The Small Business Guide to Instagram Ecommerce

Why use Instagram ecommerce for small businesses like yours? Well, for one, the continuously (and quickly) growing channel has over 1 billion global users and counting, and over 500 million of those users use Instagram Stories daily, so don’t be shy when it comes to creating video content.

In addition, did you know that according to HootSuite, 80% of Instagram users follow at least one business on the platform, and 70% of users are more likely to purchase via mobile? That could very well be your business enjoying those sales!

Instagram on phone

Want to learn how to take advantage of this powerful platform? In this guide to Instagram ecommerce, you’ll learn:

  • How to get started with Instagram Shopping
  • How to generate sales through both organic posts and ads
  • How to measure Instagram ecommerce success
  • How to begin strategizing for new features

This lucrative ecommerce channel is plentiful in opportunities that can help drive more sales and revenue for your business. Let’s get started!

How to set up Instagram Shopping

If you haven’t set up your Instagram ecommerce storefront, you will first want to check your eligibility and complete account set up before we move on to your product catalog. First, let’s make sure:

  • Your business located in a supported market.
  • Your business sells physical goods.
  • Your business complies with Instagram’s commerce policies.
  • Your Instagram account is set up as a business account.
  • And your Instagram account is connected to your Facebook business page.

1. Create and connect your catalog

Once you have completed and checked off the above steps, let’s get your Facebook shopping catalog synched up to your Instagram business profile using one of two methods, depending on your preference. As a heads up, while set up typically doesn’t take long, processing time from Facebook’s Catalog Manager and Instagram Shopping may take a few days, each, so if you can, get started on this as soon as you can, especially if you have a new product launch or a special promotion coming up.

Do it yourself with Catalog Manager

Don’t have a catalog yet? Create one! Have one already? Let’s get you connected!

If you are starting from scratch, head over to Facebook’s Catalog Manager and choose the “E-Commerce Catalog” option, unless of course, you work in real estate, auto, or travel and one of these other options better suit your business. For more details on how to create a new catalog, view Facebook’s Catalog set up details in their help section.

Get a hand through Facebook partners

As a small business owner, your time is valuable and while setting up shopping on Instagram is important, running your business tends to take higher priority. If you would rather have an assist compared to the DIY version above, Facebook’s certified partners, Shopify or BigCommerce can help simplify the process for you.

To do so, add your business Facebook account that is also connected to your Instagram business account to one of these two partners. Instructions on how to connect your Facebook account to one of these certified partner can be found here for:

  • Shopify
  • BigCommerce

Once that is completed, submit your account for review and check back in a few days, as the process can take some time. Once the review process is complete and everything is approved, Instagram will notify you within the app.

2. Sign up for Instagram Shopping

Is your Instagram account and catalog now connected? If so, head over to the Instagram app to sign up for Shopping. To do so, go to your profile > Settings > Business > Shopping, as seen here:

Instagram business
Instagram shopping

And now, we wait … again. Once your account is submitted for review for Shopping, it may take a few days. Once approved, Instagram will notify you so you can finish setting up your Shopping settings and begin tagging your products in your various posts and stories.

3. Tag your products

You’ll want to tag your products in both your feed and in your Instagram Stories to sell more products on Instagram. Here’s how:

Tagging products in your posts

When tagging products to feature in your posts, you can tag up to five products per image or video post and up to 20 products on multi-image posts or carousel posts. If you have products still available in your catalog that you have featured in past posts, go back and tag those, as they could help drive some additional sales.

Tagging products in Stories

At this time, when tagging products in Stories, you can only tag one product per story. If you have more products you want to entice users to click through and purchase, create more Stories. One great way to do this is to do a series of three, featuring some new product lines, products, or designs. You can also customize the tag by changing the text and color of product stickers.

How to engage your audience with organic and paid posts

Now that you’re up and ready on Instagram ecommerce, you need to engage your community with more than just Shopping content. Paid promotion is a great way to expand your reach, but organic posts helps build trust and establish a community with your customers. Here’s how.

Post user-generated content

A great way to appeal to your community is to involve them by posting user-generated content. Not only will this help expand your reach and potentially drive some sales, it will also establish trust for your brand. If you don’t have anything yet, get started by reaching out to customers and ask them for a review of the product and if they can share a photo on Instagram you’re your business account tagged. This way, you can easily reshare it on your profile and give credit to the customer. This will not only make the customer feel special, but it will help you look trustworthy, involved with your customers and community, and draw in more views.

user-generated content on Instagram

Plus, it’s “free” content. This will help better manage expectations of others as they relate to your products and your brand and will leave a positive impact on your followers. Another way to get more user generated content is to invite people in your bio to “tag us to be featured!”

Try using Instagram Ads

Organic reach is limited, but you can expand your reach and visibility further by investing some of your dollars in Instagram Ads. If you want to reach your target audience based on interest, behaviors, and other demographics, paid promotion on Instagram is an excellent and effective method of doing so.

To help you get started if Facebook and Instagram Ads are new to you, check out our recent piece, “Facebook Ecommerce: The Complete Beginner’s Guide” as it also relates to processes you can use on Instagram ad placements.

How to measure Instagram ecommerce success

You’re posting, you’re tagging, but how do you know if your efforts are successful? Hop into your Instagram business account, click through to your profile, then the Insights tab to check out your Instagram analytics, including the likes, comments, and purchases. Once you’re able to tell how your Instagram posts and Stories are performing, you can garner some valuable information on what types of posts and products are popular with your audience, what you may want to promote more often, and what kind of inventory you should stock up on.

In addition to the above insights, you can also use this area of your Instagram business account to learn more about people that interact with your posts and the people that follow you, such as viewing gender, age range, and geographical details. Once you begin running Instagram Ads, you can also view activity based on reach, impressions, and more on the go if you’re not on your computer to have a larger scale view in Facebook Ads Manager reporting.

Remember, keep your finger on the pulse

Like all social media platforms, Instagram is constantly evolving. A lot of these changes are minor, but others have big implications for advertisers and ecommerce businesses.  Here are a few big changes coming down the Instagram ecommerce pipeline.

Instagram Checkout

Checkout launched earlier this year on March 19; however, it is still in a closed beta program for about a dozen larger brands, which you can see here. These are currently only available in organic posts, but it’s safe to say that these will be available in ad format in the future, as we’ve seen happen with most other betas. Plus, this is lucrative for business owners and for Instagram itself. These posts look like organic shopping posts, but they keep users within the Instagram app by not sending them to your website, thus, making the shopping experience much faster and more seamless for users. These posts appear in the Feed, Stories, and the Explore tab. There will be a selling fee that charges merchants, rather than consumers, so that there is more incentive for users to easily shop your posts and should result in higher conversion rates for you as the business owner. The selling fee amount is undisclosed at this time, but I imagine Instagram will initially make it affordable and worthwhile for ecommerce brands.

The flow on Checkout posts look like this:

Instagram ecommerce checkout step 1
Instagram ecommerce checkout step 2
Instagram ecommerce checkout step 3

Want to be notified once Checkout is out of beta and available to more business accounts? Let Instagram know, here.

Branded Content

Another thing to keep an eye on is using Branded Content on Instagram. While it is not yet available at this time, it is on Facebook and tends to work very well in ads. Branded Content is an excellent want to further maximize your exposure and to gain trust with potential customers using posts from other brands that tag you. For example, say you are a new tool company and you partner up with a larger home improvement retailer that is well established and well trusted by consumers. If one of these larger retailers post about your products for a special promotion and tags your business in the post, it will display in the Branded Content tab. You can then easily select the post you are tagged in and promote it as an ad to your target audiences. Given the success that we, our clients, and other brands have seen with Facebook Branded Content, I predict that we will soon see it available on Instagram as well.

For example, here’s a successful one we did for our client, Indow custom window inserts and popular publication Old House Journal. With minimal spend, this and other similar posts significantly helped get our client in front of a larger audience that already is part of the publication’s readership and community, thus increasing our reach, website traffic, engagement, leads, and sales, while also promoting their publication and helpful homeowner tips. When Instagram launched this feature in their platform, we certainly plan on testing Branded Content there, too.

Instagram ecommerce branded content example

These can be found in Facebook Ads Manager in the ad level:

Instagram ecommerce branded content ad manager

Once you select “Use Existing Post” rather than “Create Ad,” the next screen will have your business Facebook and Instagram posts, as well as a third tab for “Branded Content.”

branded content instagram ad manager view

Earlier this year, Instagram rolled our Branded Content to influencers for testing and, as of recently, they’ve begun rolling it out to more accounts, so keep checking back in with yours.

Ready, set, sell!

Now that all of your Facebook and Instagram assets are connected, your catalog is up and running, begin strategizing your Instagram posts and Instagram advertising effort so you can launch when you’re ready. By combining organic and paid content, you will be on your way to driving more sales, increase revenue, and better understanding your customers. Have fun, get creative, and maximize the current and upcoming opportunities available for your ecommerce business by using Instagram!


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