How the Best Retailers Use Instagram for Social Selling

Tips for retailers who are new to Instagram

As a new school year kicks off, we wondered—how are today’s retailers targeting consumers online? The retail industry is changing fast, and to make it in this trend-centric business, marketers must find the best channels to reach their audiences. In order to understand the evolution, we decided to look at one of the top new channels for selling products today: Instagram. In this blog, we’ll take a look at some of the reasons we believe Instagram has become so successful for selling retail content, and learn more from industry leaders about how to properly share your brand over this channel.

Fact: Retail eCommerce sales are higher than ever.

Shoppers are spending more money than ever online, and it’s showing no sign of slowing. According to, retail is still going strong, growing 6% every year, but research predicts an overall plateauing of the field. The real explosion is eCommerce, with over 8% growth expected for this year. And those numbers keep climbing.

Another Fact: Instagram is Massive.

Instagram has become one of the fastest-growing social platforms in the world. 63% of Millennials are registered Instagrammers. With its acquisition in 2012 by Facebook, Instagram’s integration between its core millennial audience and the largest social channel in the world, Facebook, makes it perhaps the most powerful social tool for selling new products to all generations.

instagram press page

So how are the best brands utilizing Instagram? And what can we learn from their insights to change up your social selling game?
We analyzed some of the most successful retail posts on Instagram to see what we could learn about how great brands use Instagram as part of their social advertising strategies.

Who are the MVPs of Retail on Instagram?

Using a list of the top 20 retail brands according to Fortune Magazine, and excluding all Food and Beverage related retailers, we analyzed the top brands to see who’s knocking it out of the park in terms of social selling, and who still has some work to do. We focused the topic of analysis on back to school, to see who killed it with hashtags for back to school trends. 
Instagram Hashtag Volume from 2016-08-02 to 2016-09-01 Instagram Top Hashtags from 2016-08-02 to 2016-09-01

Who’s Winning the Hashtag Game?

Amazon is prepped and ready for back to school-related hashtags. iTunes is also doing well, but their success is likely due to the fact they mostly promote the releases of new TV shows and music with some witty repartee. It seems like Spotify is giving Apple a run for it in the hashtag game. In terms of clothing providers, it looks like Gap and Nordstrom are making hard sells for clothes to wear for back to school conversation as well. 
But hashtags are just one part of the equation for a successful social strategy. What else matters when you’re looking to sell over social, particularly on such a visual platform like Instagram?

Our 4 Tips for Retailers who are new to Instagram:

1. We know you’re advertising – but make it beautiful. — There’s something to be said for allowing the image to speak for itself — millennials hate marketing. Let the photo do the talking for you.
2. Personalization is everything.” “People hate irrelevance more than they hate advertising.””— Systrom
Follow the founder’s advice. Make the language you use clear, comfortable and relevant to your audience. And don’t sell a product, display it, wear it, take a video of it. Make it desirable to your audience. Make sure you know who your actual social audience is (as well as your competitors to take advantage of their followers as well).

Monday #mood. #busy

A photo posted by Nordstrom (@nordstrom) on

3. Keep it in perspective — First person if possible. Shots that show clothing laid out on a familiar-looking bed or bedroom, make it seem like it could be your own which in turn, makes the ad more relatable. Stylish backgrounds also do well, so think about what’s around you when taking these shots.
4. Sundays are the best kept ad secret for successMany brands found their highest posts had Sunday- or weekend-related hashtags. Don’t discount the weekend, this could be a great time to capitalize on new audiences over social media. 

Sun-daze. ? #weekend #designer
A photo posted by Nordstrom (@nordstrom) on

Take these data-driven tips, and make your Instagram posts hit new sales highs.
For more information on social selling, check out our SVP of Sales and Marketing John Donnelly III’s presentation at Inbound last year.

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