Five Tips on How To Use Instagram To Build Your Retail Business From ShopThing

Maggie Adhami-Boynton, founder and CEO of ShopThing, built her live shopping business on Instagram. She says brands don’t need to stress over the polish of the content they post.

“Gen Z and Millennials love raw content,” she says. “They don’t care if your clips are beautifully shot or professionally produced, but there are several things that do matter.”

Here, she reveals the five tips that enabled her to scale a retail company on Instagram’s platform. 

Instagram tip #1: Consider casting

Adhami-Boynton advises brands to think long and hard when they cast Instagram videos. It’s critical to select influencers who align with the brand, the campaign objective, and the items for sale.

“The right influencer ensures your event comes across as genuine,” she says. “Gen Z and Millennials want to shop from their favorite influencers — they don’t want brands pushing content at them. Find the personalities that don’t come across as salespeople.”

Instagram tip #2: Stay consistent

For a brand trying to get into live shopping through Instagram, Adhami-Boynton says consistency is key. Because live shopping is still a new phenomenon, most audiences don’t understand it thoroughly, and many aren’t even aware of it.

“Building consistent content and regular events helps new followers participate,” says Adhami-Boynton. “A regular schedule trains your customers on what live shopping is and what to expect.”

Instagram tip #3: Market your brand

Adhami-Boynton says the old adage “If you build it, they will come” does not apply to a live shopping business on Instagram. Brands that want to succeed must promote their content in order for it to be found by customers in their target markets. 

“Post Instagram content on other social media platforms, send email blasts, and text consumers,” Adhami-Boynton advises. “Whatever worked for your brand’s marketing in the past, use it to promote live shopping events.”

Instagram tip #4: Use promotions

According to Adhami-Boynton, promotions are vital for live shopping businesses on Instagram. Live shopping began in the Asian market, and it is primarily promotion driven. When Adhami-Boynton brought the trend to North America, she discovered promotions are key to engagement here, as well.

“We provide two types of promotions,” remarks Adhami-Boynton. “Sometimes, during a live sale, we offer a bargain such as a discount like 25% off, or buy one get one free. The second type of promotion entices viewers to stick with a live stream with a raffle for free items at the end. We want people engaged as long as possible.”

Instagram tip #5: Lean into the features Instagram is promoting

Adhami-Boynton’s fifth and final tip is to utilize the features that Instagram is trying to promote. “For a while, they were pushing Instagram Live, but they’ve since moved on to Reels,” she reports. “If you tune in to the feature Instagram is promoting, it will deliver wider reach. Jump on those trends early, and you will benefit wildly.”

To capitalize on rising trends, Adhami-Boynton says Instagram users have to stay in the know. She advises following Instagram’s account and listening to town hall discussions amongst its users.

What makes Instagram an effective tool for live shopping businesses?

Instagram was the most significant tool in launching Adhami-Boynton’s live shopping brand, ShopThing. Best of all, her consumers were already spending time on the platform. “Go to your audience instead of making them come to you,” she says. “Instagram is ideal for live shopping. The channel promotes live streams, and followers are already familiar with the format. On top of that, Instagram has introduced its audience to transactional capabilities through its shop. The platform offers a social element, a devoted audience, and transactional infrastructure.”

Before developing an app, ShopThing sold items exclusively through Instagram. However, ShopThing marketed its products on the platform a bit differently than most other brands. Instead of selling through Instagram feeds, ShopThing used Instagram stories.

“Since the ShopThing app is unavailable on Android devices, we still use Instagram stories to reach non-iOS customers,” remarks Adhami-Boynton. “Every day, we post between 100 and 150 products to Instagram stories that customers purchase in real-time.”

During ShopThing’s early days, analytics indicated that feeds were losing eyeballs and stories were gaining steam. When stories emerged to compete with Snapchat, consumers left feeds in droves. Instagram feeds are typically static, and followers have to scroll to reach the posts. Stories, on the other hand, are glimpses into an influencer’s everyday life and remain at the top for easy access.

In addition, content posted to feeds is forever, but stories are only there for 24 hours. “When products sell out, they are gone, and so are the videos,” says Adhami-Boynton. “For brands with an evergreen product, feeds make sense, but I don’t need content on my feed forever.”

How ShopThing uses Instagram to build its audience and engage with followers

Instagram is an effective platform for building an audience. Today, ShopThing’s content creators are influencers who create engaging content as they shop.

“We take that content and turn it into marketing fodder,” Adhami-Boynton explains. “We use the same clips to make reels, stories, and TikTok videos. That’s how we’ve used Instagram to build our audience organically.”

ShopThing doesn’t just post content to sell products to followers; it engages with them on a daily basis. The native functionality built into Instagram stories allows brands to post surveys, polls, and questions. ShopThing asks consumers what they like and what they want to see in the future. The company benefits from feedback, and customers feel connected and valued.

“We built our entire business on Instagram,” says Adhami-Boynton. “The platform may feel saturated now, but brands can still build content that performs exceptionally well. The key is learning what appeals to your audience. Post a lot of content, and lean into the posts that do the best. Keep trying, and keep doing the things that work.” 

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