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How to Crush it on Instagram as a Retail Business

Tillie Demetriou
22 Aug 2023

Imagine a place where hearts, comments, and shares rule the scene. We're talking about Instagram, the ultimate playground that's reeling in a mind-blowing 2.35 billion monthly active users – yeah, you read that right!

So, all you go-getter retail merchants itching to ride this social media wave, you're in the right spot. Welcome to How to Crush it on Instagram as a Retail Business  – aka your guide to getting folks on board with the whole #InstaShopCraze frenzy! In this blog, we’ll be covering:

  • How to set up your Instagram Business account
  • How to set goals for this social media channel
  • How to set content pillars
  • Tips on using instagram with examples (including some from our customers!)

Get set to uncover Instagram's hidden treasures, unleash your creative genius, and skyrocket your retail game to places you've only dreamed of. Ready to join us on this heart-pounding rollercoaster ride as we conquer the realm of Instagram triumph? 

Let's do this, Insta-style!

Why Instagram?

In the world of retail, Instagram isn't just a social platform – it's a shopping haven with stats that speak volumes. With over 130 million savvy shoppers transforming taps into real-life purchases, Instagram becomes your pocket-sized marketplace. From fashion finds to dreamy home decor, desires materialise at the touch of a button.

But that's not all. The secret to boosting sales? Collection ads. These virtual storefronts within your feed increase conversions by more than 6%. Each tap is a potential purchase, guiding users toward products that catch their eye and imagination.

Setting up your Instagram Business account

Buckle up because we're about to walk you through the ultimate guide to setting up your Instagram business account and paving the way to success.

  • Step 1: Download the app: First, make sure you have the Instagram app downloaded and ready to roll on your smartphone. 
  • Step 2: Sign up or switch: Already have a personal account? No worries – you can easily switch it to a business account without losing your existing content (see step 5!). If you're new to the scene, sign up using your email or connect with your Facebook account.
  • Step 3: Optimise your profile: Your profile is like your virtual storefront – it needs to be visually appealing and informative. Choose a profile picture that's recognizable and represents your brand (like your logo). Your username should reflect your business name. Your bio is where you make your first impression. Share what you're all about, what you offer, and sprinkle in a dash of personality!
  • Step 4: Contact information: Businesses need to be reachable. Add your contact information, like an email address or phone number, so your customers can easily get in touch. And hey, if you have a physical store, add the location too.
  • Step 5: Make it official with a business account: Here's where the magic happens. Switch to a business account by heading to your settings and clicking on "Account." From there, select "Switch to Professional Account" and then choose "Business." Voilà, you're now officially an Insta-preneur!
  • Step 6: Categorise your business: Choose a business category that best fits your offering. This helps Instagram understand your business and connect you with the right audience. Whether you're into fashion, beauty, gadgets, or beyond, there's a category for you.
  • Step 7: Insights and analytics: With a business account, you'll have access to valuable data about your posts, audience, and engagement. Learn what works and refine your strategy based on these insights.

Now you’ve got your Instagram page all set up for your retail business, let’s look at some tips that will have you selling your products in no time!

Master the art of goal setting: 

Set your sights on success by outlining your goals and objectives. Whether it's boosting sales, building brand awareness, or winning hearts, your game plan will lead the way.

Setting SMART goals will be your compass, guiding you through the Insta-jungle with finesse and purpose. 

  • Specific: Keep it simple and clear. Define your goal in straightforward terms. Are you looking to gain more followers? Boost post likes? Sell a certain number of products?
  • Measurable: Make it quantifiable. Assign numbers to your goal, like number of followers, engagement rate, number of comments, or number of sales. For example, maybe you want to grow your Instagram following by 20%? Having a concrete number helps you track progress and celebrate achievements.
  • Achievable: Be real about your resources. Can you realistically achieve your goal with what you have on hand? Whether it's time, money, or manpower, make sure your goal is doable.
  • Realistic: Check if this goal is the most appropriate for your business. Is it an appropriate use of time and effort? Is there a more appropriate goal that would be more realistic for your business? If no, then you can carry on!
  • Time-bound: Set a timeframe. Hold yourself accountable by deciding when you want to achieve your goal. It could be a matter of weeks or months – but having a deadline keeps you on track.

Putting it all together: 

Here are a couple of example SMART goals for businesses using Instagram - remember to tweak them to suit your business:

  1. Increase engagement on posts by 20% in the next two months by using more interactive captions, high-quality images, and consistent posting.
  2. Improve my conversion rate for Instagram product pages by 7% before December by using high-quality images and creating product-focused reels.
  3. Increase my business brand awareness by getting my average post reach up to 800 people and growing my follower count by 15% over the next three months by creating eye-catching posts and reels with a clear call-to-action (CTA).

Decide on your content pillars 

Like a wardrobe full of statement pieces, content pillars are a collection of themes that your retail brand consistently showcases on Instagram. Think of them as your content commandments – the golden rules that guide your every post.

Tailored to your retail store's unique offerings, they encompass what your followers desire. And guess what? You can have multiple themes to engage your audience's diverse interests.

Imagine you own a retail beauty brand called Glam Haven. Here are their content pillars:

  1. Beauty and makeup tutorials
  2. Product spotlights and ingredients
  3. Celebrity-inspired looks
  4. Makeup and self-care tips and tricks 
  5. Funny makeup-related memes and quotes

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Tip #1: Make your Insta visually appealing: 

Craft a feed that's as captivating as your favourite rom-com. Stick to consistent colours, filters, and styles for an Instagram that's oh-so-pleasing to the eye.

But remember, you don't just have to use your own content on your feed. There are an array of captivating images that'll make your Insta shine like a star on the red carpet. 

Types of images you can use on your Insta: 

Original photography: 

Capture your products in the best light, emphasising their details, textures, and colours. This is your chance to infuse your brand's personality and unique style into every shot.

Here’s a great example from our brilliant customer, Norwich's flagship department store Jarrold!

User-Generated Content (UGC): 

Encourage your followers to become your brand ambassadors by showcasing their purchases. Repost their images to create a sense of community and trust.

Need a brilliant example to better understand what we mean? Back in 2016, Starbucks came up with something seriously cool – the #RedCupArt challenge, where people could show off their artistic skills by decorating their red Starbucks cups. It was all about spreading creativity and holiday vibes. People shared their designs under the hashtag, and it caused quite a buzz on social media. Here’s just one of the hundreds of thousands of entries they received and shared!

Curated Content: 

Share content from influencers, partners, or other creators that align with your brand. It's a way to offer diverse perspectives while maintaining the overarching theme of your feed.

Witness the brilliance in action - we’re a huge fan of this showcase from Norwich City FC!


Tip #2: Craft captions that sizzle: 

Instagram might be a feast for the eyes but don't underestimate the power of words. Craft your captions like a master storyteller, adding depth and purpose to your posts. 

Tips and tricks for Instagram captions:

  • Let your vibe shine through: Infuse your brand's personality into your captions. Whether it's your quirky humour, chill vibes, or elegant style, let your words reflect who you are. Your captions are like your brand's signature – let it stand out.
  • Build a mini-community: Use inclusive language to make your followers feel part of your tribe. Encourage them to share their thoughts, ideas, and experiences related to your products.
  • Emoji power: A smiley face for positivity, a heart for love – emojis help convey your vibe in a snap.
  • Embrace the space: Use line breaks to help make your captions more readable when on mobile.
  • Add a hashtag or five: Sprinkle both popular and niche hashtags to make your content pop on everyone's radar. 
  • Intrigue and leave them wanting more: Give a hint, share a secret, or pose a question that leaves your audience wanting to know more.
  • CTA magic: Give your followers a nudge. Encourage them to visit your website, shop now, or explore a new collection. A simple call-to-action will help to increase your engagement.
  • Limited links: At the moment, you can’t add links in your captions! This is why CTAs are so important - if you want customers to go to your website, add the link in your Instagram bio, and in your posts direct viewers to check it out there.

Ryanair, the online travel agents, have absolutely aced their tone of voice and overall vibe. They've got a solid grasp on the fact that many of their customers are from the Gen Z and millennial crowd, and their Instagram captions reflect that spot-on. But don’t just take our word for it. Check out this example below! 

See how just 2 words can invoke humor and build a community through a shared and relatable experience? 

Tip #3: Become a storytelling pro: 

Imagine Instagram Stories as your personal stage, where you're not just sharing but performing. It's where you unveil the curtain, invite your audience into your world, and keep the excitement alive.

The summary:

Instagram stories are an in-app feature where you can add photos, videos, links, mentions of other accounts, or text updates that automatically disappear after 24 hours. They are in a vertical format and are separate from your traditional Instagram feed. Your can see who has viewed your story, and you can limit who can view your stories to a closed audience.

Here are some tips and tricks for Instagram stories: 

The art of unveiling: 

Stories are like your customer's backstage pass to your brand's journey. Lift the curtain on your upcoming products, behind-the-scenes moments, and exclusive sneak peeks. It's the anticipation that keeps your audience on their toes.

Engagement on the rise: 

Stories are an interactive playground. Use polls to get your audience's opinions on new releases, colours, or product names. It's like asking your friends for fashion advice – you're involving them in your brand's decisions.

Swipe up / Tap here for more: 

If you have 10,000 or more followers, you can lead them to your website with a simple swipe up. Alternatively, you can create a clickable link on your stories leading your customers to the next part of their customer journey.  It's like giving them a VIP pass to explore your latest collection or read your newest blog post.

Back in January, beauty department store Space NK absolutely nailed this. They had Selena Gomez talking about her new products, and cleverly included a call-to-action, inviting people to join the waitlist. It was a smart move that got everyone excited!

Live Q&A sessions: 

Host a Q&A session to give your audience a chance to get to know you better. It's like a live interview where they get to ask the questions. From beauty tips to brand philosophy, it's your chance to connect on a personal level. 

Countdowns and surprises: 

Use countdown stickers to build anticipation for a product launch or a special event. It's like a ticking clock to the climax of your story. And when the countdown hits zero, surprise your audience with a reveal worth the wait.

Tip #4: Instagram Shop til you drop: 

Let's dive into the enchanting world of Instagram shopping and discover how to use its features like a seasoned pro shopper.

Tag and transform: 

Imagine transforming every post into a shopping experience. With Instagram's shopping features, you can tag products directly in your posts. Turn that fabulous outfit or stunning accessory into a clickable link, leading your audience straight to the checkout.

Shoppable posts made easy: 

Just like curating your wishlist, you can curate your shoppable posts. Showcase your products in a way that makes buying a breeze. Whether it's a chic dress, a trendy gadget, or a must-have beauty product – shoppable posts turn casual browsing into instant gratification. You can even let your favouite influencers directly tag and sell your products on their grid. 

Image Source

Create collections: 

Collections are like compiling your shopping wishlists. Group similar products together, making it easy for your audience to discover complementary items. It's like guiding them through the aisles of your store with a curated selection.

Explore the shop tab: 

Instagram's Shop tab is like a curated aisle of your favourite boutique. It's a dedicated space where your audience can effortlessly explore and shop your products. Think of it as a virtual mall where every click unveils a new treasure.

See this in action! The Edit LDN, a global leader in online consignment stores, showcases the power of Instagram's Shop tab below!

Tip #5: Navigate the data dance

Hold onto your crown, because we're diving into the royal realm of Instagram insights. 

Within Instagram Business Insights, you'll uncover a world of stats that tell your brand's story. From post engagement and reach to profile visits and follower demographics, every number paints a vivid picture of your audience's preferences.

  • Regularly check your insights: Discover which posts are sparking fireworks and which are missing the mark. Is your latest fashion haul post giving them heart eyes? Are your beauty tutorials getting thumbs up? The numbers will unveil the answers.
  • This data dance is your key to strategy refinement: Let your insights guide you as you make moves. If a certain content style resonates, amplify it. If a posting time hits the sweet spot, own it. Insights give you the power to pivot like a pro.

Just remember, you're not analysing data in isolation – you're deciphering your audience's applause. Use these stats to connect with their preferences, adapt to their rhythms, and create content that leaves them chanting for more. So, embrace the data, hustle with heart, and let the insights pave the way to maximum impact and standing ovations. 

Mastering Instagram for your retail business

As we draw the curtains on our ultimate guide to conquering Instagram for your retail business, let's wrap up some parting insights.

Instagram opens the doors to boundless opportunities, connecting your brand with a global audience through creative avenues. By embracing authenticity, riding the waves of trends, and remaining adaptable, you can make an indelible mark on your audience.

Remember to experiment, learn from your followers, and stay attuned to the ever-evolving Instagram landscape. With a touch of enthusiasm and a dash of creativity, your retail business can thrive on this dynamic platform.

So, take the plunge, infuse your brand with the Instagram spirit, and watch your business soar to new heights. Here's to your Instagram triumph, retail trailblazers! 

Now that you’ve mastered Instagram, it’s time to tackle TikTok! Our companion blog, "How to Use TikTok for Your Retail Business in 2023 - The Ultimate Guide," is your next step to success.