People like to shop in brick-and-mortar stores. They enjoy the shopping experience that comes with being able to hold a product in hand, feel the weight, enjoy the texture, smell the fragrance or dive into any other sensory experience. In-person shopping is all about full immersion in the product. However, that doesn't translate into sales in this digital age. Today, stores need to do more than just offer a showroom. They need to tell a story and engage with customers emotionally, and the best way to do that is with visual media. Visual media can help capture the essence of a brand, and Instagram is the key.
From Display Window to Grammable Content
With 800 million users, Instagram is the go-to social media platform for visual content. Merchandising has always relied on product images to close the deal, and the addition of digital channels makes that more true, not less. Where once the retail display window was the pinnacle of marketing, today, perfect product moments spring to life in photos captured by shoppers and marketers alike.
Every day, 40 million photos post to Instagram, racking up likes and follows each second. The best fashion and retail brands take advantage of this opportunity to engage directly with users who are also consumers. When store photos are like miniature display windows that can reach millions, the value is clear.
Sell Solutions, Not Products
With Instagram content, you can focus on the story behind your products. Stories engage consumers in the ongoing content you produce and show the value added by what you sell. If you are a service provider, show the services you provide in action. Keep the content fresh, relevant and changing to continue to drive traffic. If you sell products, don't turn your Instagram posts into catalog pages. Instead, talk about the entire product pipeline. Explain the manufacturing. Delve into logistics. Create differentiation in a market where lots of products look the same on the surface.
Be Ready for Change
One of the biggest changes driven by Instagram is the need for speed in visual merchandising. The four-season display cycle is a thing of the past. To get and expand your Instagram following, you need to offer new and interesting visuals and photography on a regular basis. If your followers know to expect a new display every month, they are more likely to make the time to swing by your store. Long wait times between updates can mean lost interest and lost opportunities.
Be Consistent in Style
While new posts are the lifeblood of a good Instagram strategy, style is equally important. You want your followers to instantly recognize your brand, no matter where they see it. That means that your Instagram photos should be recognizable. Applying the same filters or choosing a consistent color palette can go a long way toward creating consistent visual branding.
The best retailers already use photo sharing to boost their brand reach. Small retailers like Lush push the social responsibility angle, while stores like Box Lunch use a charitable donation as an integral part of their marketing. Contests, snap-and-share vignettes and other grammable-friendly techniques are already in use. With large retailers like Yankee Candle and Sephora opening small, pop-up or service-oriented locations, brick-and-mortar shopping is already changing. Now, it's all about how you respond to those changes and leverage your Instagram presence into successful advertising.
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