How Smart Brands Use Instagram to Reach Women

Women Shopping for Shoes

While you were busy selecting the right filter for your brunch pics, Instagram was quietly becoming one of the most powerful platforms for reaching and marketing to women.

You already know what Instagram is. What you may not know is just how long its marketing reach can be. Its 35 million monthly smartphone users average 257 minutes on the app per month. Forty percent of their traffic is in the United States, where 58 percent use the app daily. Seven in ten users are women age 18-44 with household incomes of $75,000+ and who are actively looking to be surprised, diverted, and delighted. According to research by L2 Think Tank, it registers 15 times the engagement and has double the engaged user base of its parent, Facebook.

NYT’s Jenna Wortham recently likened Instagram to a “a modern-day bazaar”:

“Stumbling across an unexpected and gorgeous find … on a special app like Instagram brings with it the excitement of discovery not unlike the titillating thrill you get when coming across a rare find at a flea market.”

The fact that direct links to branded websites or e-commerce platforms are prohibited hasn’t stopped brands and casual shoppers alike from embracing this mobile marketplace. In fact, the effect seems to be exactly the opposite. A survey by Teen Vogue found that Instagram inspires more product purchases than any other social media platform. And according to a recent Shopify study, generates the second highest order values among social networks and ranks fourth in sales conversion.

So what do Calvin Klein, Ben & Jerry’s L’Oreal, Honda, Uhaul, Macy’s, Gap, Chanel, Michael Kors, Nordstrom, Target, Gucci, Victoria’s Secret, Harrods, and Laboutin plus 93 percent of prestige brands know that you don’t?

Intercept Behavior

Women have led the smartphone revolution. They use their phones as virtual controllers for busy lives. Instagram meets them in the course of their normal daily behavior and offers diversion, surprise, and entertainment in context. The app has become a guilty pleasure tucked within with friends, family and workflow. Since 30 percent of women access social networks by smartphone each day, Instagram is perceived as an authentic collection of ideas and images curated by trusted sources. There might not be a better synthesis of targeting, content and channels, out there today.

Sell by Showing

Instagram’s success might be the absolute proof that a picture is worth a thousand words. Also given its global reach, pictures often communicate fundamentals without a need for translation. The average prestige brand posts 6 images a week. 72 percent post 15-second videos, usually one every two weeks. The photos get 1.5X the engagement. Producing high quality short video is a gating factor which should disappear over time.

Facilitate Sharing

Comments, re-posts, and sharing of Instagram content to other social networks, especially Facebook (9 out of 10 shares) and Twitter are common. Instagram, like Twitter, is becoming a real-time companion to off-line events. During New York Fashion Week, 100,000 fashion-related images were posted to Instagram by 33,000 unique users while the top fashion brands averaged about 7 posts per day.

#InstagramDirect connects individuals to each other to share posts. Consumers can opt-in to follow brands or celebrities and set push alerts about new content from favorite brands and friends. There seems to be a broad understanding that friends share interests, tastes, perspectives and Instagram imagery.

Use Your Ecosystem

The smart guys import Instagram images and user-generated content into branded websites and Facebook pages. Instagram integration adds an element of real-time spontaneity that feels natural and comfortable to shoppers.

Some brands have used widgets to drive conversions from user-generated photos. Brands like American Eagle Outfitters, Lancôme, Coach, and West Elm solicit images of their products and then post them as a supplement to staged catalog shots. In one study, images used this way increased conversion from five to seven percent and boosted average order value by two percent.

If you’ve got something to tell or sell women, don’t ignore Instagram.

About this Gun

Danny Flamberg

Danny Flamberg

is Managing Director for Digital & CRM Strategy at the Kaplan Thaler Group. A veteran marketing strategist, he was previously Vice President of Global Marketing at SAP, Senior Vice President at Digitas and President of Relationship Marketing at Amiratti Puris Lintas and Lowe Worldwide. Follow @flamster.