Last Updated: January 13, 2021

Instagram has now over 1 billion users. And its users are active. There are 500 million daily users, handing out 4.2 billion likes to the 95 million photos uploaded every single day.

Subsequently, more and more businesses are joining Instagram and using the platform to engage their customer base and build their brand. This is true for all social media platforms, but Instagram provides businesses with a unique opportunity to not only raise brand awareness, but also show off their craft and to build a community around it. It has been reported that 80% of total Instagram users are following a business, so there will be a lot of missed opportunities for businesses who choose not to follow suit.

As with any marketing, it’s not as simple as making a profile and posting a few photos. But it does provide a great opportunity to affordably market your business. And if done well, can give you some serious results. So let’s look at how to set up your business profile and put together an effective plan focused on Instagram marketing for retail businesses.

Getting Started with Instagram Marketing for Retail Businesses

First, if you’ve never used Instagram before, try out a personal account for a while before opening one for your business. The stakes are lower and it’ll give you some time to research competitors profiles and think about your identity and niche.

Open Your Account

Next, follow the easy steps Instagram provides:

  1. Go to your profile and tap the settings button in the top-right corner.
  2. Tap Sign Up for a Business Profile.
  3. Choose to Create a New Account or Convert an Existing Account (any personal account can be converted to a business account as long as it’s public).
  4. You will have the option to connect your account to any existing Facebook business accounts. This is a necessary step if you’re using third-party apps for your social media management.

Add Your Content

Once you’ve successfully opened an account, you can add content to your profile. Instagram profiles are limited so use your space wisely. It’s basically three parts:

  1. Your profile picture can simply be your logo. If you get more creative, be sure to have the logo clearly present somewhere in the image.
  2. Your account name will be how people find you. It’s critical that it’s exactly the same as your other social accounts. The username will be the same but with no spaces.
  3. Your bio can be up to 150 characters. Aside from paid ads, this is the only space you’ll have to include a direct link to your website or product page (this link can be changed as often as you want). Use this space to set the tone for your profile. It can be minimalist or more eye-catching, but it should reflect the style of posts you plan to make going forward.
  4. Businesses can now add their location and additional contact information, including buttons for a direct call or chat.

So that’s about all it takes to have a basic business profile set up! Not too bad, right? Check out a few good examples below. TED keeps its design minimalist but clear and appealing. Target has a bit more going on by highlighting some product categories. Though it doesn’t add any additional direct links, it gives the user more avenues to reach a product page and make a purchase. 

TED instagram minimalist

Types of Instagram Posts

Standard Photo or Video

Start simply with the basic photo or video. Uploading or taking the photo directly from the app is pretty self-explanatory. From there, follow this basic checklist:

  1. You can change the width and focus of the photo.
  2. It’s also possible to add multiple photos to make it a gallery.
  3. You can edit photos within Instagram by adding additional graphics, words, filters, etc.
  4. Editing photos with third-party apps prior to uploading to Instagram is also possible.
  5. It’s often worthwhile to tag a location in your post. This is a simple way to target a local demographic if that’s beneficial to your product.
  6. Tag the photo with other users or businesses.
  7. Add relevant hashtags. Most Instagram experts recommend 3-5 hashtags.
  8. You can automatically share the post on your Facebook, Twitter, and/or Tumblr business accounts. 

Instagram Basic Photo

Cone and Steiner, out of Seattle, WA, have a great Instagram page featuring customers, holiday themes, staff, and some beautiful product photos like the one above. You don’t need a major budget to come up with a few great posts.

Video posting follows the exact same steps with the added choice of your cover photo. You simply have to select a still shot from anywhere in the video as the screen before the video plays.

Photos and Videos are great for highlighting in-store events or products. It’s a great way to let customers know about events, sales, or new products.


A newer feature on Instagram, boomerangs are small video clips that play forward and then in reverse, endlessly back and forth. You’ll need a separate app for posting these. Boomerangs are easy to edit and trim. They’re great for silly clips, poor smartphone quality, or just less appealing settings to make things more exciting.


Instagram decided to compete with Snapchat by introducing their Stories feature. It’s been wildly successful, with over 300 million daily users. Stories are critical because they appear at the top of your followers Instagram feed for 24 hours before being deleted. They also appear in the explore section of people’s feeds, attracting more new followers/future customers.

Stories can be shared with the entire Instagram community, a particular group, or even just an individual. People like to see how things are made, so Stories are useful for behind-the-scenes content. It’s also a chance to highlight user-generated content. This encourages more participation and shows that you care about your customers.

You can now also save your stories and organize them into highlights. This allows you to provide more value to your audience by making it easy for them to access specific types of content they are interested in. For example, you can have one highlight titled “What’s New” where you feature all new products that you have posted on your stories in the recent week. Leveraging Instagram Highlights greatly contributes to providing your customers a valuable experience.

Tagged Products

A standard post has no clickable link options available (you can include your website in the caption but it can’t be a link). These shoppable pages allow you to place virtual product tags on the image. Users can see the price and availability of a product within Instagram and then also the option to click directly to a purchase page on your website. It’s best to save your highest quality product images for these posts. If you’re feeling particularly ambitious you can set it up like a showroom or window display with multiple products tagged in one image.

This ability requires approval from Instagram as well as a Shopify account. Shopify offers a range of paid subscriptions as the eCommerce host. You must also register a product catalog on Facebook.

Instagram Ads

You can promote within Instagram itself or through Facebook Ads Manager. You can choose any existing post that you’d like to promote. Your first step is choosing an appropriate business objective:

  1. Brand awareness
  2. Reach
  3. Traffic to Website or eStore
  4. App Downloads
  5. Engagement
  6. Video Views
  7. Conversions

After selecting your objective, choose a call-to-action text, a link, and a location. You also have the option to customize the demographics the add reaches based on behaviors, interests, locations, etc. Set your budget and the length of the campaign and you’re set!

Showcase people in these images so it seems more like an organic post. It’s also a good opportunity to use videos to prove product effectiveness and get creative. Once up, the comment section is a great way to get feedback on the ad and the product itself.


Instagram recently launched their long-form video format of IGTV. Users can post videos up to 1 hour in length. All video production must be done outside of Instagram on the Independent IGTV app. Simply create a channel, upload a vertical video, choose a title, cover, description and link.

Early IGTV has focused on showcasing virtual in-store experiences and live broadcast of events. Lululemon has hosted live yoga classes, National Geographic is regularly hosting full episodes and independent comics have put together sketches. So far, IGTV seems like an accessible way of advertising for big and small brands alike. Jump on the bandwagon early!

Instagram Reels

Instagram’s newest feature called Reels competes with TikTok, a quickly growing video social media platform. The best way to leverage Instagram Reels is by using it to create educational and entertaining content relevant to your business and the value that you offer.

What’s different about Reels compared to IGTV is that the videos are shorter so business owners must quickly grab the attention their customers. Since you can add fun effects, music, and text, you have easy access to be as creative as you can in crafting an engaging content for your small business. The goal is to instantly hook your audience and keep them entertained in the limited time of 30 seconds.

Approaches to Your Instagram Page

Get Creative

Instagram generally has more engaged users and less ad competition so it’s important to offer a clear added value to each viewers experience. Share your business’s culture and values, highlight a charity, be funny, display products in new ways. There is so much freedom in your approach to your Instagram page.

Just stick to clear visuals, bright and bold colors, and concise messaging. Make use of the best lighting of the day and avoid posts in the midday sun or a dark indoor space. Look at competitors’ pages to get an idea of how they design product pages if you don’t want to hire a professional.

Use Hashtags Wisely

Hashtags can be specific to a campaign or more broad. Either way, market with hashtags carefully. Don’t litter your brand name everywhere. Likewise, don’t only go for getting traction with the biggest hashtags. Some of the more general tags have millions of photos attached to it, so you’ll be unlikely to get any additional viewers from going that direction. Stay relevant to your brand and product but you can also include funny or trending hashtags as well.

A useful tool is They highlight trending hashtags and allow you to click on a term to see how often users are tagging it and what types of photos are under the category.

Collaborate and Embrace the Tribe Mentality

With over 25 million business profiles now, you’re not going to be able to stand out without some help. That’s what makes Instagram more communal. You can engage your users by highlighting customer success stories. It shows that you’re involved and that you care.

You can also cross-promote with other organizations. For companies with a similar number of followers, you might be able to simply exchange promotional posts. For those with a larger number, it might cost you a couple bucks. Find your niche as well and be active in that community. Comment, like, share and follow within reason.

Engage Influencers

Nowhere are social media influencers more powerful than on Instagram. A shout-out from one of them can change your brand overnight. Start by commenting on their photos, tagging them in your posts, and connecting with them on other platforms. You can also send them free products to try. If you choose influencers who have a history of responding you’re likely to get a product placed in one of their posts.

Make Products Exclusive and Anticipated

This is your chance to reward loyal customers and get new customers intrigued by your product. Offer limited time deals or add a layer of mystery to a post about an upcoming release. You can also offer discounts or free products for follows or tagged posts.

You can also bring products to life with third-party editing apps. This can help you create great content while keeping your budget reasonable.

Goal-Oriented Content

Define exactly why you’re on Instagram. Are you try to build brand awareness? Highlight a more defined culture in your company? Place more product photos? Whatever it is, create a narrative with it. It can come in a variety of ways: adventure, motivational, empowering, helpful, bold, etc.

Once you find your groove and your posts consistent, managing your account will be a lot easier and more important, your business more recognizable.

Analyze Your Data and Build from There

The great thing about online advertising is the extensive feedback that is immediately available throughout a campaign. Using Instagram’s own tools or Google Analytics, figure out what worked and what didn’t. The more you test, the more you can tweak to improve the next campaign.

Instagram Marketing for Retail Businesses with KORONA POS

So I know that sounds like a ton of Instagramming. And, well, it is. But it’s a valuable tool available for any business out there. It doesn’t have to be time consuming or expensive. There are plenty of services available as well that can help you manage your Instagram account. And if you ever need someone to take care of your retail point of sale needs, KORONA POS is the way to go. Our sleek POS terminals will improve any Instagram post ;)

Check out a few more guides for social media management below:

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