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LOVING THE LIKE: How Brands Use Instagram to Encourage Purchase Behavior

Posted 7 April 2015 2:00 PM by Emily Schwartz

When I get on Instagram, I scroll my feed for hours, mesmerized by delicious #eeeats, #latergrams from friends and the various #dogsofinstagram. But recently I’ve noticed something else — brands creating standout visual content that actually makes me want to pull out my credit card and get shopping.

It’s an unnatural feeling to scroll my Instagram feed, look at branded content and want to leave the platform to visit a brand’s website to learn more. Yet, I can’t help the emotional connection I feel when I see authentic visuals on the channel. 

And I’m not alone. 

In tests, ‘Instagram-style’ images received click-through rates as high as 8%, compared to just 2.35% using ‘regular photos.’” Brands that create imagery in line with what consumers are already sharing on Instagram are seeing success on the platform. The reason: the content is authentic to the channel and pulls at consumers’ heartstrings. Ultimately, this combination increases brand affinity and encourages users to make a purchase. 

Take West Elm for example. It’s an Instagram channel full of bar carts, bedside tables and pillows, and I want to buy it all. The brand does a great job of sharing visuals that consumers can relate to, making us feel like no room is too daunting to decorate. It also shares timely content that hits the consumer mindset. And most importantly, the brand uses imagery authentic to the channel. This winning combo strengthens the brand’s relationship with its consumers so that when the time comes to redecorate, West Elm is top of mind. 

Nordstrom is another great example. Its Instagram channel features the hottest products of the season in an authentic way. Each shot and line of copy is shared through the consumer’s POV, ensuring content emotionally connects with users on a consistent basis. Nordstrom’s inspiring outfit combinations, uniquely angled photos and seasonally relevant imagery showcase products in a non-promotional way while still strengthening brand affinity.

And brand affinity can lead to an increase in purchases, as it’s now easier than ever to shop your Instagram favorites with new features such as Like2Buy and branded Instagram shops. The seamless user experience also strengthens relationships between brands and consumers: It’s as simple as seeing something you like on your feed, clicking through to the product on an Instagram shop and purchasing it.

Additionally, Instagram itself is addressing user behavior by adding a new service called carousel ads. The feature allows users who like what they see to swipe left to get more content, which eventually leads directly to the brand’s website from Instagram. This is a first of its kind for the channel, as the app has not allowed brands to link to external content before. We can’t wait to see the implications of deeper storytelling functionalities as the feature is rolled out in the coming weeks.

So how does the shift in capturing emotional visual content affect your brand? As Instagram continues to grow — it’s on track to reach 100 million users in the U.S. alone within three years — it is more important than ever to create imagery that your consumers care about. After all, a picture is worth a thousand words. Now it can be worth thousands of dollars, too.

Don’t know how to create relevant visual content? Start here:

  1. Decide why your brand is on Instagram in the first place, and create a clear channel role and purpose. 
  2. Know your consumer’s POV when he or she is scrolling through the feed and match that mindset in each post.
  3. Keep a pulse of how your consumers share imagery on the platform. Ensure that what you share matches that authentic Instagram look and feel.
  4. Only share content that adds value. Ask yourself, “Why would my consumer care about this post?” If he/she wouldn’t care, don’t share the content.
  5. Create a seamless user experience for users to learn more about your featured products.


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