8 Marketing Ways to use Instagram for e-Commerce

Businesses, it seems, have squeezed the entire commercial potential of Facebook in the last few years. Reports suggest that there has been a 63% decrease in organic marketing reach since 2012 on Facebook. The world’s largest social network, in all probability, has plateaued. The decline of Facebook has led to a mad rush by brands to find the next big social network. And it is not without a sense of irony that this new social network is owned by Facebook!

We are talking about Instagram. And by all accounts, it is just getting warmed up. This visually-led social network has 500 million users, 300 million of which use Instagram daily, at last count, making it the fastest growing social network in the world. Launched in October, 2010, it was bought by Facebook at a whopping $1 billion within a year and a half. The amount Facebook closed this deal at was scoffed by most experts, but Zuckerberg, it seems, had the last laugh.

Although Instagram does not offer any business-specific features, it hasn’t dissuaded 93% of premier brands that are active on Instagram. Many smaller brands, especially, e-commerce, have made Instagram their own. With a 115% increase in organic marketing reach since 2012, Instagram has become a darling of brands.

A brief comparison of the business potential of Facebook and Instagram

Apart from the massive difference in organic marketing reach of the two social networks, more than twice the number of Instagrammers engages with brands as compared to Facebook users. Instagram has 58x more engagement per follower than Facebook. While brands on Facebook reach 6% of their followers per post, brands on Instagram reach 100% of their followers per post. Also while the average order value on Facebook was $55, it was $65 on Instagram. User statistics on Instagram are just as mind-boggling.

So how does an e-commerce brand that relies so heavily on product pictures use Instagram that does not allow use of copy or links to online stores?

1. No external links? No problem. Use hashtags instead!

The biggest challenge with Instagram is that it does not recognize links that takes a user outside of its cozy environs. For an e-commerce store, this could be the biggest problem as there is no way it can guide users to its online store. You can only have links in your profile.

warbyparker
Without links, hashtags are your best friends. Judicious use of hashtags help you organize your posts and make them noticeable to Instagrammers. If you are a fledgling entity on Instagram, use hashtags to get your pictures noticed. Find out the hottest hashtags on Instagram and use them for your brand.

hashtags
Once you garner a good number of followers, you can shift your strategy to focus more on pictures. A hashtag becomes a link to your brand. All your posts featuring a particular hashtag will be displayed at a single place. Thus, you can now showcase your products in one place. You can also invite users to submit pictures using a particular tag and they all will appear in one place.

2. Try influencer marketing

Influencers can turbo-charge your marketing on Instagram. The most popular industries on Instagram have influencers – those who have a ton of followers. Fashion, cosmetics, personal care, food and alcohol are among the industries that have a high number of influencers.

A bit of research into whom your target market follows and you can approach them to help you. The best way is to get them to post a picture wearing (or using) your product and a hashtag, and voila! You have a campaign on your hands. The bigger influencers will very likely expect to be paid while some smaller ones (having a fan base of a few thousand) will be happy with a free product sample. Choose your influencer depending on what you want to offer in return.

Influencers aren’t necessarily celebrities. It is how they post and what they post that has helped them garner such a huge following. Take for example Adam Gallagher. He is a big influencer in the fashion/lifestyle/travel industry and has a whopping 1.8 million followers. He is the founder of the popular blog “I am Galla,” which “aids the men’s demographic with styling tips, trend forecasts and third-party inspiration.”

iamgala3. Use raw, natural photos

Being a purely visual channel, Instagram poses many challenges for businesses looking to engage with their audience. It’s like selling without a copy, as Jim Squires, Instagram’s director of market operations puts it. He advises brands to be creative and use Instagram’s existing features to build an awesome user experience. “Fit in to stand out,” is what he tells marketers.

The brands that have been successful the most are the ones that use beautiful photos that elicit emotions. Use lifestyle photos of your products. Instead of studio pictures, ask users to submit their own pictures using/wearing your products. Take a look at how Tsuru, a local clothing retailer uses customer-generated content for promotion of its products.

tsuru

Instagram is also not following the Facebook route towards allowing explicit ads. It has set very strict rules for brands to follow.

4. Use Instagram Direct for e-commerce marketing

Instagram Direct is a way to send photo and video messages and can be used creatively by e-commerce brands. Brands can now share photos and 15-second videos and share it with their audience.

Using Direct is simple. Take a photo and/or record a video. Add effects, filters and captions if you like. Tap on the “direct” option on the screen. Select names of followers you wish to send this to and tap on “send.”

You can use Direct to announce the launch of a new product. Since Direct only allows you to send a photo or video to 15 followers at a time, you can use this strategy to give a sneak peek to a select bunch of really engaged users.

You can also use Direct to gift coupons to your best followers. You can select the followers that comment on, like and share your posts frequently and send them the photo with the gift code that they can use for their next shopping.

Direct also allows brands to chat with their followers. Holding a Q&A with followers gives you a great opportunity to get feedback and educate them. You can also target specific demographics using Direct that allows you to send your message to a select audience. This is a great way to do brand research.

5. Leveraging the Videos Channel in Explore

The Search and Explore feature in Instagram is an intuitive way that is used to serve relevant content to users depending upon their preferences. This is a non-invasive way and what content will be served depends upon any factors including the people one follows or the posts one likes.

In April this year, Instagram launched video channels in Explore. They’ve realized the popularity of videos among users and through this feature they’ll make it easier for users to discover relevant videos. This offers a fabulous opportunity for brands to create awesome video content and reach a wider audience – people who do not yet follow them.

According to Instagram, Explore gets better by adjusting to your preferences and shows you more content that you’ll enjoy. So you may consider it as free promotion of your content by Instagram! This is a great way to create awesome videos and let Instagram serve it to the right people.

6. Run contests

Contests are popular ways to engage users and drive attention. Everybody loves the chance of winning a prize in a contest. To make a hashtag trending, tie it with a giveaway or contest. Take a look at this simple content run by Bows-N-Ties.

bowsnties

The most important part of the contest is to choose the right hashtag, one that is, preferably, your brand name and which is not already in use. Set the scope for the contest (what kind of picture, whether it has to be your products, which hashtags to be included, etc.). Finally, set the reward. A recurring reward is better than a one-off contest as it keeps the hashtag alive and you get a continuous steam of user-generated content.

7. Use Instagram Stories

On August 2, 2016, Instagram announced the launch of Instagram Stories. Most experts believe that this is to counter the growing popularity of Snapchat and Instagram is pulling all plugs to retain its leader tag. Instagram CEO, Kevin Systrom even admitted that the credit for introducing the “stories” format goes to Snapchat.

This feature lets you share photos and videos without posting them to your profile. Your entire 24 hours will be packed in a slideshow format – your story. The story remains “alive” for 24 hours.

This is another exciting opportunity for brands to be as creative as they can and create brand stories that will increase user interest and engagement. Brands can upload photos and add effects like neon marker, brush tool, pen. They can increase the visual appeal by selecting various colors from the palette. Brands can also use Boomerangs and Hyperlapses and add them to the story to make it more enticing.

8. Check out these cool tools to make marketing on Instagram easier

  • Iconosquare – With this software, a small, dedicated team can easily manage a company’s Instagram account. A platform is created on your desktop which shows you your feed and what followers are posting. A powerful search functionality and statistics help you manage your account like a breeze.
  • Offerpop – They have a unique photo contest builder that you can use to create exciting contests on Instagram.
  • InstaOrders – With this software, you can create a free e-commerce store on your Instagram account. This allows shoppers to directly place orders on Instagram.
  • 10sec – This is a free flea market app that you can use to sell your products on Instagram. From making a listing to shipping an item to depositing money in your account, 10sec does it all.

Takeaway

Instagram has struck the right balance – helping brands to tell their stories and engage customers, without being too invasive. It still is a very personal social network, unlike Facebook. It has managed to create the right mix of social and commerce. The visual impact of this platform makes it creatively challenging for brands to create brand stories and yet gives them the perfect opportunity to engage better with its audience by allowing user-generated content on their profiles.

Even B2B marketers are using Instagram successfully. So it should hardly come as a surprise that e-commerce brands are using this exciting platform to generate a buzz around their products. We hope that the above-mentioned marketing ideas will inspire you to creatively engage with your audience on Instagram.

Image Source: (1, 2, 3, 4, 5)

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How to offer excellent customer service – 7 tips for small business ecommerce

 

customer service for small business

Customer service is a direct reflection on your business and your brand. Consequently how you manage your customer care is important. Poor customer care could result in the loss of customers and ultimately damage your reputation. Great customer service can create loyalty, bring in new customers and give you the edge over your competitors.

We now live in a society where social media and customer review sites are part-and-parcel of the business world and although they are both excellent vehicles for positive customer feedback, it also means that negative consumer experiences are out there for everyone to see – sometimes before you’ve even had the chance to deal with them directly yourself.

58% of consumers are more likely to tell others about their customer service experiences than they were 5 years ago

Ensuring that your small online business or start-up is offering all it can in terms of excellent customer care is essential for the long-term success of your business.

Impact of poor customer service

  • 82% of consumers have stopped doing business with a company due to poor customer service
  • 44% of customers switch to a competitor following inadequate customer care
  • 55% of customers intending to make a purchase have walked away due to poor customer service

Impact of great customer service

7 customer service tips to help your business stand apart

As a small online business or ecommerce start-up, you are unlikely to have an all-singing, all -dancing customer service call centre to hand. Chances are it is going to be you fielding the majority of  calls and emails. We’ve outlined some simple tips that are easy to implement, cost-effective and could make a big difference in terms of customer satisfaction.

1. Offer that little bit extra

Going that extra mile for a customer won’t cost you much but can pay dividends in terms of customer loyalty and repeat business. A little extra effort on your part – for example getting something in the post to a customer on the same day or going a bit above and beyond the call of duty to deal with a query or issue – will be noticed and appreciated by your customers. In the days of automated customer services, long waiting times and being passed around from pilar to post, you have the great advantage of still being able to personally deal with many of your customers directly – it’s your chance to establish a solid relationship.

2. Walk in your customers shoes

walk in your customers shoes

If you don’t understand your customers and recognise their needs, how can you be certain you are offering them a positive customer experience? Get to know you customers (and as we mention before you are in the great position of being able to have direct contact with your customers so use those moments to find out a bit more about what they like and don’t like about your business), think about their customer journey from start to finish and see what you can implement to improve their experience. Having a good understanding of your customers will enable you to deliver the service they want.

3. Be flexible.

There are times when a little bit of flexibility will reap rewards for your business in the long-term. Of course you will need to make a judgement call on each individual situation after all you are in business to make a profit, but a little bit of give now and then, particularly when you know you are dealing with a loyal customer, can be a great way to give a customer the feeling off special treatment. For example perhaps honouring a promotion or sales voucher when the deadline has passed or accepting a return even if it doesn’t quite meet your criteria.  Remember it is far more cost-effective to keep an existing customer than to acquire a new one. So where you can offer customers some flexibility – you’ll find it will be appreciated.

4. Save precious time – pre-empt simple queries

Of course, dealing with customer queries yourself is great for getting to know your customers and for relationship building, but the reality for a small business owner is lack of time means that having to deal with all customer queries is a potential headache. It is essential that you set up a way to deal with the most frequently asked questions and queries – ones that are simple and straightforward to deal with .  This will include simple things like your return policy, shipping times, opening hours, product descriptions, set up instructions and so on.

set up an FAQ page

 

Think about the calls you take and emails your receive.  What are your most frequently asked questions and which ones don’t require a telephone or email response. Set up  FAQ page and put all those kind of queries on to there. Make sure your FAQ page is clearly marked on the website and direct people there in your initial order confirmation emails and paperwork. It will save you time, enabling you to concentrate on the customer queries that require a little more personal attention.

5. Start with ‘sorry’

Even if you seriously question whether you should be saying ‘sorry’ always start your response to any customer complaint by saying that you are sorry that your customer has experienced a problem. This is simple good manners and not an admission that the fault is yours.  It takes the wind out of a customer dissatisfaction and shows that you are genuinely concerned that your customer is unhappy enough to take the time to make a complaint. Acknowledge if you have made a mistake and don’t try to  pass the buck. Your customer isn’t interested in whose fault it is – they just want their complaint listened to and dealt with quickly and efficiently. Remaining polite, well-mannered and professional at all times is essential no matter how frustrating the phone call or email .

6. Have clear guidelines in place

There may be times where other member of your team will need to step in and deal with complaints on your behalf. If this is the case with your small business, then it is imperative that you have clear guidelines in place. Not only on a practical level so that the issue can get resolved in your absence but also in your company’s overall approach to customer service. For example all members of the team should be clear on the kind of service they are expected to offer customers all  such as being friendly, polite, approachable, professional and communicating clearly and effectively.

7. Respond to negative comments

45% of customers share negative reviews on social media and 63% of consumers read negative reviews on social media.

Social media and customer reviews sites mean that even with the best effort in the world you will be faced with a disgruntled customer who will post a negative review. How you handle negative feedback is important. The difference between dealing with an unhappy customer via email or on the phone is that any negative comments posted on social media or customer review sites are there for everybody to see. It is really important to respond quickly and efficiently to comments. Apologise upfront for any inconvenience caused – showing you take the complaint seriously, be honest and remain professional and polite at all times – no matter how unfair you deem the complaint to be. To ensure the comment doesn’t escalate if it is appropriate take the comment offline to deal with – as in the IKEA example below:

 

social media dealing with negative comments

 

Don’t underestimate the importance of great customer service . It doesn’t cost the world and even implementing some simple practices can make a real difference to how you are viewed by customers and potential customers. A little bit of extra effort can pay dividends in the long-term.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on what great customer service means so please do leave a comment. 

 

 

 

How to create great online content for your small business website

Content Marketing for small business

 

Great content is an essential part of a successful online presence. It helps drive traffic, build relationships, grow brand awareness, reinforce trust and support SEO. So, what makes great content and how can you as a small business owner ensure you are getting it right?

We take a look at how to approach content creation with 7 helpful tips on how to produce content that is top-notch.

1. Focus on your customers

When you are thinking about the kind of content you want on your website your focus should be on creating content that is relevant and of value to your target audience. It can be tempting to pack your website full of sales orientated copy, which of course has it’s place, but your key aim should be to produce content that your customers and prospective customers will find interesting and useful.

SEO also plays an important part in content creation, but the days of keyword stuffing practices are long gone. Instead spend some time researching your target audience and brainstorming the kind of keywords and key phrases they might use to search for the products and services you are selling and incorporate them naturally into your copy.

Essentially if you write content with your target audience in mind you wont go far wrong.

2. Create original content

The most important content for marketers is original written content (45%)

Search engines like high quality content of which a key characteristic is originality –  essentially content that is not already on other website. Hence duplicating content from other sites is not the answer (in fact such practices can be detrimental to your search engine page ranking).  So how can you ensure you are getting enough original content on your site?

Blogging: Posting regular blog articles are an excellent way to ensure original and relevant content is being added to your site on a regular basis. Writing blog articles requires time however in addition to providing you with original content, blogging also helps generate traffic, yield new leads, maintain customer relationships and build brand trust.

blogging

Curated Content: A consistent flow of original content is essential, however in reality small business owners are under huge time pressures and have limited resources.  Therefore there are times when curated content can step in. For example a weekly ‘news roundup’ of relevant articles in your industry can work well – just ensure you are adding your own, original commentary and opinion to it (and as we mentioned before don’t plagiarise or try to pass it off as your own!)

Product pages. Write your own product descriptions rather than simply re-using the information supplied by the manufactures.  Create your own original descriptions with your target audience in mind, making them user-friendly and relevant.

 

3. Make it useful

“Creating compelling and useful content will likely influence your website more than any of the other factors discussed“

Google Search Engine Optimisation Starter Guide

Think about what kind of content will be of interest and have a value to your target audience – is it informative content or entertaining content that will most appeal – or indeed a mixture of both? Useful, relevent content will help drive traffic to you website and keep people coming back for more. Some ideas include:

  • Free downloadable e/book or white paper
  • Infographics
  • Latest industry news and trends reports
  • Ideas and tips for using your products in real-life
  • Competitions or quizzes
  • Interviews with relevant industry figures
  •  Online videos such as useful tutorials, product instructions or demonstrations

4. Be visually engaging

Having great visual content is an essential part of successful content creation. As humans we are naturally drawn to all things visual , so think about how you can use visuals to create standalone content and support other content on your site.

visual content marketing

 

 

Engaging images: How can you make the images on your site more engaging? For example, instead of just using product images provided by the manufactures take your own photos – showing off products in relief scenarios.  Avoid using run of the mill stock images. There are some excellent online image libraries where you can source some interesting and inspiring images. Think about using software tools (some of which offer free services) like Skitch and Canva to add text to images. Essentially spend some time thinking about how you can produce your own interesting and engaging visuals for your website.

Video: If you can incorporate video into your online presence all the better. Video has become an important element of successful content marketing – indeed research indicates that 1 in 4 consumers actually lose interest in a company if it doesn’t have video.

5. Make content digestible

How you write and present your content online is important. Reams of unbroken text on a page is off-putting. you may have written something of huge interest to your target audience, but if they can’t grasp the gist of it in moments they aren’t going to bother to read it. Keep to the point and get rid off any unnecessary fluff and waffle.

Think about how you present text on the page – it should look inviting. Break up text into small digestible paragraphs, use headers, sub headers, text blocks, bullets points and of course engaging images.

When visitors look at the content on your website ensure it is visually appealing and that your content is displayed in manageable, easily digestible chunks.

6. Keep it fresh

It is important to keep the content fresh and up-to-date.  Go through your online content at regular intervals to ensure that there is no out-of-date information or broken links. Having old, stale content can make your site look unprofessional. And, whilst you are reviewing your content, make sure you are double checking for any typos and grammar mistakes.

Re-purposing or refreshing an old blog post with new updated information or updates is a quick way to freshen your content and add new original content to your site.

7. User generated content

Search engines like user-generated content such as customer testimonials, product reviews, blog comments and discussion forums. Moreover, this sort of ‘conversational’ content is a good way to keep regular, original and relevant coming into your site. Of course if you do go down this road, you will need to ensure that you are regular monitoring the content that gets put on, removing anything offensive or inappropriate immediately.

When you are creating online content for your business if keep your target audience in mind at all times, you won’t go far wrong. Content that appeals to your customers and is likely to keep search engines happy too. Focus on having a good variety of high-quality content that is relevant, interesting and offers value to your audience,

We’d love to hear your thoughts and experience of creating online content, so please do leave a comment.