Instagram Buying 101: A Step-by-Step Information for Entrepreneurs

Forget the mall: these days Instagram is the place to shop till you drop.

Sure, there's no such thing as an Orange Julius for a mid-stroll snack, but Instagram Shopping brings the retail experience to social media to reach an audience of over 1 billion monthly users.

Instead of directing customers from your Instagram account to your website, Instagram Shopping allows them to simply select and buy products through the app.

Every month more than 130 million users tap an Instagram shopping post – pedestrian traffic that a shopkeeper could only dream of. So if you want to sell products, it's time to set up your virtual storefront. Let's begin.

In this post, you will learn:

  • Why should you use Instagram shopping?
  • How to set up Instagram shopping posts and stories
  • How to optimize your shoppable posts to increase sales and engagement

Bonus: Download a free checklist This shows the exact steps a lifestyle photographer took on Instagram to grow from 0 to 600,000 followers, without a budget and without expensive equipment.

What is Instagram Shopping?

Instagram Shopping is a feature that enables ecommerce brands to create a digital, shareable catalog of their products right on Instagram.

Users can learn more about products right in the app and either shop directly on Instagram (with checkout) or click their way through to complete the transaction on the brand's e-commerce website.

Sharing products or promoting sales on Instagram is nothing new. According to Instagram, 87% of users say that influencers inspired them to make a purchase, and 70% of avid shoppers turn to the platform to discover new products.

In the past, the only way for e-tail brands to control sales traffic directly from a gram, either through their bio link or through clickable Instagram stories.

With these new Instagram shopping features, the whole process is streamlined. See it, like it, buy it with just a few clicks: the entire Ariana Grande cycle.

Here are some key details and terms that every Instagram trader should know before they get started:

On Instagram shop is a brand's customizable digital storefront that allows customers to shop directly from your Instagram profile. Think of this as a landing page where users can discover or browse all of your products.

Source: Instagram

Product detail pages View all of the key product information, from item description to price to photography. The product detail page also shows images with product tags on Instagram.

Burberry product detail page
Source: Instagram

Collections This allows stores to showcase products in a curated group – basically, it's like marketing your digital front window. Think: "Sweet Spring Outfits", "Handmade Ceramic" or "Nike x Elmo Collab".
Brief collection of Spearmint Baby

Source: Instagram

Use one Shopping day to tag products from your catalog in your Stories or Instagram posts so your audience can click through to learn more or buy. U.S. companies using Instagram's limited checkout feature can also tag products in post captions and bios. (You can use shopping tags in ads too! Yowza!)

ASOS shopping day
Source: Instagram

With Check (currently only available in selected regions) customers can buy products directly on Instagram without leaving the app. (For brands without a checkout function, customers are directed to a checkout page on the brand's own e-commerce website.)

Facebook Pay Checkout Option
Source: Instagram

The new Shop Detection Tab on the Instagram app offers a discovery tool even for non-followers. Scroll through goods from brands big and small all over the world: it's window shopping 2.0.

Source: Instagram

How to get approved for Instagram purchases

Before you can set up Instagram Shopping, you need to make sure that your company has checked a few boxes for permission.

How to set up Instagram shopping

Step 1: Convert to a business or creator account

If you don't already have a business (or creator) account on Instagram, it's time to take the plunge.

In addition to qualifying for Instagram Shopping features, business accounts also have access to all kinds of exciting analytics … and can use Hootsuite's planning dashboard for posts too.

Plus, it's free. Hop in! Here's our step-by-step guide on how to switch your personal account (and 10 reasons why you should!).

Switch to a professional account

Step 2: Connect to a Facebook page

You can't have an Instagram shop without a Facebook page. Hopefully you already have one. If not, set one up in seven easy steps. I'll wait.

Now is the time to connect the two!

1. Go to Instagram edit profile.

2. Under Business Public Information, select page.

Connect to the Facebook page

3. Select your Facebook Business Page to connect.

4. Ta-da!

Step 3: Upload your product catalog

Okay, this is the part where you actually upload all of your products. You have various options here. You can either manually enter each product into the Facebook Business Manager or integrate an existing product database from a certified e-commerce platform (such as Shopify or BigCommerce).

Hot Tip: Hootsuite now has Shopify integration, so you can easily manage your catalog right from your dashboard!

Let's walk through each of the catalog creation options step by step.

Option A: Facebook Business Catalog Manager

1. Go to your Facebook Business account and go to Commerce Manager.

2. Click on Getting started and select Create a catalog.

Create a catalog

3. Choose E-Commerce (Products) and click Next.

4. Choose how you want to add items to your catalog. In this case choose Upload product information.

5. Assign this catalog to your Business Manager account.

6. Enter a name for your catalog.

7. Click on Create.

Upload product info

8. Return to Commerce Manager and select your catalog.

9. Go to the Catalog tab and navigate to Items.

10. Choose Add articles, then Add manuallyand hit Next.

11. Upload a picture of your item – this should be at least 500 x 500 pixels.

12. Enter a name, description, and other details. Get specific so the SEO overlords can help buyers find your great merchandise.

Start by adding an item

13. In the Item category Section, choose your specific category.

14. If necessary, add different sizes or colors under Create Variants.

15. When you are finished, click Finished… Or hit Add another element and start with step 12.

Option B: Integrate an e-commerce database

1. Go to Commerce Manager.

2. Open the Catalog tab and go to Data sources.

3. Choose Add articles, then Use a partner platform, then hit Next.

4. Choose the platform of your choice: Shopify, BigCommerce, ChannelAdvisor, CommerceHub, Feedonomics, CedCommerce, adMixt, DataCaciques, Quipt or Zentail.

Configure the settings for connecting the e-commerce platform

5. Follow the link to the partner platform website and follow the steps there to connect your account to Facebook.

Step 3: Submit your account for review

At this point, you will need to submit your account for verification. These checks typically take a few days but sometimes take longer.

Set up Instagram shopping

  1. Go to your Instagram profile settings.
  2. Tap Sign up for Instagram Shopping.
  3. Follow the steps to submit your account for review.
  4. Check the status of your application at shop in your settings.

Step 4: Turn on Instagram Shopping

Once you've passed the account verification process, it's time to connect your product catalog to your Instagram store.

  1. Go to your Instagram profile settings.
  2. Tap business, then shop.
  3. Select the product catalog that you want to connect to.
  4. Tap Done.

If you have a Business or Creator account and live in the United States, you may be eligible for Instagram Checkout, which allows users to complete their purchases directly from Instagram. Further information on setting up your checkout function is available here!

How to Create Instagram Shopping Posts

Your digital shop is shiny and shiny. Your product inventory is bursting at the seams. You're ready to make that money – all you need is a customer or two.

Let the world know what you're doing with an Instagram shippable post.

  1. Upload a photo like a normal post – add captions, effects, and filters as you wish.
  2. Tap on Label productsThen tap the photo you want the tag to appear on.
  3. Enter the name of the products you want to tag. (Note: this must match the name in your product catalog.)
  4. Select your product and click Done.
  5. Tap share to get your first shippable post in your feed!

Easy Tiger Goods product brands

You can mark up to five products per post – this also applies to video posts!

A shopping bag icon appears in the lower left corner of shoppable Instagram posts. All the products that your account has tagged will appear in your profile on the "Shopping" tab.

How to Create Instagram Shopping Stories

Use the "Stickers" function to mark a product in your Instagram story.

Upload or create your content for your story as you normally would, then click the sticker icon in the top right corner. Find the product sticker and from there select the appropriate product from your catalog.

(Hot Tip: You can customize your product sticker to match the colors of your story.)
Nike Instagram Shopping Story

How to Create Instagram Shopping Ads

Either boost an already created shoppable post or create an ad from scratch in the ad manager using the Instagram product tags. Easy!

Product tagged ads can either be served to your ecommerce website or open Instagram Checkout if you have this functionality.

For more information on the Ad Manager, see our guide to Instagram advertising.

Instagram Shopping Ad
Source: Instagram

How to Create an Instagram Live Shopping Stream

In many parts of the world, livestream shopping is an integral part of the e-commerce culture. With the introduction of Instagram Live Shopping, the practice is rolled out worldwide.

Basically, Instagram Live Shopping enables developers and brands to sell products during an Instagram Live broadcast – like your personal home shopping network.

It's a powerful tool, so it deserves an in-depth blog post of its own. Luckily we wrote one. Get the 4-1-1- on Live Shopping on Instagram here.

Live shopping stream
Source: Instagram

How to create Instagram buying guides

As one of the newest features of the app, Instagram guides are like mini-blogs that live right on the platform.

For users with an Instagram shop, this can be a great way to promote products with a certain editorial angle: think gift guides or trending reports.

Buying guide for ankle boots

1. In your profile, click the plus sign in the upper right corner.

2. Choose To lead.

3. Tap Products.

4. Search by Account for the list of products you want to include. If you have saved the product on your wish list, you will find it there too.

5. Select the product that you want to add and tap Next. You can add multiple posts for a single post if available. They are displayed like a carousel.

6. Add the title and description of your guide. If you want to use a different cover photo, tap Change cover picture.

7. Review the pre-filled place name and edit it as necessary. If you want, add a description.

8. Tap Add products and repeat steps 4 through 8 until your instructions are complete.

9. Tap Next in the upper right corner.

10. Tap share.

12 Tips for Selling More Products Using Instagram Shopping

Now that your virtual shelves are in stock, it's time to grab a potential buyer's attention.

Here are some best practices to encourage users to shop until they drop. (Or should that be "gram till they … fault"? Hmmm, I'm still working on it.)

1. Use eye-catching graphics

Instagram is a visual medium so your products will look better on the grid! Prioritize high quality photos and videos to keep your merchandise looking professional and engaging.

Just look at the playful way fashion brand Lisa Says Gah displays its tote bags: it dangles from an arm that is holding a bottle of wine.

Fashion brand Lisa Says Gah tote bags

Make sure you are up to date with the latest image and video specs (Instagram sometimes changes changes) and that photos and videos are high resolution whenever possible.

If you can, give your product photos an exciting, editorial atmosphere and present your goods in action or in a real environment. Sharing beautiful detail shots can also be a noticeable option.

Or, experiment with these photo editing tools to really stand out from the crowd.

2. Add hashtags

Using relevant Instagram hashtags is a smart strategy for all posts, including shopping content.

They increase the chances of being discovered by a new person and open up a whole new opportunity for potential engagement.

For example, searching the #shoplocal tag brings up a multitude of small businesses – like epoxy artist Dar Rossetti – that I can buy locally.

Shop local hashtag

Using the right hashtags can also help you land on the Explore page, which has a dedicated "Shop" tab and is visited by more than 50% of Instagram users every month (that's more than half a Billion people).

3. Share a sale or promotion code

Everyone loves good business, and running an ad campaign is a surefire way to increase sales.

Leisurewear's Paper Label brand promotes a sale of key elements in the caption. Interested users can simply click through to benefit from the offer and be adorned with spandex in no time.

Promotional code for paper labels

Promoting the code right on your Instagram shoppable posts makes it even easier for customers to trade.

4. Show your product in action

The most popular type of video content on Instagram is the tutorial or how-to video. And this format is ideal for shopping postings as it provides product training and proof of concept to viewers.

Here Woodlot shows one of its soaps based on essential oils in action, which are lathered in until you bathe.

Woodlot essential oil soap

5. Be authentic

The principles of social media engagement also apply to product posts … and that includes the golden rule of authenticity.

You don't have to stick to the copy of the product. Your personality and voice should shine through here! Don't miss the opportunity to connect with your audience with a thoughtful caption that offers surprising insights or an emotional connection. What inspired the piece? How was it done Storytelling is a sales tool that is as old as time.

Nursing company One Tough Mother supports all of its product posts with empathic, often funny, insights into new motherhoods.

One Tough Mother authentic content

6. Play with color

Color is always an eye catcher. So don't be afraid to use a vibrant shade as a background for your product shot.

Artist Jackie Lee shares her graphic prints on a neon background for maximum impact.

Graphic print of Halifax by Jackie Lee

If you notice a certain palette of colors that is trending with influencers, switch to something that contrasts with scrollers stopping in their tracks.

7. Define a signature style

A unified aesthetic on Instagram will help you increase your brand awareness and establish your identity.

Also, customers can scroll through their feed or browse the browse tab to see your posts at a glance.

Sebastian Sochan makes hand-tufted carpets in London and photographs all of his pieces in a unique way throughout his studio. The color palette and lighting remain the same in every scene.

Carpets consistent aesthetic style

Your signature style on Instagram should match your branding images elsewhere. Your website, ads, and product packaging should match with complementary images.

8. Be inclusive

If you want your brand to reach a wide audience, you need to make sure that your images are meaningfully representative.

With over a billion users, it's safe to say that Instagram users are a diverse group.

But too often people look the same in Instagram promotions and pictures: white, powerful, lean. Embrace all of your prospects with models that showcase all of the different body types that are out there.

The period product brand Aisle uses models of all genders, sizes and races to advertise their products.

Period product brand Aisle including approach

Another inclusivity tip: label your pictures descriptively so that visually impaired users can still find out all about your amazing product.

9. Share user-generated content

User Generated Content (UGM) refers to posts or stories from Instagram users that contain your products.

Not only do these posts provide new, real images of your photos in action, but they also add credibility to you. This is because posts are seen as more authentic by real users and that authenticity leads to greater trust. They are like visual testimonials.

The Mother Funk boutique in Toronto regularly posts photos of locals wearing their clothes.

User generated content from the Mother Funk Boutique

10. Create a fascinating carousel

Present your range with a carousel that presents a variety of products. This way, users can quickly get a broader view of your latest collection without having to tap into the entire wayyyy of your Instagram store.

11. Work with flavor makers

Work with a tastemaker to further disseminate your product contributions. Invite an influencer or a person you admire to put together a special collection of their favorite merchandise from your catalog.

An example: The linen brand Droplet has teamed up with the Canadian influencer Jillian Harris to develop a special product line. The cross-promotion contributed to exposing the products to a completely new perspective.

Droplet Home Goods Cross-Promotion

You will mark them on all of your posts. They share with their own audience (and get a warm, fuzzy feeling that you admire their sense of style). Win win!

12. Create compelling CTAs

Nothing goes better with a beautiful photo than a compelling call to action. A call to action is an instructive phrase that urges the reader to act – whether it's "Buy now!" or "Share with a friend!" or "Get it before it's gone!"

For example, eyewear brand Warby Parker gives followers the exact instructions they need to shop now: "Tap the (shopping bag) icon to get yours!"

Warby Parker's compelling call to action

Update your CTAs here on the blog and use your new power responsibly.

Shopping on Instagram is growing in popularity and it is only a matter of time before features like Instagram Checkout are global. So there is no time like the present to find out how this can benefit your business as part of your overall social media strategy. Let the digital shopping spree begin!

Save time managing your Instagram presence with Hootsuite. From a single dashboard, you can integrate your social networks with your Shopify store, add products to any social media post, and respond to comments with product suggestions. Try it for free today.


With files by Michelle Cyca.

Just create, analyze and Schedule Instagram posts with Hootsuite. Save time and get results.

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