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How Brands Turn Instagram Photos into Real Revenue

When Facebook purchased Instagram for a whopping $1 billion in 2012, some believed that the social network had made a miscalculation. At the time, Instagram boasted a modest 30 million users, and had recently closed a round of funding that valued the company at right around $500 million. Of course, we now know what Mark Zuckerberg and Facebook leadership did back then, which is that visual content would become the currency of shared experiences, influence, and commerce. Today, there are over 500 million users on Instagram sharing more than 95 million photos per day.

Consumers use Instagram to share important tentpole moments in their lives, such as the purchase of a new home, or the reception at a wedding, or the birth of a child. Perhaps more prominently, however, they also share micro-moments, such as trips, gatherings, or meals they’ve enjoyed. There is enormous value in each type of moment, and increasingly, consumers are using Instagram as an inspiration engine, turning to it for ideas on travel destinations, product usage, and social activities.

For brands, this consumer trend has made Instagram a critical platform to bake into any marketing or e-commerce strategy. The explosion of visual content offers a number of compelling brand opportunities, including:

  • Scalable insights engine that showcases product preferences, travel tendencies, and unique lifestyle trends. For most relevant audiences, brands can analyze visual content to better understand their wants, needs, and passion areas, and create experiences to better engage them accordingly.
  • Influencer network that grants access to millions of users with varying follower-counts. Brands can choose influencers by industry-focus, tone of voice, or audience makeup to help drive conversation and sentiment around their products. “Long-tail influencers,” or users without a sizeable following, can often still be tapped to help drive conversions and engagement as part of a bigger outreach strategy. Interestingly, consumers now trust influencers of all sizes more than they trust traditional celebrity endorsements.
  • Wealth of high-quality content to create personalization across all channels, at scale. We call this user-generated content, “earned” content, because consumers are sharing an abundance of usable imagery on behalf of the brands they love, often unsolicited. Additionally, today’s customers demand more from brands, they expect truly custom messaging and product images that reflect their physical characteristics and personalities. Earned content can help brands achieve this level of personalization and create more effective marketing experiences for all customer segments.

These opportunities have fundamentally changed how brands can engage with their audiences, specifically millennials and the emerging spending power of Generation-Z. Still, the biggest opportunity comes from creating shoppable Instagram experiences. In doing so, brands can shorten the distance between inspiration and purchase, and remove the friction often associated with shopping on mobile devices. Put differently, brands need to stop thinking of content in service of commerce, and realize that content is commerce.

Capitalizing on Shoppable Instagram

Ever since 2013, when Michael Kors released the first advertisement on Instagram, brands have been considering ways to plug into the unprecedented engagement metrics of the platform. At first, brands took a softer approach, using Instagram to improve engagement and awareness, aiming for imagery that would fit the style and user preferences on the network. Today, more and more brands are recognizing that they don’t need to sacrifice conversions to be effective. In fact, consumers on Instagram often desire the ability to make purchases directly at the point of inspiration. According to Global Web Index, during September of 2015, as an example, over one-third of Instagram users purchased a product online, making them 70% more likely to do so when compared to non-users.

Instagram Photos

So, how can your brand enable shoppable Instagram, and drive traffic and conversions from your loyal digital audiences?

At a basic level, shoppable tools need to be able to connect content on your brand’s Instagram feed to product pages on your e-commerce website. However, to truly capitalize on the growing population of social shoppers, brands need to be able to consistently publish with a user-friendly workflow, and have access to relevant analytics to review performance and adjust strategy accordingly. At Olapic, we help brands achieve these goals using our Tapshop product. Tapshop enables brands to immediately shopify their content by linking multiple related products to photos, where applicable, trimming the customer journey from the point of inspiration to the point of purchase. Combining automatic posting, e-commerce integrations with Google, Omniture, and Coremetrics, and robust analytics to track image performance and direct ROI, our clients are realizing enormous results using Tapshop.

Still, regardless of the shoppable tool your brand decides to employ, the same opportunity exists. Today’s consumers are inundated with content and messaging. Brands that are able to shorten the path to purchase will succeed now and in the future. Brands that don’t will struggle to keep up.