Are you a new ecommerce brand, hungry to start making sales?
Are you struggling to put together funds to create an awesome website?
Great news — you don’t need a website to make sales. All you need is a free platform you’re probably already using for personal purposes: Instagram.
In this post, we’ll talk about how to sell products on Instagram without a website — and how to leverage all the types of content that Instagram users love.
Without further ado, let’s dive right in.
- How to start selling on Instagram
- Two ways to create a store on Instagram
- Sell more by nurturing your audience
Can I sell directly through Instagram?
Yes, it’s possible to sell directly through Instagram, even without a website to house your products.
In fact, Instagram wants users to stay on their platform. This means keeping the entire customer journey on Instagram can have an advantage compared to pushing traffic towards outside links.
That’s why many business owners use Instagram Shopping to create an entire shop directly on the Instagram platform, including checkout and payment.
Not only can you create a shop directly on Instagram, but you can even tag your shoppable products directly in your posts. This makes it easy for customers to go from feed to checkout in a near instant – all without leaving the flow of the app.
☝️ This is just one way to sell on Instagram, and we’ll talk about alternatives in a moment.
Why should you sell products on Instagram?
First off, Instagram is a visual platform, which means it’s perfect to share beautiful images of your ecommerce products.
Whether you are a brand-new business owner making products by hand, or you’re selling print-on-demand shirts, your potential customers need to see your product first before buying.
If you’re not yet on Instagram, you’re missing out on an audience of now over 2.35 billion active users.
About 90% of Instagram users follow at least one business account, while 62% of users say they're more interested in a brand after seeing them in an Instagram Story, according to the latest stats.
Long story short? There are plenty of Instagram users, and they’re interested in purchasing from businesses on the platform.
And while it may be true that a huge portion of these businesses already have an ecommerce website, many others don’t — and are still successfully making sales.
This means you can use Instagram to create some traction for yourself until you’re ready to build a full-featured website.
So how do you get started?
How to start selling on Instagram
To start selling products on Instagram without a website, you’ll need to set up your account properly.
Step 1. Create and set up your Instagram account
First, you’ll need an Instagram account.
There are two types of accounts: personal and business. Always pick a Business account, because it will unlock many features like:
- Adding a phone number and email address to your bio
- Creating Shoppable posts
- Using paid ads to promote your products
- Accessing insights on your data (very important!)
If you jumped the gun and already created a personal profile, don’t worry. You can always change a personal profile to a business one.
Simply log into your account, go to settings, and tap the “Switc
❗Heads up — you’ll need a Meta Business Account to do this.
With a brand new profile, you won’t have much data available in your insights. But once you start posting and getting engagement on your posts, you’ll learn about:
- Which posts, Reels, or Stories are getting more traction
- How many accounts you’ve reached in the past month
- How many profile visits and website clicks you received
- Who is part of your audience (locations, age range, genders, etc.)
This data will tell you what your audience responds to best and will help you plan out your future posts.
Step 2. Craft your bio
Okay, you have a business profile on Instagram. Time to make sales, right?
Hold up. First, we want to make sure your profile is attractive to your potential buyers.
If you have a phone number and email address, include those in your profile for sure. And when it comes to your bio, you’re pretty limited in the number of characters you can use, so use them wisely.
For example, sometimes a single emoji (and thus a single character) can speak a thousand words. Resist the urge to go overboard with the emojis, and only use them if you think they will be relevant to your audience’s style.
Your bio should communicate the essence of your brand and let your audience know how to buy from you.
Take Cents of Style’s account as an example of a great bio:
Their bio is simple, to-the-point, and tells the audience what to do. Additionally, they’ve added the possibility for users to be featured wearing their products, so this is a great way to build a raving fan base.
Step 3. Create first posts on your Instagram feed
It’s pretty simple — because you are selling products, you should feature your products.
If you’re starting your account from scratch, it’s important to build up at least 12-16 posts so that your account doesn’t look empty.
This doesn’t have to mean that you only post boring still photos of your product lying on a table, either. Get creative with it and feature:
- People using your product in various ways
- People doing fun activities either using or wearing your product
- Behind-the-scenes of how your product gets made
- Creative photoshoots involving your product
- Your product in a flat-lay-style photo
Just take a look at this feed from Odeata, a handmade ceramics shop:
Every shot feels carefully planned, and the result is a gorgeous feed that makes you want to stock up your own home with these beautiful ceramic products (or is that just me?).
Create your Instagram Shop
Instagram profile with an engaging bio? Check.
Beautiful posts showcasing your products? Check.
Now you’re ready to start selling. At this point you have a few options: you can create a shop directly on Instagram, or you can handle your own payment methods.
The first option is much easier — and what Instagram prefers. But just in case you want other options, or if you’re selling custom products, let’s first explore how to set this up without relying on Instagram Shops.
Option 1. Create your own shopping experience
The less friction you create for your customers, the more likely they are to buy.
You’ll be able to customize the form and link to it from your Instagram bio. Form submissions will go directly to your Getform dashboard, where you can view them any time. You can also choose to get notified about new orders instantly via email.
With a tool like Getform, you’ll also be able to stay in touch with your customers and email them whenever you have a new product or a promo going on.
If you don’t want to use an online form to accept orders, there are other options:
- Direct messages
For example, although this specific shop does have a website, they start selling products on Instagram before they are live on their online store — by using the comment section. Notice they are also using the scarcity principle to encourage you to make a purchase before the item becomes available to a wider audience.
Although using comments is a good technique, there are ways to make the process even simpler.
What do I mean? Well, if I wanted to buy those earrings, I would have to write a comment. But there are no specific instructions for how to proceed, so there may be a lot of back and forth between me and the shop owner.
Here is an example of clear order instructions from With Love CS:
This post is pinned at the top of the feed, so all new customers can see it right away. On the next slides, the store owner explains more details including:
- shipping fees,
- rush order options.
See how clear this makes it for any potential buyer? You see a product you like on a post, you read the instructions, and you follow them to order.
Here’s another example from Cents of Style. In this case, the company lets users know that the invoice will be sent directly to their inbox. They’ve also added an obvious “Comment to Buy” text on their image, which makes it clear to people scrolling by that this sweatshirt is for sale.
Finally, you can always tell people to DM you for more information on the ordering process or customization, like this jewelry brand:
This might seem a bit vaguer, but when you’re creating custom orders, you need a simple way to receive information from your customer first. DMs are a great way to do this and keep the users on the platform, which means less friction for them.
WhatsApp is another great tool to receive orders. Because ecommerce can reach international buyers, WhatsApp will allow you to communicate with phone numbers from anywhere in the world.
This brand is using WhatsApp to take orders, even if they have a website. They even mention what type of payment options they accept.
Now that we’ve covered custom options to accept orders through Instagram, let’s move on to the second scenario.
Option 2. Launch an Instagram Shop
First, make sure your Instagram account is a Business account (covered above). If you’ve done this step, you can go into your Settings and Privacy and choose “Business tools and controls.”
From there, click on “Set up a shop”:
At this point, you’ll need to connect to your Facebook account. That’s because Instagram will pull from your Facebook page to access your product catalog. Then, you can choose a checkout method you want shoppers to use.
If you don’t yet have a catalog, Instagram will generate one automatically for you at this point.
Once you’re done with the initial setup, you can go into your Commerce Manager and add all your items.
At this point, you can customize the look and feel of your shop, and even organize your products in Collections.
And that’s it for the basic setup. You can add, remove, or edit products and collections as you see fit, just like you would on Shopify or other ecommerce platforms.
How to grow your Instagram shop by nurturing your audience
Once you’ve got the initial setup ready, you have several ways to engage with potential customers on the platform.
The best part? You can tag your shop items in nearly every Instagram tool, including:
- Feed posts
- Instagram Direct (your DMs)
So let’s cover some best practices for each of the above.
1. Post creative feed content
You probably know this, but you’ll be competing with many other ecommerce brands on Instagram. So you need to find ways to stand out when you create posts on your feed.
Posting awesome images that showcase your products is a great first step, but you should make use of your captions, too.
Captions aren’t just meant to tell potential buyers how to purchase from you. Before they make the decision to purchase, you need to serenade them.
This is especially important if your item uses the senses in other ways, like this wax melts:
You can also use your captions to describe your item, or paint a picture of what life can be like with the item.
Take this caption, for example:
They’re not just selling a skirt. They are selling the promise of breaking traditions and walking into a room like a boss.
Here’s another post from the same brand:
Keep in mind that this specific tone of voice might not work for everyone. This brand figured out their approach and creates captions based on their style — you should do the same.
So before you start posting just for the sake of announcing new products, take some time to research who your target audience is, what tone of voice they respond to, and how this correlates with your brand.
Oh, and don’t forget to tag your products so that your posts become Shoppable!
Post Stories daily
Instagram users love Stories… and they love buying from Stories, too.
For instance, 49% of Gen Z consumers rely on Instagram stories to find new products or services.
Here’s the thing with Stories – if you post consistently, on a daily basis, you’ll keep showing up at the top of the feed for people who regularly watch your stuff.
This means that your audience will compound over time. It can start slow at first, but stay consistent and you’ll be rewarded.
You can play around with different formats on your Stories to keep it interesting for your followers. Yes, you should feature your products and tag them to make them easily Shoppable.
But don’t be afraid to share a bit more about what happens behind the scenes, too!
Plus, you can use interactive tools such as Polls and Sliders to engage with your audience.
If you frequently run out of stock and need to restock your shop, Stories are a great way to build up excitement. For instance, this slime shop uses the countdown timer to remind people of when to check the shop for restocks:
Have fun with Reels
Reels are a versatile medium to share content with your audience – not only can they appear in the Reels section of a page, but you can share them in your Stories or directly on your Feed.
And because they’re video content, the sky’s the limit when it comes to deciding what type of content to create!
Let’s take a look at the Holo Taco brand to see how much variety a single shop can leverage with Reels.
Holo Taco is mainly a special effects nail polish brand. The obvious first choice for types of reels, of course, is swatch videos to showcase how awesome their nail polish looks:
But you’ll also find tons of other content types on their Reels! For instance, they publish educational videos to help customers make the most of their products, such as nail art tutorials:
And they’ve also got behind-the-scenes of how they designed certain products. Here’s a recent example of a video showcasing the entire design process for a nail polish bag:
You can also create Reels that are pure entertainment value. These types of Reels are best to attract new people to grow your audience.
For example, I’ve seen tons of slime businesses post ASMR-style content featuring their slimes. They’re not telling people to go and purchase these slimes – instead, their focus is just to create videos their ideal buyer wants to consume.
In other words, don’t be afraid to have fun while promoting your brand!
Remember that whenever you feature your products in your Reels, you can easily tag your products in them to make them Shoppable – just like you would on a Story or feed post.
Leverage hashtags so your posts get found
Hashtags are used to show your post when users search for this term.
You’ve probably noticed that most of the Instagram posts and Reels shown above contain hashtags.
First off, remember that Instagram only lets you use 30 hashtags per post. You should make use of every single one of them to maximize your reach.
Not sure which hashtags to use? There are several tools that will help you figure that out, but Tailwind works especially well.
Not only will Tailwind allow you to schedule your posts in advance (thus reducing your workload), but they will give you suggestions for hashtags based on your topic.
They’ll also tell you how many posts there are for this hashtag. If you only use hashtags that contain millions of posts, you’ll compete with too many other people to get any significant attention. If you use hashtags with little to no posts, then chances are, nobody is searching those terms.
But hit the sweet spot, and you’ll maximize your reach.
Inside Tailwind, those sweet spots are highlighted in green. You don’t have to get all 30 hashtags in this sweet spot, but aim to get at least half of them in that zone.
Cultivate your community to grow your brand
Here’s the deal with social media — it’s called social media for a reason.
Unlike a regular website experience, you have the opportunity to start a conversation with your customers.
This allows you to cultivate trust, find out what they want, and turn them into raving fans.
Don’t underestimate the power of community to sell products on Instagram. Make sure you respond to every single comment (except trolls, of course) so that your audience feels heard.
Just take a look at this feed of comments and note that the creator has responded to everyone:
I’d go a step further and tell you to encourage people to comment on your posts. This can be done by asking questions about how people use certain products, or even asking for feedback.
For example, this artisanal soap maker is taking their audience’s preferences into account for their next creations:
The smaller you are, the more sustainable this is. So make the most of your humble beginnings and start growing your relationship with your audience right away. Respond to everyone who:
- Reacts to your Stories or engages with your Story stickers
- Leaves comments on your feed posts or Reels
- Sends you DMs
- Tags your brand’s profile to give a review
Of course, feel free to ignore any spam messages or comments. But the more you interact with your true fans, the more loyal they will become.
Kick-off your ecommerce brand and start selling on Instagram
You’ll find plenty of amazing tools to simplify your ecommerce marketing, but sometimes starting off with a free tool like Instagram is all it takes to kick it off.
No, it’s not easy — using Instagram will require you to publish content on a regular basis and engage with your audience.
But when done right, you can have a profitable ecommerce store without needing a website. Plus, you’ll be able to communicate with your audience much more easily, which is great to build a fanbase early on in your business!
Charlene Boutin is a freelance content writer & email marketing strategist for hire specializing in helping Ecommerce and SaaS businesses increase conversions by growing authentic relationships with their audience. She loves helping business owners tell their unique stories to capture the hearts of more customers.
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