For the best results, keep your hashtags specific, as they will be more likely to attract followers who are highly interested in your content. To determine your hashtags try: looking at what hashtags your competitors are using and/or typing some ideas into Instagram’s search box. Take a look at the Warby Parker example below, where they use the #IndependentBookstoreDay hashtag to reach bookworms (who might also need some cool new glasses).

Social Media Networking

Parting Thoughts

Managing Your Time

Keeping track of your content can get out of hand. To stay organized (and keep your sanity), put together an Editorial Calendar to plan at least a month’s worth of content ahead of time. Set goals for how often you want to post on each network, then build out a spreadsheet detailing date, time, text to post, URL, image, notes, and anything else you might want to keep track of. If you search online for “social media editorial calendar”, you’ll find lots of tips and templates to try out.

You can also try a social media management platform, like HootSuite, to help you manage all of your posting, scheduling, and reporting from one place.

Measuring Everything

It goes without saying that you’ll want to measure the results of all your hard work. Instagram’s reporting tool, Instagram Insights, can help you with your analysis. You’ll want to track the level of growth (number of fans or followers), engagement (likes, comments, shares, saves, or other actions taken) and if you’ve enabled the shopping features, sales. You’ll also want to dive into the post details to see which ones performed well, so you can use a similar approach in future posts to maximize engagement.

You Got This

The biggest hurdle is getting started. Once you’re up and running, have fun with it! Experiment, test, think outside the box. Some things will fail, but many more will succeed. #winning

Ann Pyle

Ann revels in finding the simplest and clearest way to convey a thought. Her favorite word is 'moxie', which she tries to embody whenever possible. She's been developing content strategies and writing for the tech and B2B space for more than a decade. This, along with her SEO and advertising agency ...

Senior Manager Global Content

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