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4 Mistakes Ecommerce Entrepreneurs Make on Instagram

Johannes Kanter

Ecommerce and Instagram go together like vanilla ice-cream and chocolate chips.

You can have them separately, but it’s just not right.

Early 2019, Instagram introduced “Checkout on Instagram”, which allows brands to set up a shopping experience right on the platform. This makes shopping really fast and convenient for customers. 

Now, before you go ahead and close down your ecommerce site and Shopify subscription, keep in mind that this option is still only available for selected brands.

Brands like Dior, Zara, Burberry, H&M and many others have the shopping experience setup, so go ahead and try it out on their profile. 

instagram for ecommerce

(Source: Techcrunch.com)

This is definitely a feature to look forward to. Due to faster product page loading speed you’ll be getting higher conversion rates and a more seamless experience for your customers. This is concluded by numerous studies.

Regardless of this awesome new feature, when it comes to building your ecommerce brand on Instagram there are so many things people get wrong. I’ve been working with over 3000 accounts and I decided to put together some of the main mistakes I see ecommerce brands do on Instagram. 

Now, as much as we would like, we’re not all Instagram superstars and not all of us have built a massive following on Instagram yet.

It’s cool. Don’t worry about it. 

It’s important to understand that it’s not all about how many followers you have. You can easily run a 6-figure business with 1,000 followers on Instagram. Quick math lesson here -  sell $100 worth of products to all of your 1,000 followers over one year.

That equals $100,000.

So don’t feel bad comparing your new one-of-a-kind sport apparel brand’s Instagram account with the likes of Nike and Adidas and with their millions of followers.

The important thing in utilizing Instagram for your ecommerce brand is to capture attention and trigger emotions. 

In this article, we’re going to cover 4 common mistakes ecommerce brands do on Instagram.

So pay attention and avoid these for your ecommerce business.

Alright, let’s dig in.

1. Dull Product Photos

product photos

You might have an amazing offer - great value for money, but if your communication is boring and doesn’t really spark any interest, then people aren’t going to care (or buy).

I’m not going to call anyone out here, but here’s what can be considered boring.

Low image quality and also just bad photography setup. If you’re doing dropshipping and just using the images that your supplier gives you, you’re likely not going to do well on Instagram.

Aim higher than your role models and brands you aspire to be. Order your own products, schedule photo- and video shoots and hire professionals. Don’t cheap out with this one. 

However, if you’re running on a budget, checkout this guide on product photography by Hubspot. 

Your posts are not just the visual part - there’s also captions (I bet you knew that already). 

Now, this does depend on your brand and how you want to present your products. However, if every single post is just a close-up of a product with a caption saying “Buy this look. Link is in the bio” then you’re not going to capture a whole lot of people.

If you want to present your products in a very minimal way - you can, but definitely make it interesting with the post caption.

So, overall, the longer the caption that you write, the longer people are going to spend on your post. The longer people spend on your post the stronger signal that send to Instagram that they want to see more content from you. 

If possible, once in a while (you don’t have to do it with every post), add longer text to your post and tell a story about your product or the offer.

The worst thing you can do is just post photos of your product that your supplier gave you and post them with a bunch of hashtags without any post text.

Here’s @herschelsupply, who we think does an amazing job with interesting product shots and they are not very shy with post captions either.

herschel supply co

2. Heavy Discounting & Selling the Price

ecommerce discount

I get it. You’re just starting and you need attention.

No better way than offering -80% off your latest product right? 

Not really. Heavy and continuous discounting devalues your brand and makes it look cheap. 

Unless your business focus is budget buyers, (and even if that’s the case) you should always think twice about discounts.

Even if you make good money off discounted products, you’re likely going to struggle to attract clients due to the low perceived brand value.

Everyone wants good value not necessarily a cheap product.

In fact, according to Justuno, 93% of consumers consider the visual appearance to be the key deciding factor when making a purchase. So having your brand’s visuals scream “always 80% off” is not a good long-term strategy. 

Here’s a tip though. 

If you want to make your offerings more valuable, don’t offer discount - offer something extra for free. 

Full-priced T-shirt with a free stylist e-book and all the extra benefits like free shipping, free returns etc is usually better than just upfront -80% of the product price. 

3. No Communication With Your Audience

communication with your audience

It’s the 21st century. 

Get back to your customers fast and in a way that they do expect this. 

We are beyond communicating as they did in Lord of the Rings by lighting smoke beacons.

Customers are using comments and direct messages to complain and ask about order tracking - yes that is normal.

This is something I’ve been preaching a lot in my own blog. If you want to check it out, I’ve put together a blog post on how to make money on Instagram, which covers a lot on selling physical products as well.

You need to be active and communicate with your audience. If people are writing comments under your product posts then make an effort to get back to ALL of them.

Yes, I know a lot of them are probably automated and Instagram is slowly but surely fighting against that type of behaviour.

However, if you’re not responding to all of your comments, then new people that end up on your account aren’t very encouraged to comment. if you do reply to all of your comments and have these micro conversations going on, then new people are more likely to comment as well.

That’s how you build relationships and trust with your clients. Remember, you only need to win the hearts of 1,000 followers to potentially have a 6-figure business. 

Also, don’t forget direct messages. Some people don’t leave comments, but will write directly to your DM inbox.

Respond to them and with a smile on your face.

4. Not Having a Tone of Voice

This is a hard one to get right. If you’re a small business then likely you don’t have a brand book which talk about communication and/or visual language.

Some brands have managed to get this part so right that even with a sight of their font will remind your their brand and products. 

If you’re all over the place with different colors, fonts and style, then your customers are going to associate that mess and inconsistency with your brand. 

I know there are a lot of different Instagram post templates and best performing ad creatives with copies available that get you tempted to try them out for your business as well.

Study them. Put your marketing hat on and try to put yourself in your customer's shoes. I’m all in favour of testing new marketing ideas so, I would suggest taking the key concepts and making them your own. Even if it takes a bit of time and the outcome is somewhat different, you’re being consistent in your visuals and communications.This help you build a long-term brand and relationships.

Here’s @mvmt who’s selling mostly watches, but also other accessories. The brand name as you might have guessed is referencing to movement. You can see this across their posts on Instagram and website. The overall aesthetics of the visuals are telling the same story.

mvmt watches


There are of course a lot more mistakes new ecommerce business owners make on Instagram. These are some of the most common ones I see in my day to day work and I believe these are the ones that keep them from achieving their goals.

So to quickly summarize, if you scrolled all the way down here and thought you’re too cool to read the whole thing:

  • Avoid posting bad quality photos you get from your supplier and always try to write an interesting caption to your posts.
  • If possible avoid doing continuous and heavy discounting. Few times per year is fine since everyone is doing that and customers are out there looking to spend money.
  • Avoid being passive with your audience. If you get comments to your posts or DMs to your inbox then make sure you respond to all of them. This gives not only them, but also Instagram a signal that you’re active and you’ll get better reach for your content.
  • Keep a consistent language (text and visual). This way you’ll attract and also retain customers consistently. 

As always, I’m super happy to help you figure out the best way to grow and monetize your Instagram account. Feel free to hit me up on Instagram if you’re confused and not sure if what you’re doing is actually working or not.

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Johannes Kanter

Johannes consults businesses and individuals on growing their Instagram accounts. He runs a blog GettingGrowth.com and has worked with over 3000 accounts. On his free time Johannes enjoys taking walks with his dog. Make sure you follow him on Instagram (@gettinggrowth) as well.

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