1-855-SOCMROI (1-855-762-6764) info@netbase.com

7 Lessons We've Learned from eCommerce Brands on Instagram

eCommerce brands on Instagram are experiencing exceptional engagement – and your brand can join their ranks. To help you along, we’re sharing seven lessons we’ve learned from eCommerce brands on Instagram. Odds are, more than a few of them will work for your brand’s promotional efforts too.

It’s important to note – although these eCommerce brands’ Instagram activity is public and anyone can see what they’re up to, surface insights do not offer solid strategic data to power your planning. There are many things surface insights will not tell you – things that social analytics will, including:

  • Who the audiences are, exactly. And we’re talking well beyond demographic data to developing psychographic segments.
  • Specific language an audience uses to talk about relevant topics – language you’ll want to get right or risk appearing out of touch or offensive.
  • Where audiences are located in general, and where the most engaged audiences are located, specifically.
  • Net sentiment around a specific offering, brand or larger category
  • Themes emerging from conversations that speak to trends, unmet needs or potential trouble spots to head off. And even auto-discovered themes, using artificial intelligence!
  • Which influencers are chiming in, and are these folks you should consider partnering with?

And so much more. All things you won’t have a handle on without a deep dive. And all things the following eCommerce brands obviously understand well . . .

Lesson #1: Lego Shares User Generated Content (UGC) for Instagram Win

If your brand is considering Instagram, it has to have something visually compelling about it. But did you know that that isn’t enough? The most visually compelling brands can capture amazing engagement, but that doesn’t make it meaningful engagement from potential consumers.

Looking at behaviors of its audience, we see “play,” “use” and “build” figuring prominently. So why not showcase their work with some user generated content?

Looking at sentiment drivers, specifically behaviors of Lego audience

Having an open call for users to build and submit photographs of something stunning gets the Lego fans engaged:

Having an open call for users to build and submit photographs of something stunning gets the Lego fans engaged

As does hosting Lego build events, where users are welcome to post about the events online, as they happen:

Instagram post about eCommerce brand, Lego's, massive build event

Takeaway: Get your followers involved by creating a relevant user generated contest or event. This generates brand excitement and helps spread brand awareness – not that Lego needs much help in that department! 

Lesson #2: Bath & Body Works Consistent Instagram Imagery

Capturing a large swatch of Instagram consumers’ attention is still important, of course. There are potential customers lurking about online who defy whatever marketing tactics, but after seeing your brand’s amazing imagery, they’re drawn in. And you want them to stay and explore your profile page a bit!

But one thing that drives them away once they arrive on your Instagram profile is an inconsistent approach.

Many times, eCommerce and other brands will use Instagram as a visual dumping ground, assuming every photo should go there. You’ll see company outings mixed with product promos and announcements and everything in between all shared there without rhyme or reason. These accounts are usually only sporadically used as well, so it’s obvious that the content managers are struggling for things to share.

These brands are suffering from an identity crisis and should cease to post till they can figure out a consistent imagery strategy. Or they can use Bath & Body Works as a template for what to do. They post product imagery in consistent color tones that change by season and transition in way that had to be engineered by a design team:

Bath & Body Works eCommerce Instagram presence includes posting product imagery in consistent color tones that change by season

And, they interact with followers on every post – asking and answering questions. And doing so consistently!

Bath & Body Works interact with followers on every post – asking and answering questions as exception eCommerce brand tactic

Takeaway: Understand your brand’s purpose on Instagram and offer consistent imagery speaking to it. A scattershot approach with attract and equally inconsistent and not engaged audience.

Lesson #3: Amazon Celebrates & Educates for eCommerce Success

Amazon is, of course, the first name anyone thinks of when considering eCommerce success. And their Instagram game is on point, as one would expect.

Amazon, ecommerce brand giant, showing how it's done on Instagram

One part of it involves its “insights” and “stories” that live at the top of their profile page as highlights:

  • Day One Insights offer tips for entrepreneurs from a variety of business leaders
  • Day One Stories shares successes from small business partners

Amazon's Day One Tips and Stories offer ecommerce brand success snapshots for its Instagram followers 

Both combine to create a supportive presence for potential business partners. And this is ingenious of Amazon, as its third-party sales on its website exceed its own. This a trend they’re eager to continue.

Takeaway: Helping followers experience success in some way is always in demand. Offering tutorials and before/after stories can have the same effect. Find what works for you/your followers by listening to what they’re saying about your category online. Help them conquer challenges and celebrate success and your site will become a hub.

Lesson #4: Zappos Sells a Lifestyle

Shoe company, Zappos doesn’t mention its shoes in its Instagram bio:

Shoe company, Zappos doesn’t mention its shoes in its Instagram bio

And that’s because it’s focused on delivering happiness as a company mission. And the shoes are merely its way to deliver happiness to the masses. One step at a time, perhaps?

Zappos is focused on delivering happiness - the lifestyle is primary

Their posts are bright, peppy and positive, with a touch of whimsy to force a smile from most everyone:

Zappos' instagram brand posts are bright, peppy and positive

Followers seem to agree with this approach, as they’re experiencing 76% on the Net Sentiment Scale (from -100 to 100):

Zappos' Net Sentiment is high - 76%

Takeaway: You can create a positive (or negative) association with your brand on Instagram, so choose your imagery (and color scheme) wisely. Zappos is happy by design, but every brand needs to be aware of the feelings they encourage with their posts. As you’re sorting out your strategy, monitoring sentiment after each image goes live can tell you lots about how it makes viewers feel.

Lesson #5: eBay Highlights Uniqueness as a Differentiator

So many sites, so little time online – yet the online reseller is the top stop for anyone searching for the “best deals” and . . . well, anything they can’t find elsewhere online.

Sentiment drivers about eBay, speaking to its niche for offering unique items

It’s a hotbed for unique items. It’s known for having the “coolest things” for a reason – and eBay plays that up on its Instagram account:

eBay's instagram account is a showcase of cool, unique things

Offering surprising finds, along with unique pre-order opportunities makes the account a value-add to any followers.

eBay's unique pre-order opportunities makes the account a value-add to any followers

And that’s a differentiator in itself online – being useful ahead of promotional. An eCommerce brand can always still have promotional bits about it as well, obviously, but the goal is to be a resource with a purpose. eBay on Instagram helps its followers “see it first” and that’s where they win.

Takeaway: Offering unique items for sale or showcase on Instagram is not necessary, but having distinct content that’s unique from what’s shared on other channels IS. eCommerce brands must carefully consider what they’re sharing on each social site – and look to the conversations happening on each channel, before deciding what should go where. Social listening tools capture and analyze your channel conversation, helping you get it right the first time.

Lesson #6: Target’s eCommerce Success Includes Embracing Diversity

When sorting out your Instagram strategy, it’s important to have the big picture in mind. Your segments are super important, but don’t get lost in them and forget about some overarching psychographic differentiators that other eCommerce brands may overlook. And diversity is one of them! This is something Target does well.

Turning an eye toward its audience and its visuals, Target is very multi-culturally aware:

Target is very multi-culturally aware and this is a smart ecommerce brand tactic that everyone should adopt

And it doesn’t shy away from differences that other brands may gloss over:

Target's LGBTQ support on display on its Instagram

It doesn’t go unnoticed. And it creates conversation online about the brand that attracts others with the same values to it. Folks who may not have bothered stopping in are swayed:

Target's ongoing commitment to diversity is recognized online, beyond confines of Instagram

Takeaway: Diversity should be top of mind for every brand (eCommerce or otherwise), and on every channel. But it isn’t. Your eCommerce brand can stand out on Instagram by taking deliberate steps toward inclusivity.

Lesson #7: The Power of Video on Display at T-Mobile

T-Mobile shares a good number of photos on its page, but is mostly focused on video. Probably because they do it so well. They share:

But that doesn’t even scratch the surface of its video prowess. They also know a good partnership when they see it – likely informed by social listening! If you’re not on the “Stranger Things” bandwagon, you should level up to understand it (and other trending TV shows as they become popular) as partnerships there offer fun promotional opportunities:

T-Mobile partnering with Stranger Things tv show as a popular ecommerce brand tactic

Overall, T-Mobile employs video to attract a wide swath of its audience. And it apparently approves of what’s on offer.

T-Mobile sentiment drivers around audience behaviors

Takeaway: T-Mobile shows that a narrow focus can be overrated for some brands. Its audience responds well to its ‘mini-campaigns’ approach, with some recurring elements to pull consistent followers back in. Define what pieces of your current content strategy work well and rethink them as videos for a starting point. And expand by degrees, maybe making use of #1-6 here, to expand the brand’s visual offerings. You can track it all in your sentiment analysis tool, so you’ll know what’s working pretty immediately!

Final Word on eCommerce Brands on Instagram 

Your brand’s Instagram game doesn’t need to be spectacular to stay ahead of competitors, but it does need to stand out somehow. We’ve offered seven ways to do just that – and if you reach out for a demo, we’re certain we can help you discover more!

Experience the NetBase difference!

Understand your customers like never before.

Take a tour to see how NetBase can fuel top performing campaigns and marketing strategies.