Instagram stories are a full-screen creative format inside one of world’s most popular social network.
They let you share everyday moments with videos and photos that disappear by default after 24 hours of posting.
You can make them as polished or as spontaneous as you wish—you’re the one that makes rules as you know your audience and customers the best.
The use of Instagram stories from a business and ecommerce perspective is steadily on the rise, too:
- Over 50% of businesses on Instagram made an Instagram story
- 20% of stories posted by businesses result in a direct interaction with the user
- The majority of Instagram stories by businesses are product-driven and lead to a shoppable page
If you get strategic with Instagram stories, they can become an essential and invaluable tool for the growth of your online store.
What Makes Instagram Stories a Perfect Ecommerce Tool
If we were to name one overarching benefits of using Instagram stories to market your ecommerce business, it would be this:
Instagram Stories have an incredibly low entry barrier to reach your target audience in so many formats.
This is because you no longer have to stop at just images and videos in your stories. You can venture into:
- Polling your audience
- Answering their questions
- Sharing on-brand GIFs
- Adding music
And a lot more—all by using only Instagram’s native features.
All of this means that your online store can benefit from Instagram stories by using them as…
A great playground to test out strategies
It’s hard to know which marketing strategy will bring you definite results—especially when you’re just starting out.
Should you go with a talking head video?
Should your product demo be short or long?
Will showing your warehouse or your product boxing process resonate with your audience?
Will highly-produced images work better than on-the-go photos?
Before Instagram stories, you had to invest a lot of time to figure each of these questions out and then test each format across various channels.
With Instagram stories, you know you’re taking up an entire smartphone screen, and you can see which exact types of content keep your audience highly engaged and involved.
So when you see something isn’t quite working, no one will ever see it again once the 24 hours have passed. And if it worked really well, you can add it as a permanent highlight on your profile, as well as use it as a recurring strategy for your Instagram stories content.
You can see some examples from fashion and accessories brands like MVMT and ASOS:
A simple, no-extra-tech way to create engaging experiences
Before Instagram stories, any new visual content idea required finding a photographer or a videographer, potentially even new equipment, as well as some editing and production work.
All of that just to see if a video idea might work on YouTube or Facebook.
With Instagram stories, all you need is a smartphone. Because stories are defaulted to up to 15 seconds in length, there’s no need for advanced editing. Your story can be as long as you want it to be—in scenes that are 15 seconds in length or shorter.
From sneak peeks to product demonstrations, you can tell any story you want to with the tools and resources you already have.
Check out this product demo from Charlotte Tilbury’s Instagram story:
A perfect medium for short attention spans and swiping through stories
When you have a good idea for a video, you no longer need to figure out a way to elaborate every detail of it, write a long video script, and rely on algorithms that YouTube and Facebook use to rank your video and show it to your potential viewers.
For longer videos to succeed, your viewers need to have a long attention span (and time to spare, too).
Luckily, Instagram stories allow you to convey your message no matter how little time your potential viewer has. As they come across your story, the chances are they’re already in the swiping mode, watching the stories one after the other.
Keep in mind: they will skip those that don’t pique their interest, but they will happily keep watching if a story seems compelling and super relevant.
This is a great reason to reuse some of your existing content, such as longer videos or blog posts, by posting short snippets of it and directing your viewer to the larger piece of content.
It helps you capitalize on quick-scrolling behavior and direct it towards something you’ve invested a lot more time into creating. Win-win!
That’s exactly what Bershka did with this Halloween-themed short, few second story:
The Impact of Instagram Stories on Your Ecommerce Brand
We’ve covered the difference Instagram stories make for your marketing process. But how do they impact your followers and potential customers?
People want to feel personally involved
I don’t know about you, but when I think about a brand of any size and their social media accounts, I always think how commenting on their posts doesn’t make too much sense. More often than not, it doesn’t get acknowledged.
This isn’t to say that these brands are doing something terribly wrong—the more comments there are, the harder it is to give them all the attention they deserve.
And as their paying consumer—or as someone who’d love to give them my money in the future—I can’t say I feel great when this happens.
That’s the thing about followers, customers, and loyalty: we all want to feel involved. We want to get behind the scenes of a current event, give kudos for a new launch, or provide feedback on something they’ve done recently.
Instagram stories have made this incredibly easy. Unlike the standard social media feeds, including the Instagram feed, Instagram stories don’t have to be so polished.
By simply sharing a brief behind-the-scenes of a product creation or packaging, you can get your followers to get involved by:
- Answering directly to your Instagram story, which will create a direct message conversation
- Voting in a poll with two choices
- Expressing their opinion by using a slider
- Ask a question on a topic you specified using a dedicated field
The more they see how their involvement impacts your online store, the more impactful the Instagram stories strategy is. Get creative on all the ways you can make your audience a part of your business!
The Primark USA account is nailing the follower involvement strategy:
You can create a sense of urgency
The fact that Instagram stories are only available for 24 hours (unless you save them to your profile as a highlight, that is) has advantages that no other format does.
Just think about these:
- They are always about what’s relevant now, not what was relevant a week or a month ago
- They are consumed much closer to the time they’re published, unlike tweets or YouTube videos
- The more you make them intriguing and valuable, the more your viewers will keep tabs on them and make sure they don’t miss out
FOMO—the fear of missing out—is a real thing. Unlike pretty much anything else on the internet, when a story is gone—it’s gone.
This means that each time you provide additional value to the viewer, you get them a little more hooked. They know they can’t miss out because there’s a chance they’ll miss out on something great.
The Cultivate What Matters team does this all the time with each one of their product reveals and launches:
Which brings us to…
Benefits they can’t get anywhere else
The complete opposite of getting your viewers hooked is getting them bored, and if you do that, you’re wasting a tremendous opportunity in becoming their go-to brand.
So how do you make your Instagram story viewers hooked? What does it take to make them believe they can only get certain benefits in your stories and nowhere else?
Here are some ideas you can swipe:
- Offer a discount code that you only share in your Instagram stories
- Direct your Instagram story viewers to a special landing page that has limited offers that aren’t publicly available, ideally by using a swipe-up feature (in case you have 10K followers minimum)
- Give sneak peeks and clues over a period of time about a future launch
- Feature their photo or video submissions with your product and ask for submissions regularly
How to Create a High-Performing Instagram Story: Step-By-Step
There are several steps you can take to create a Instagram story and successfully promote your online store every time.
- Select the topic for your Instagram story
- Define the goal and outcome of your Instagram story
- Outline your Instagram story
- Create the visuals for your story
- Add engagement boosters and screenshot-worthy elements
- Remember the call-to-action
Step 1: Select the topic for your Instagram story
As an ecommerce business, you want to make sure people know what you sell and why your products are worth their time.
At the same time, pushing the same products and messages can get boring quickly, so diversity and creativity in story brainstorm is crucial.
Here are some ideas you can use, mix together, and get creative with:
- New product reveal
- Order preparation and shipping
- Product production
- Behind-the-scenes of a product photoshoot
- Live events
- Customer photos and videos (with their approval)
- Short interviews with your team members
- Office or warehouse sneak peeks
- All the ways to use a single product
- Ways to match multiple products
- Limited-time deals and flash sales
Simply said: in one sentence, what do you want your story to be about?
Step 2: Define the desired outcome of your Instagram story
Not all Instagram stories are made equal.
As you can tell from the above list, there can be many outcomes of your story, so make sure to define what you want to achieve with it upfront. This way, you can correctly track and measure the results.
With your Instagram story, you could aim for:
- Sales and revenue
- A number of story views/reach
- Getting your followers to send you a direct message
- A certain number of poll votes or questions asked
- Getting your customers to send you their photos and videos with your products
- Visits on another one of your platforms, like your blog or YouTube
- Email newsletter subscriptions
- Reviews on your product page
When you’ve added an outcome to your story topic, you can also define your call-to-action (CTA) from it.
Step 3: Outline your Instagram story
As with any other content, a great outline for your story will help you present your products and business in the best way possible.
The key elements of your story outline are:
- The main message you want to convey with this Instagram story
- The number of stories (i.e. up to 15-second-long screens) you need to get your message across
- A short description of each individual story/screen
This might seem like too much work for a short piece of content, but it won’t take you more than a few minutes to write these elements down. And when you do, you’ll be confident about the visuals and resources you need to create it—and you won’t leave anything out.
Step 4: Create the visuals for your Instagram story
Next, it’s time to gather all the products, props, and people you need for your story creation. Once you do, you can create your visuals in one of these two ways.
One way is to take your images or videos directly inside the Instagram app using one of many options, including normal video, boomerang, superzoom, focus, rewind, music, or hands-free.
Here is the preview of some of these features:
Another option is to take your images and videos using your standard smartphone camera and upload it to Instagram stories (which you can do by swiping up in story creation mode). If your videos are longer than 15 seconds, you can use an app like CutStory (iOS) or StoryCutter (Android) to slice your video into 15-second chunks.
Once your visuals match the key message and your outline you created earlier, it’s time for the final step.
Step 5: Add engagement boosters and screenshot-worthy elements
For your Instagram stories to drive engagement with your products and brand, your videos and photos need a final touch—text and other elements to spark engagement, screenshots, and outcomes you planned in the beginning.
To achieve this, answer these questions:
- Can you prompt a screenshot with a unique discount code or a pro-tip about your product?
- Can you prompt replies with a fun question?
- Can you add a specific, branded hashtag and encourage others to tap on it and share their own content through that hashtag?
- Can you share a location or tag another account to get your viewers to tap through?
- How can you use text, symbols, and GIFs to make the call-to-action obvious?
By following your outline and the key message to convey while creating your Instagram stories, you will make sure nothing gets left out or presented in an unclear way.
Take Action With Your Instagram Stories
Your (potential) Instagram followers will only know and engage with your brand at the level you let them in.
Instagram stories are a perfect way to let them in and show them your products and daily events without perfectly polishing photos for your Instagram feed every time.
Make sure to look both in and out of your industry for examples and inspiration. Search for storytelling styles and visual cues you like and that seem to drive engagement and loyalty—and try them out on your own.
And to make sure you can then turn these loyal followers into customers on your Instagram feed, don’t forget to grab a free jumper account and convert engagement in your comments into sales