NRF 2018: Instagram users want to engage with retailers

In the last 12 months one-third of the most viewed Instagram Stories are for businesses, which the social media site’s COO Marne Levine said is evidence consumers are keen to hear from and engage with brands on the platform.

Speaking at NRF’s Big Show in New York, Levine said Instagram is committed to providing the tools and formats retailers and other businesses require to connect with new and existing customers.

"Where we are going is to make sure Instagram is not just a place for discovery but a place where business gets done,” she explained.

“By that, we mean giving businesses an opportunity to have a presence, a profile, so that customers can understand more about them, giving people the ability to interact with businesses. In the last month there were 180 million interactions with businesses [on the site].”

Instagram, which boasts an 800 million+ community, launched Stories 18 months ago, a feature that allows organisations and individuals to share moments with the wider user base. A year ago, an Ads feature was added to allow companies to promote their products and services within the site.

Levine said both new elements have been well received by the advertisers themselves and the wider community. She also said 80% of people on Instagram connect with businesses on the site voluntarily.

The COO namechecked several companies she believes have used Instagram particularly well for consumer engagement, including Outdoor Voices, whose founder and CEO Tyler Haney joined her on stage. Outdoor Voices, which sells apparel for everyday activities such as dog walking, yoga and running, has used Instagram to crowdsource product development ideas, and also to motivate and inspire its followers through promoting user-generated content.

Haney said: “Instagram is all about creating that emotional connection with our customer – around our product, our community and the mission of the brand.

“The brand talks to you like a best friend [on Instagram].”

Levine also commended New Balance and J Crew for their respective usage of Instagram in allowing customers to shape the product range. She added that successful engagement and business acumen on Instagram relies on adopting a different approach to marketing than in the past.

“The question is whether [businesses] have the mobile mindset and are willing to go shorter, faster and be [themselves],” Levine noted, explaining that organisations need to produce ads more quickly, avoid overcomplicated messaging and showcase their personality.

She spoke of “reorienting the way you do your marketing and your advertising, and your social”, adding: “Digital isn’t just a sideshow, but it’s really a key feature of the main show.”

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