So, for the purposes of this post, we’re going to avoid the very biggest – and focus on those brands that have really cracked Instagram marketing to the point that the platform is one of the keys of their success.
You’re going to see just how they’ve stolen the show with clever use of the various features of Instagram marketing.
Some have nailed user generated content; others create unique and stunning visual content; others still run great contests or use video better than the rest; and some completely rock at behind the scenes images.
There are many Instagram features to help you and your brand stand out. So it helps to know how some of the most successful brands have latched on to these features and shown the rest how to do it.
This applies no matter what your business; we can all learn from success.
Below are 20 of the leading Instagram ecommerce brands taken from a cross-section of sectors: from fashion and beauty to food.
Take a look; take notes; and tweak your own Instagram marketing strategy with anything that resonates with you.
You don’t have to reinvent the wheel; just apply the stand-out strategies that are proven to work for other brands and watch your results get better.
Soon everyone will be ‘doing Instagram’ better. It will pay to get in there while there is still an opportunity to steal a march on the competition.
Because as you know, marketers ruin every new channel eventually.
Stand out with: Humor for the target audience
Chubbies has grown considerably from the day it first released its simple stars and stripes shorts. While the US flag still features heavily in the collection, Instagram has helped it grow and diversify.
At the core of the strategy on Instagram is humor. Not just any humor – the type that appeals to their core target audience of 18-40 year-old U.S. males.
A brand that is happy to portray itself as a ‘brotailer’ includes plenty of memes – an approach that this has helped to grow its following to almost 350,000.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM CHUBBIES?
Talk the language of your target audience – and if you use humor make sure it hits the right notes. Niche down into a subculture that you can speak to directly.
Stand out with: Lifestyle shots to showcase products
Lululemon is very clear on its target audience and also very clear on how it benefits from its products: women aged 20-40 who enjoy yoga and wear their yoga-themed clothing to look and feel good.
It showcases this in regular lifestyle images and videos on its Instagram feed: happy, healthy women being active and looking after themselves: both in the yoga studio and outside in more creative environments.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM LULULEMON?
Demonstrate exactly how your products improve the lives of your target audience. Show use of the products in situ, similar to the audiences real lives, so they feel connected and relate to the content.
Stand out with: A shoppable feed
Madewell is a relatively new clothing company that mainly sells women’s jeans, shoes, bags, and other accessories.
The company has successfully turned its Instagram feed into a shoppable store, providing regular links to the items featured in posts. It uses the Instagram platform to extend brand features, with high quality images featuring the neutral colors that it is known for.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM MADEWELL?
Make your products shoppable – right from your Instagram feed. If your US based you can do this natively in Instagram. If you are outside the US (as of January 2018) you can use premium tools such as Foursixty or cheaper ones like Snapppt.
Stand out with: High-quality close-up photography
M.A.C Cosmetics equals stunning makeup photography.
Every image and video the company releases on Instagram oozes color, quality, and professionalism, helping to showcase its products. They demonstrate just what’s possible with makeup.
Once you’ve been left spellbound by the image, you get the chance to purchase the products used in creating it…by clicking on the Like 2 Buy link in the profile.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM M.A.C?
Got a product that needs high-quality close-up photography? Then do it justice…Image quality on Instagram is nearly always more important than quantity.
Stand out with: Unique, eye-catching models with attitude
Frank Body scrubs only started in 2013; but it has steadily built its following through Instagram and firmly established itself in its niche.
How does it set itself apart? By regularly featuring the types of models seldom seen when promoting beauty products. They back this up with attitude-filled captions that appeal to the target audience of young to middle-aged females.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM FRANK BODY?
If you need to use models for your brand, what can you do to set yourself apart? Focus on larger size women? Pick a specific style of model that is connected to your target group. Don’t just copy everyone else.
Stand out with: A strong tagline & consistent brand colors
Glossier promotes a simple tagline that sums its brand up: it sells beauty products but with a “skin first, makeup second” attitude. This down-to-earth approach resonates with the target audience.
Glossier has been successful in rapidly growing its following on Instagram since 2014. Its images back up the tagline by promoting the importance of skin care – using their products: usually with its trademark pink hues.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM GLOSSIER?
Back up your tagline with images and videos that demonstrate what you stand for. Pick a color palette that suits your brand and stick to it. Having too many colors can muddy your Instagram timeline and brand aesthetic on Instagram.
Stand out with: Playful video & GIFS
Califia Farms specialize in natural, dairy-free beverages. Its attractive packaging (in particular its curvy bottle) has won awards and helps it to immediately stand out.
The visual element of the brand is further highlighted using video and GIFS, which often have a fun and playful element to them:
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM CALIFIA FARMS?
Use video and GIFS creatively and humorously to grab the attention of your target audience.
Stand out with: Seasonality & simplicity
EOS Products make lip balms, creams, and lotions for skin care. They keep their Instagram feed simple and focused on high-quality images that feature their standout products:
There is often a seasonal setting for products, accompanied by engaging captions that talk to the target audience.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM EOS?
Use high-quality product images in seasonal settings. The ecommerce events calendar is your friend, black friday, easter. Use it as a foundation for content creation.
Stand out with: User-generated content
King Arthur Flour
King Arthur Flour is an old company that has taken to Instagram like a duck to water.
Showcasing delicious-looking creations using its famed flour, the business recognizes that engaging its followers is easiest if they ask their own customers to provide the images (user-generated content or UGC):
Posts are submitted by users carrying a hashtag that King Arthur Flour promotes. The featured posts demonstrate what’s possible with flour and inspire other followers to get creative.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM KING ARTHUR FLOUR?
Got a product that can be used to create something wonderful? Ask users to send their creations in, using a unique hashtag. User generated content, used in conjunction with creative projects can really inspire growth.
Stand out with: Freebies & discounts
The small Australian juice company, Prodjuice, has grown significantly through Instagram.
This has been largely due to sharp photography showcasing the healthy aspects of its product – and the promotions it runs through its posts: everything from 10 percent discounts to freebie offers:
Note the use of text captions on the images to make offers to followers:
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM PRODJUICE?
Offer freebies or discounts via text annotations over images and then provide a link to them in your bio. But be careful not to sell in every post. 10% is probably the max.
Stand out by: Letting your images do the talking
Whole Foods Market
Some brands stand out on Instagram by simply allowing their images do the talking.
Whole Foods Market is one of the best food brands on Instagram for this: stunningly colorful images that show just what can be achieved with its organic products:
Most of its posts are works of art and are mainly provided by customers. These require very little in the way of captions; but most still include details of the foods used in the creation and sometimes links to recipes.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM WHOLE FOODS MARKET?
Do you want to be known for creativity? Invite compositions from customers and the best ones can help to showcase your products…the best art directors for your brand could be your customers (plus it’s cheap staffing ;).
Stand out with: Graphic art, consistency & humor
The Indian fruit juice company, Frooti, takes an original approach to Instagram: rather than featuring photos of its products, it creates amusing graphic art posts.
These posts often have a dash of humor, based around its mango colors, its Frooti bottles, or some other aspect of its brand:
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM FROOTI?
Do you have well-defined brand colors? Use them as a consistent focus for posts and see where you can get creative with graphic art. Create a brand guideline and stick to it. Make your feed recognizable.
Stand out with: Inspirational quotes for the target audience
The Honest Company
The Honest Company, co-founded by Jessica Alba, specializes in “effective, safe, delightful, accessible, responsible” household products.
Its target audience is, unsurprisingly, mums:
The standout posts are those that have humorous, motivational quotes aimed at mothers:
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM THE HONEST COMPANY?
Speak directly to your target audience using inspirational quotes. If you borrow a quote from someone famous on Instagam, @mention them to see if they share and hack followers from their account.
Stand out by: Going behind the scenes & showcasing the spirit of your product
Herschel makes retro backpacks and accessories. It’s easy to showcase simple lifestyle shots of people using their products. Instead, they combine these with posts centered around the spirit of travel and adventure (which their products help enable):
They also include posts with interesting behind-the-scenes shots:
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM HERSCHEL SUPPLY?
Go behind the scenes to show more about the spirit of your product. People love authenticity. That is what makes Instagram unique, you can be real.
Stand out with: User-generated content
Few Instagram “Best of…” articles fail to feature GoPro. The brand does such a great job of user-generated content that it leaves other ecommerce businesses trailing in its wake.
Go Pro runs daily photo/video competitions that feature the most stunning footage.
There are few studio images featured. Instead, we get the best of the natural world, the sporting world, and the world of adventure – speaking directly to the hearts, minds, and spirits of the target audience:
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM GO PRO?
Ask followers to post images or videos of how they use your products. Try a ‘photo of the week’ competition to incentivize submissions.
Stand out with: A strong blend of text & image
While Instagram is largely about visual content, don’t forget the power of words too. As well as inspirational quotes, you can add text overlays to images to give them more meaning, communicate promotions, or to get your target audience thinking…
Paper Source does this very well, combining creative photography of its products with text:
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM PAPER SOURCE?
Got something you want to say? Say it by creatively adding text to images.
Stand out with: quirkiness & boldness
Instagram is a place where you can really be yourself. However quirky that may be.
Etsy is a good example of quirkiness. The brand features eye-catching merchant-generated content in its posts. These display the full range of creativity that its products and designers are known for. In fact, it brands itself as the place to find anything you’re into.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM ETSY?
Display the full range of your quirkiness – be bold and adventurous.
Stand out with: Contests & community
Tentsile makes camping equipment…which it manages to install in some amazing locations:
They reach out to their target audience in two main ways: by running contests to engage them and by giving something back to what’s important to them – they plant 18 trees for each tree tent sold!
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM TENTSILE?
Understand what’s really important to your target audience and run contests that help to engage them.
Stand out with: product sets
Urban Outfitters use a number of proven Instagram marketing strategies, including lifestyle shots of its clothing, user generated content, emojis in captions, and so on:
It also does an excellent job of showcasing product sets – often useful for clothing and accessory brands and retailers: it can provide extra creative inspiration for the target audience.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM URBAN OUTFITTERS?
Got a series of products that fit well together? Showcase this in posts via product set photography.
Stand out with: Shoutouts
Lorna Jane Active
Lorna Jane Active is an Australian manufacturer of women’s sportswear. But it doesn’t always feature sportswear in its posts and it uses its Instagram feed to promote health and wellness for women.
Lorna Jane includes shoutouts to partners and complementary brands. Mentioning other brands and featuring their products makes it more likely that they will reciprocate: a great way to spread good will and to get in front of more potential followers.
WHAT CAN YOU BORROW FROM LORNA JANE ACTIVE?
Contact complementary brands and try to get mutually beneficial Instagram shoutouts.
Best Brands On Instagram
If you’re an ecommerce business on Instagram, you probably already know the extraordinary power of visual content.
The platform provides a perfect opportunity not only for you to showcase your products but to establish a base on which to gather a large following; engage them with original content; communicate your values and your personality; and ultimately establish a brand.
This can also generate significant traffic to the shoppable pages on your website.
The 20 ecommerce brands featured above already know that – and have achieved considerable success in working towards it. They have all taken slightly different paths to get there and we can all learn from their strategies.
If you view Instagram as a platform to build emotional connections with your business, you will get far more out of it than treating it simply as another product page of your online store.