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    Mind your Millennials: How to Convert with Instagram

    September 23, 2014
    13 minute read
    Mind your Millennials: How to Convert with Instagram


    Millennialls get skewered all over the internet: lazy, self centered, no loyalty. This supposed lack of “brand loyalty”, is actually the result of a smarter breed of consumer who is unwilling to be manipulated by advertising and schtick and instead depends on cold hard facts like product descriptions, images, social shopping, and customer reviews to make purchases.

    Instagram can help you connect with this $200 Billion a year deomographic, and I know that from personal experience. As a former buyer for an ecommerce site, a compulsive online shopper, and self-proclaimed millennial, I’m well acquainted with the process of millennials consumers, and I can tell you without a doubt: Instagram is a key conversion tool, if you do it right.

    Instagram 101

    Let’s start with the basics and work our way to the knitty gritty. I promise that by the end of this post you will be able to:

    1. Continuously attract and retain new followers 

    2. Convert those followers into brand advocates and loyal customers

    Attract and Retain

    The first step to converting millennials on instagram: post great images (duh.) We’ve covered this in our previous blog post, but in case you missed it, product images are worth a thousand...dollars. I'm kidding, but offering consumers great images of your products is the key to online sales.

    Simply posting beautiful photos isn't enough, but if you make a concentrated effort to adopt the 8 strategies below, you’ll be amazed at how quickly your company’s instagram account becomes a key conversion tactic.

    Post Multiple Times a Day

    According to a survey by web analytics company SDL, on average Millennials check their phone 43 times a day. The more times you post per day the more opportunities you have to catch their eye. That being said…

    Don't Post Just to Post 

    Every photo should have a purpose. Remember, it’s not about you or your company: it’s about your customers and how your product will improve their lives. We are a generation that has an average of $30,000 worth of debt when we enter the job market. Compare that with the average starting salary of $34,500 (the lowest starting pay since 1998, mind you) and it makes sense that Millennials spend time considering and researching each purchase.  We don’t have enough disposable income not to. When combined with my generation’s cynicism towards corporate America, it makes sense that the best way to appeal to us isn’t to say look how cool our brand is! but rather look at how our products can help you. Posting “candids” of your officemates or photos of cute dogs you see on the street are not going to accomplish that.

    Diversify Your Images

    This is something we touched on in our last blog post about creating epic product images, but it applies to Instagram as well. Remember that 45% of Millennials spend more than an hour a day browsing on retail websites, which stems from the missing tactile benefits of browsing in a brick and mortar store. Since I can’t try on clothing or accessories I buy online, I want to see how things look on different people in different situations. In other words, the way products look on a mannequin, in a flat shot, or on a model isn't enough to convince me to purchase. Instagram gives retailers the opportunity to showcase their products in diverse situations, and that allows customers to feel confident that they know exactly what they’ll get when they click “buy”. Don’t just repurpose product images from your website; find the interesting pictures that uniquely showcase your product. Just be sure to keep things pretty: it doesn’t matter how useful your product is, if the picture itself isn’t striking no one is going to notice it.

    Homegoods store Furbish Studio is a great example of a retailer who consistently posts beautiful and diverse images to give IG users an immersive brand experience.


    Unsure of creative ways to showcase your product? You’re in luck, because in order to engage your audience, you can ask them to do it for you.

    Turn Followers into Brand Advocates and Loyal Customers

    We’ve been coined the “selfie generation", but quality retailers can use to their advantage. Consider these two statistics: 26% of Millennials are most likely to consider a new product introduced via a social network, and 55% of young shoppers said a recommendation from a friend is one of the strongest influencers in trying to get them to try a new brand. Inviting customers to post pictures of themselves using your product (with the possbility of a repost on the company account) is one of the most effective ways to:

    a) increase engagement

    b) attract new customers and

    c) convert your current followers into customers. 

    This is an “everybody wins” strategy that every brand should pursue. Remember, your customers won’t be able to tell if the first round of photos are posted by your friends, family, or colleagues, so don't be shy about asking for help.

    YourTea is an Austrailian based retailer that does a truly phenomenal job of turning customers into brand advocates. It was their many, many posts featuring customer testimonials like the ones below that convinced me to purchase, and unsurprisingly, it did exactly what it claimed to do.


    Hashtags: Everything You Need to Know

    Hashtags seem relatively simple right? If you’re selling denim jeans, you hashtag #denim and voila, your product will get more visibility and more likes. What many people don't realize is that there are actually three types of hashtags you should be using to engage customers at different points in their shopping process.

    Enthusiast Hashtags

    These encompass the most basic hashtags for your product. When you use a common term as a hashtag (like the #denim hashtag discussed above) you’re giving your image short term visibility to anyone who is posting about #denim right now, which is inevitably a lot of people. Enthusiast hashtags don’t offer a lot of long term visibility because of the sheer volume of pictures with this hashtag that are being posted every minute of the day, which is why it’s not ideal to use them exclusively.


    Engagement Hashtags

    Consider engagement hashtags a way to attract IG users who are getting ready to purchase. Done successfully, this type of hashtag will target a more specific audience who is actively seeking out products like yours. To continue our denim analogy, this would be a hashtag that denotes a specific brand and/or style, like #JBrandMaria (a high-waisted style sold by denim giant, JBrand jeans.) Users searching this hashtag are those who already have a specific item in mind, and they want to see what stores carry it, what styles are popular, and what other people think about it.




    Branding Hashtags

    These are hashtags that are unique to your business or product that will allow your followers to see a curated collection of your images. For example, a third party retailer like Nordstrom, who carries the J-Brand jeans uses the hashtag #NordstromDenim for any photo that they post of their instore denim selection. This allows users to peruse Nordstroms' denim assortment quickly and easily without ever leaving Instagram.


    When it comes to hashtags, remember: you need to know your customer and their lingo. If you don’t then the whole thing becomes an exercise in futility. If you’re posting pictures of hats that are hashtagged #baseballcaps hoping to attract millenniels, you’re going to miss out on alot of potential customers becauses they're searching for #snapbacks. Check out the hashtags of your current followers and IG users who follow your competition to get a good idea of what terminology you should be using.

    It’s Called Social for a Reason

    Here’s a little secret: the best way to dramatically increase your followers and engagement is to dedicate ten minutes of your time after posting each picture to liking as many images as you can with the same hashtags. Don’t be shy: the more pictures you like, the more users will see your brand, and the more you will see an immediate uptick in engagement.  I would recommend starting with the engagement hashtag, followed by the enthusiast hashtag. Here’s where the short term visibility of enthusiast hashtags comes in handy: if you repeat this step five hours later, this hashtag will allow you to find a whole new crop of IG users to appeal to. The more time you can commit to this, the better your results.

    Reward Your Followers

    This where all the work you’ve put into building your IG following comes in handy and how you’ll begin to see conversion. Three out of four Millennial women are members of fashion loyalty programs, along with 50% of Millennial men. When asked what they want from these loyalty programs, 51% said exclusive access to events, products, or content was the most desirable reward. This is equally effective on Instagram. Don’t just keep your followers informed on sales or offers, instead create exclusive Instagram promotions that only your IG followers can access. A few examples would be early access to online sales, special coupon codes, the opportunity to pre-order new stock, or even exclusive products that are only posted on your IG account. Even better, run regular promotions that require your followers to repost your photos and tag your page in order to win free merchandise. Everyone loves free stuff, and this will ensure that you don’t just attract new followers, you’ll also retain them.


    We're living in a material world, and Millennials are an instant gratification generation. In an age of heavy compeittion and waning profits, it's imperative that retailers use every tool at their disposal to attract new customers and build their brand; don't hesitiate to invest your time in customer acquisition through Instagram.
    Now tell me, is there anything I missed? Anything you disagree with? Let me know in the comment section below, and remember, sharing is caring! 

    Need help managing your product content? Learn how Salsify can help you  syndicate to retailers!  


    Written by: Glori Blatt

    Glori is a former buyer for an Ecommerce site and a compulsive online shopper using her experience to help retailers and suppliers improve their product content.

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