Small business owners might not think of Instagram as a retail mecca, but storeowner Amanda Wilson certainly does. Wilson, a self-proclaimed Instagram junkie, uses the social media site to sell products from Hinge, her vintage furniture shop in Cincinnati.

Instagram doesn’t have a shopping cart function for businesses, but that doesn’t stop Wilson from cashing in. The former pharmaceutical researcher posts pictures of small, shippable products on the company Instagram site and not only makes sales, but also increases traffic to her store.

“I don’t think many business owners think of Instagram as a way to boost sales,” she says. “Trust me, I was totally stunned when I sold my first item on Instagram, but it works.”

Want to know her secrets? Here are a few tips from the furniture restoration guru who has turned Instagram into a retail hot spot.

Take several quality photos

Pictures are eye candy on Instagram, so you’ll need some high quality pictures of your products, Wilson says. You’ll want to take three or four photos of one product because you may want to update the picture later on. You can take a photo of one product, or group several items together, like Wilson did with these coffee table pictures. Take several pictures with different backgrounds and various placements of your products.

“Try to get creative, but don’t sacrifice clarity for creativity,” Wilson says. “People scroll through a lot of pictures on Instagram so you want your items to standout.”

Post pictures with hashtags

Once you’ve got some pictures of your products, go ahead and post them to your company’s Instagram site, but don’t forget to use hashtags, Wilson says.

“People use Instagram like a search engine, so you want your items to show up in their search results, which is where hashtags come in,” she explains.

For example, when Wilson posted this picture of two vases for sale, she used these hashtags: #hingestore #vintage #flowers #vases #splashofcolor.

An Instagram user can search for users or hashtags. A shopper looking for vases might search hashtags for vintage vases. Since Wilson included #vintage and #vases with her picture, the vases will show up in the shopper’s search results.

Engage with shoppers

Getting business through Instagram is all about engaging with your customers, says Wilson, who has alerts set up on her phone to let her know if someone likes a picture or posts a comment.

“If a shopper asks a question, get back to them immediately,” Wilson says. “Even if a shopper leaves a message that says, ‘That’s cool’ you should respond to it. You’d be surprised how many times a simple response results in a sale or a shopper coming into your store.”

When Wilson posted a picture of an elephant pillow, a shopper left a message saying, “Oh, I covet this.” Wilson replied quickly with, “You’re in luck, it’s for sale.” The customer told Wilson she’d stop by her store and check it out.


Make it easy for shoppers

If a shopper is ready to buy, be as accommodating as you can. Wilson tells her long distance customers they can pay through PayPal and she’ll ship the item to them. She uses Instagram to tell the customer when the item shipped. She’s even offered to deliver larger pieces of furniture to local customers.

“I’ll do whatever it takes to sell items,” she says. “I want my customers to be happy because they’re more likely to come back to our Instagram site or our store when they need something in the future.”

Reward your customers

Any time a shopper tags another friend in a post, reward them with a gift card, Wilson suggests.

When a shopper tagged her friend in a picture of a vintage dress form on the Hinge Instagram site, Wilson left a public message thanking the shopper and gave her a $5 gift card to use on her next purchase.

“If a shopper tags a friend, they are exposing another new customer to your store,” Wilson says. “That deserves a public thank you. Plus, others see that you’re willing to give gift cards for tagging friends and it catches on.”


Commitment is a must

Wilson updates her Instagram site every three to six hours. It’s a time investment, but one that will pay off, she says.

She estimates sales have increased by 20 percent and foot traffic in her store has gone up 30 percent, all because of Instagram.

“People will come in and show me an Instagram picture I posted of a particular product and ask me if it’s still available,” she says. “Plus, I sell at least two or three items to long distance customers through Instagram each week. That’s all the proof I need to keep investing my time on Instagram.”

Looking for more tips to boost your Instagram knowledge, check out Get Snappy, Gain Engagement – 8 Instagram Tips For Your Biz.

This post contributed by guest author, Lisa Furgison. Furgison is a media maven with ten years of journalism experience and a passion for creating top-notch content.

© 2013 – 2018, Contributing Author. All rights reserved.

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