Did you know that an entire e-commerce ecosystem was building itself in Kuwait thanks to Instagram?

From comic books to sheep, these entrepreneurs are banking on Instagram’s popularity in the Middle East to develop their own businesses. Even more interesting is that Kuwaitis aren’t the only ones leveraging Instagram to develop an e-commerce activity. Entrepreneurs, artists and brands alike are using the photo and video sharing platform to get their products out to the World.

But since there’s no possibility to add click-through links on Instagram posts, how are these people selling them? Well, several applications exist to help sellers score almost direct sales via Instagram.

Comment to buy, with Chirpify and Soldsie

soldsie buying on instagram

Soldsie and Chirpify allow brands to sell products by letting customers comment on the products’ photos on Instagram.

In practice, this needs for customers to register with the services first. In the process, they’ll enter their payment and billing information, necessary to complete the purchase.

However, once signed in, buying through Chirpify and Soldsie is virtually frictionless.

Most of the time, Instagram fans will have the possibility to specify the size and color for the order by using hashtags.
So, even customizing the order doesn’t lead to tiring email exchanges between vendor and buyer, or filling in order forms.

As for the numbers, Soldsie has an interesting case study on its website: Prep Obsessed, an independent store with 1,800 Instagram followers reportedly made 72 sales on its first week with Soldsie. That’s a 4% conversion rate among the shop’s audience.

Chirpify’s clients include Adidas, service providers Sprint, and artists like Eminem.

Web apps enabling Hashtag-purchases

On Instagram, the closest thing to click-through links are #hashtags and @user mentions, which are both clickable from the mobile app. This led companies to develop solutions based on the hasthag-purchase.

Hashbag: Buy from sellers on the web

With Hashbag, Sellers can create their store and link it to their Instagram account. Their new Instagram posts are automatically added to the store’s collection, and the featured products are made available for sale. Animulas is one such Hashbag store, operated by Swedish entrepreneur Johan Simonsen.

screencap hashbag store selling on instagram

Keep: Connecting brands’ products to their official shop

Keep will delight shopaholics looking to buy big brands’ items via collections made by influencers they trust. Here’s how it works: Keep allows bloggers to post items on the site while linking them with their respective online store’s page. In this case, the photos representing the items come from social networks, including Instagram.

le blog de betty on keep

So, unlike Hashbag, where sellers curate the content, influencers are the ones creating content on Keep.

Contacting via Whatsapp, Kik, Instagram Direct message

We’ll call this the old-school method: Sellers add their Kik id or even phone number to their posts’ captions and Instagram bios. They then proceed on making the sale outside of Instagram, and possibly even offline via phone. That’s what aforementioned Kuwaiti entrepreneurs are doing. And given how the practice spread there, it’s safe to assume they’re finding success with it.

With the release of Instagram Direct effectively bringing private messages to Instagram, this practice became easier. Now, sellers and buyers can contact each other instantly via the app, thus cutting out the middle man.

Another example is Arvin Lal, who developed his protein and sport supplement business Shredz Army online thanks to Instagram. Early on, he jointly used Instagram with Kik to enter in direct talk with his prospective customers to drive sales, and with existing ones for customer support. Even today, with a functioning e-commerce website driving sales, he still advertises the shop’s Kik username to keep in touch with its 120k-strong audience.

Experiment: Create an Instagram profile for your product

This method puts your product’s check-out page only 2 taps away from its photo on Instagram.

Since links can be added to Instagram profiles, this is where you want to lead Instagram users. Here’s the experiment we are suggesting:

  • Create an Instagram profile for your product
  • In the bio, add a link to the product’s page on your e-commerce site
  • When posting a photo of it on your official account…
    • @mention the product in the comment
    • Tag the product’s profile in the post
    • Use its own hashtag to measure the volume of conversations happening, keep track of them and interact appropriately

Doing so will prompt your followers to click on the product’s username, and will lead them to a page that you crafted showing its best qualities. Some people will click on the product’s link to end up on your e-commerce platform.

An Example, selling the “Amazing Wallet”

  1. Your potential buyers are browsing photos on your brand’s Instagram profile, or on their feed if they are following it
  2. One of your products’ photos catch their attention
  3. They look at the photo and the comments, and notice that the product’s profile is both tagged and mentioned in the caption
  4. They tap on either of these to access the profile
  5. From the profile, they can directly go to the product page and buy it from your website

amazingwallet study with annotation

As we said, this technique is still an experiment, and we haven’t seen any business try it yet. If you are willing to give it a go, please do and let us know about your success by emailing [email protected].

Thoughts about Selling on Instagram

Selling on Instagram isn’t perfect yet. And guess what: it probably won’t be until Instagram adds a design update to allow for frictionless click-throughs directly via posts, instead of solely from the profiles.
Still, for now, you should consider these few methods. They may fit your business and your needs, as they do for others.

Have you tried experimenting with any of these? Let us know in the comments, we’d be glad to hear about your experience.

The wallet isn’t ours, it’s the Elephant Wallet on Etsy

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