Since its launch in 2010, Instagram has gone from being a simple (if popular) photo-sharing app to one of the dominant forces in social media, and especially in online retail.
While the platform is great for retailers looking to boost brand awareness and increase online engagement – thanks to the growing popularity of shoppable campaigns and influencer involvement – it is now also much easier to see direct results.
So, which brands are actually making money from Instagram? Here’s a look at five case studies of retailers who are boosting sales on the platform.
With strong organic reach and a highly active user base, Instagram is now an extremely desirable place to advertise – and a more natural choice (compared to Facebook) for brands with a visual and design-led aesthetic.
It’s not cheap, however, meaning small or start-up brands without big budgets need to consider whether or not it’s worth the investment.
Flower brand Bloom & Wild undertook a test and learn strategy in order to find out, comparing the engagement on both image-based and video Instagram ads. It used the Custom Audiences tool to build a highly targeted audience – those who had previously exhibited similar behaviours and interests to its existing customer-base.
Upon discovering that video ads generated the highest engagement levels and conversion rates, Bloom & Wild then scaled up its ad spend, ensuring that its ads continued to reach a small but highly engaged audience.
According to reports, this activity helped to increase bouquet orders for the brand by 62% – certainly proof that the investment was worthwhile. Since then, the brand has continually scaled up social media activity, also investing in larger-scale campaigns.
One particular campaign in partnership with Boden, which also involved offline marketing, resulted in its Mother’s Day bouquet selling out before the day itself, alongside a 15% jump in social growth.
Social media is usually thought of as an additional way to increase engagement or boost sales – in other words, as part of a wider strategy that also includes email, search, and of course, bricks and mortar retail.
In recent times, however, we’ve also seen the emergence of a number of so-called ‘Instagram brands’, which launch and market themselves solely via the platform.
LPA is one prominent example of this. It is a direct-to-consumer clothing line that bypasses traditional elements like seasonal launches, press events, and offline marketing.
Instead, it sells solely via Instagram, also using the platform to connect and cultivate an online audience. As well as being generally quite ‘Instagram-friendly’ – with a strong aesthetic that appeals to the fashion consumer – the brand’s viral success has also been generated thanks to influencer involvement.
This strategy was learnt from the founder, Pia Arrobio’s, time at fashion brand Revolve, which is also famous for partnering with influencers in order to increase visibility online. American actress Emily Ratajkowski, plus many other high-profile names, have Instagrammed themselves wearing LPA, in turn opening up the brand to millions of new followers.
Paris 99 is another brand that has benefited from good connections, and one that uses a similar direct-to-consumer model to LPA. It went viral on Instagram on the back of a single post, when founder of online site Man Repeller, Leandra Medine, re-posted a Paris 99 image.
This resulted in a swathe of new followers for the brand, and the featured dress becoming a ‘must-have’ for fashion fans online. Even for those who missed it, a number of online publications picked up the story, leading to even more interest in the brand.
While it’s difficult to determine the success of Paris 99 (and LPA) in terms of revenue – there are no sales figures published as far as I am aware – these brands are still worth mentioning in the context of social selling. They would not exist if it were not for Instagram, after all, which inherently proves the value of the platform in relation to ROI.
For fast fashion brands like Missguided, the decision to invest in social-first campaigns on Instagram is a no-brainer. This is because it is where its young audience spends the majority of its time, with Ofcom reporting that 18 to 24 year olds now spend nearly three and a quarter hours every day on their mobile phone. This is compared to an average of two hours and 28 minutes.
Another thing that young people happened to be obsessed with this summer was Love Island, which Missguided capitalised on in a big way. Its partnership with the show involved dressing the Islanders in the brand’s clothes, and giving viewers the option to buy them via its app or through Instagram posts.
Alongside huge exposure for Missguided, there’s no doubt that it was an outright success in terms of revenue, too. Speaking to Marketing Week, Missguided’s CCO, Kenyatte Nelson, revealed that sales increased by 40% each evening as Love Island aired on TV.
If it’s executed correctly, this is where the value of social really comes in. With TV, for example, the benefits are reach and awareness – a chance to reach the masses (in a passive way). However, with the additional layer of social, brands are able to reach consumers in a different context – one that facilitates interaction, engagement, and ideally, a purchase.
Missguided was particularly clever in how it capitalised on the show’s popularity and influence, with consumers eager to get their hands on the clothes as they saw them on screen. For other bands, it’s difficult to think of a scenario that might work in a similar way. However, it proves the value of influencers, and shows that social media can certainly offer huge return on investment – even above and beyond initial expectations.
Glossier is a brand that’s synonymous with social media, using Instagram to build and cultivate a huge following. Since then, it’s gone on to use social to promote and champion its brand message – one that fosters positivity and self esteem in women.
In 2017, its ‘Body Hero’ campaign – to promote its new range of products – featured five different models and different shapes and sizes posing nude.
According to a.List, the campaign had good results from social, reportedly generating $33,000 worth of earned media value in one week. Earned media is the value of engagements a brand receives, so in this context, it refers to the number of mentions about the campaign or brand on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
While this is a slightly vague metric, with no real indication of how it translates to conversion or uplift in sales, it still offers insight into the power of making a splash – especially if the message is particularly bold or focused on social issues.
The above examples certainly prove that Instagram is worthy of more than mere inspiration. With new opportunities to persuade users to click through and buy (rather than passively scroll), the platform is becoming a place where retailers can target niche audiences and capitalise on real-time discovery.
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