Finally fix your Shopify site! Grab a coveted spot in our 2024 schedule.

How to Drive Traffic From Instagram to Online Stores

by Arianne Foulks

October 25, 2016

Are you wondering how people drive traffic from Instagram to online stores? Recently, a client of ours told me,

Honestly, I’m not sure if Instagram is working for me or not working. Since, my site is not up and running yet. I am however, extremely frustrated with ALL social media. I would love it if I didn’t have to use it!

Instagram has been extremely frustrating because I feel there is no loyalty. For example, I will gain 5 followers in a day, and lose 5 followers. It almost makes one feel inadequate and then you start to question yourself.

I really hope that once my site is launched Instagram will be more helpful in marketing my business because right now I feel like I’m running in circles and getting nowhere!

It can be frustrating. Selling online is a science, and we have to be scientists. If a strategy is not working, throw it out and start over. If it shows promise, repeat what works until it grows.

Social media changes all the time, and you don’t want to get into a pattern where you’re doing the same old thing over and over and wondering why it isn’t working. Here is where taking a look at your stats can be really helpful. For example, if you have a business account on Instagram, you can view their insights to see what kinds of posts people are responding to, and which ones fall flat. Then do more of the good ones, and drop the duds.

It can also be helpful to back even farther out and see what channels are working the best for your business. For instance, if Pinterest is sending you ten times more traffic than Instagram is, you might want to lower the amount of work/time you put into Instagram, and give that time to Pinterest instead. Here’s my post on tracking your social media stats.

And remember, social media can be a long game. You shouldn’t expect huge numbers overnight, and you shouldn’t expect huge engagement numbers from a small following. Keep your eye on it and make sure that your numbers are growing, and not staying stagnant. It may not go as fast as you’d like, but it’s like a snowball rolling down a hill. The bigger your account gets, the faster the ball will roll. But if you always feel like you’re pushing the ball uphill, take some time to evaluate what you’re doing and whether it’s working.

Our Facebook group for creative product-based business owners (is that a mouthful, or what?) is always jam-packed with great advice. I asked about Instagram in the group, and I got a treasure trove of good tips. Read on for advice from businesses like yours, about how they drive traffic to their online shops from Instagram.

Necklace by Blooming Locus Jewelry

Jennifer Ciraulo
Blooming Lotus Jewelry – jewels to support your soul
@bloominglotusjewelry on Instagram

Photo quality is probably the most important. Make them bright, colorful, clean, clear!! I use Photoshop and also the Instagram edit tool to brighten my photos.

To decrease the clutter, I put almost all hashtags in my first comment. This gives my main caption a clean look. I would only put your business #aeolidia hashtag in your main caption. Just a personal preference! Another reason not to have all those #hashtags in your main caption is because when someone clicks one of them, they’re gone and off your page and perusing another #stationeryshop or #etsyshop. Hence why only to use your own hashtag… if they click it, it’s still all about your business!

Take the time to answer all questions and comments. This gives people that warm fuzzy feeling.

Post progress photos. My followers tend to really love to see behind the scenes and progress pics.

Post a mix of product and lifestyle shots. Lifestyle shots usually get better engagement.

Create an overall look to your feed. For example, every sixth picture on my feed is a quote with a white background. When you scroll down my feed, it’s pleasing to the eye (I think).

Patience….it takes a while! Just be authentic in your posts and you’ll create a following!

Cute little rocker kid

Tiffe Fermaint
babyteith – futuristic clothing for your little rocker
@babyteith on Instagram

Since we are a product based company, we are using a service called Like2haveit.

It creates an Instagram feed on our page that, when you click on the photo, gives you links to buy that item. I then use the page link of that feed on my site as the profile link on my Instagram. This not only allows me to see how much traffic is coming from Instagram but it also leads them to our site where I can then use my retargeting pixels and also serve them my email sign up hook.

Ring and sketch by Christina Lowry Designs.

Christina Lowry
Christina Lowry Designs – artful jewellery for everyday
@christinalowrydesigns on Instagram

I love Instagram for my jewellery business!

I use the app ‘Mosaico’ to easily schedule my feed and curate my gallery–usually two pics a day. I share only original content–photos of my products, model shots from our photoshoots, behind the scenes peeks in my studio, pics of my home and family life. I ask each of my customers in their thank you email to please share a photo of their purchase on social media and hashtag it #christinalowrydesigns, then include a sticker on their order that says ‘Share the love on social media @christinalowrydesigns’ as a reminder. I don’t have a huge following, 1,944, but I have an engaged following! Many of my sales and custom made jewellery clients have come from Instagram. I use my hotlink to go to my website, as from there they can navigate to my shop, blog, newsletter signup etc. I offer incentives to encourage my followers to join my newsletter, as this is what leads to sales long term.

laser cut silhouette jewelry by Le Papier Studio

Vana Chupp
Le Papier Studio – laser cut silhouette jewelry
@lepapierstudio on Instagram

I’ve struggled with this so much and I finally gave in and subscribed to a marketing campaign app that bundles a few services like social sharing, shoppable Instagram, Adroll campaigns, and triggered emails. What I love about it is that it breaks down the clicks and gives me analytics (who clicked, who purchased). It also creates a separate page which links to products they can purchase.

It’s called SpringBot and it is $299/month. Totally worth it for my business and it pays for itself. is also great for using custom links.

Thank you cards by Stephanie Ko.

Stephanie Ko
Simply Steph Ko – calligraphy and greeting cards
@simplystephko on Instagram

People follow me on Instagram for the social connection and pretty pictures. And most of the customers I get are from Google searches. My Instagram following has grown as a result of me sharing my work, but mostly when I show the process, and share gold nuggets in the captions.

To be honest, I am not practicing what I preach, and I tend to share mostly finished products nowadays. But I’m in the process of rethinking my Instagram strategy, and I want to use it to build brand loyalty, share the pretty process pictures and connect with my audience. And not focus on the click-through rates. If it adds one drop to their bucket and they will remember my brand name and search me later, then great! My work has paid off.

I have adopted the custom Insta-yay link from what you had tried before [note from Arianne: I am now using Linkinbio for a custom Instagram page], and I like it for tracking purposes. It gives a nice exclusive feeling to people visiting my site from Instagram, too. But I don’t find that the effort that I put into updating that page is really worth it. I have made a handful of sales from Instagram, and I meet people who tell me in person that they first found me on Instagram. So It’s totally working for me. But the whole clicking through thing? Doesn’t seem to happen much.

Handmade stained glass windows by Johnny Gordon.

Johnny Gordon
Gordon Glass Studio – handmade stained glass gifts
@gordonglassstudio on Instagram

I’m a glass artist making the transition from chasing commission work to creating a production line. Looking at potential wholesale opportunities and really excited about putting everything together. Your site and your newsletters have been extremely helpful in getting my to do list in order (and helping me realize how much I need to think about).

Your newsletter asked about the Instagram. I’ve been working on growing a following by using the old way of searching for the #stainedglass and pretty much liking every one of those pictures. I’ve grown my following from about 300 people to almost 4000 over the past year. It takes me about 30 minutes a day.

I believe that if your pictures are interesting, you tell a decent story and you’re not a dick you can create some engagement. Once you’ve liked a photo, chances are that person will check out your feed. Saying thank you and answering any questions will help convert someone.

The Instagram is definitely a global community (I’m strangely popular in the Ukraine) and by liking the #stainedglass pictures, I have many followers that do stained glass as a hobby–so I get a bunch of how-to DM questions. I’ve also met folks from glass studios that have been around forever that I’ve admired for a long time. I’ve enjoyed both of those aspects. But how I make this global group of glass followers generate work or money I haven’t figured out yet.

… but it is kinda nice to have some folks genuinely interested in the stuff I’m making.

Little steps, all the time.

Thanks for throwing all your stuff out there. I’m reading it and thinking about it and more prepared because of it.

Styled product photo fro handmade textile jewelry.

Cecilia Leibovitz
Ceci Leibovitz – Textile jewelry and supplies
@ceci_leibovitz on Instagram

I’ve noticed that my engagement is higher than a lot of accounts I see, even those with many more followers than I have. I usually get likes that equal 10% – 20% of the number of followers I have and lots of comments, especially when I focus on making my posts engaging. I attribute this to the fact that I am selective in who I follow, making sure that our interests/focus are compatible.

I also want to share that I recently tried following a bunch of people who are following large businesses similar to mine (like Anthropologie) and that was a flop. I really think it’s better to get followers through press, mentions, brand ambassadors and other forms of marketing, as well as following those who are a good fit. Much better engagement that way in my experience.

cute dog an a fabulous dogbed

Jane Pearson
The Janery – fabulous pet beds and home accessories
@shopjanery on Instagram

I started this year by switching to very intentional posting, including snippets about me and my pets and my business. I found that using 5-15 well chosen hashtags really helped grow my following. When I lose momentum with daily posting, or post in a hurry with fewer hashtags, I see less growth. I also use it to drive newsletter signups. I get those regularly, and care more about that than increasing my Instagram follower count.

I also experimented with driving sales and linking directly to the product I was pushing in that post. It didn’t work as well. Maybe it will when my follower count is larger. (Currently right below 600)

Scheduling and pre-writing has been really useful. I like Latergram. I also have my sharing hashtag printed on my business cards, in my thank you emails, and in my shipping notification email.

Oh, one more tip. I put “wholesale & retail” near the top of my Instagram profile after a store found me and wanted to order wholesale. Now when I follow my target retailers they will see that easily if they check me out.

cat in a cat ball

Jennifer Boaro
The Cat Ball – maker of the cat ball and cat canoe pet beds
@thecatball on Instagram

Instagram is promoting video a lot now, so think of how you can provide video content. I just used a phone app called Videoshop to edit and tie together 5 short videos, add an overall soundtrack and novelty noises.

One sure fire way to grow followers is to sincerely engage with people. It’s quite time consuming, but it will help to grow a strong network and base. I will follow a hashtag around and see who used it and when I see a photo I have a reaction to, I post a sincere (and sometimes funny) comment.

Styled photo of a handmade mug by ceramic artist Lee Wolfe

Lee Wolfe
Lee Wolfe Pottery – ceramic artist
@leewolfepottery on Instagram

I have had huge success with making and posting videos on Instagram and just got on their Ceramics channel! I wrote a blog post about how I did it. I think it will interest those who are struggling with building an IG following. Not many are using videos yet so it’s easier to rise to the top now than it will be a year from now.

Hand painted quote by Goodey studio

Kaitlin Phillips Goodey
Goodey Studio – sassy cards and gifts
@goodeystudio on Instagram

Some things that have grown my account:

Definitely working on my image quality. I learned to take and edit my images to be much brighter. Honestly, sometimes I think something is too bright or blown out and then it’s usually perfect 

I used to mainly do images on white but recently started using brand colors as backgrounds to liven things up.

Using lifestyle shots made a big difference. For example not just a mug on the table but a mug with tea in where you can see the tea bag string or the marshmallows floating in the hot chocolate.

I plan out my images so I rotate through marketing all my products instead of mugs back to back or something like that.

I regularly change up the call to action.

I know that part of my Unique Selling Proposition is my style and voice so I make sure to feature that in all aspects from image styling to writing my captions.

I decorated my office to suit the brand so I know I can take photos anytime almost anywhere and be on brand even when it’s just behind-the-scenes desk shots.

I have several different hashtag sets to coordinate with the type of images I’m posting (mugs vs. cards vs. office pics all have different tags).

To fill out my posting schedule, I mix up product shots with stylized color shots, funny regrammed images, and funny original pics I do with miniature figures.

To sum most of this up: I saw growth from creating a strong personality for my feed.

Obviously, I also engage by liking and commenting on images in the hashtag feeds I use. I’ll also engage with people who have liked or commented on my image.

Oh, A BIG TIP that’s paying off for me is to ask people to tag a friend in the posts. I only started doing it recently but now even when I don’t use that call to action I have some people doing it anyways!

I could talk Instagram strategy all day!

Whispering Willow - bath salt and soap packaging design for a natural apothecary line.

Julia Gold
Whispering Willow – handcrafted natural apothecary
@whisperingwillow on Instagram

We’re trying to build cohesiveness & increase frequency of posting as I’ve been rather lax with that.

A new thing for us is working with influencers. I’ve just started and am learning what works and what doesn’t and, most importantly, how to clearly communicate our expectations. The best part so far? Most of it has been for trade, and although we have picked up very few followers, I now have content available for use that didn’t take much of my time.

Our paid collaborations are yet to come (trying to set them up closer to the holidays) but I am excited to see the potential!

styled photo of face serum and seashells

Brenda Myers
512 Organics – natural skin care
@512organics on Instagram

Love this post! Instagram is my favorite social media–I love photography on the go, and since I have a day job and need to use spare moments whenever I can to squeeze in my social media posts (because I’m still a hair’s breadth away from scheduling), I can take a photo, add a few words/hashtags, and it doesn’t take much time. Instagram has suited my need for spontaneity perfectly and has been really gratifying in helping me find my voice. I’m looking at Later (because you recommend it, Arianne) to start scheduling.

I’ve been working on the idea lately of focusing on one or two products at a time, and I like the response. I need work on calls to action, but one thing that I find boosts engagement and likes is occasionally sharing what other Austin-based businesses have in their feed and tagging them. It’s harnessed invites to events by Austin Monthly several times, and I’m now a frequent emailer with their events coordinator. In other words, building relationships. I like that part very much. My likes and engagement are pretty good considering I have less than 200 followers, so I’m anxious to read your blog posts for more tips. Exciting!

Styled photos like this accent chair with patterned pillows can help drive traffic from instagram to your online shop.

Heather Moore
Skinny LaMinx – midcentury-inspired textiles and home goods
@skinnylaminx on Instagram

I find Instagram such a great “sociable media” platform where I get to engage with likeminded folks, rather than using it as a sales-driving channel. I use it to share “how a designer sees the world,” and I enjoy the human interaction, as well as how my daily engagement with what I decide to post helps me to continually review and shape my brand.

Styled photos like this stack of quilts can help drive traffic from instagram to your online store.

Gina Martin
Gina Martin Design
@ginamartindesign on Instagram

I struggled keeping up with it too… until I love the app! It’s been less than a month that I’ve been scheduling posts and I’m gaining new followers everyday. I have found that when my biggest client shares my work in their feed that my views and new followers jumps quite a bit.

Another interesting finding is that I get more views when I post late in the evening. I’m sure there are whole studies around the best time of day to post. I’ve started alternating early morning and late evening. It seems to work for me.

Bonus tips from me

Hey, here’s a bonus Instagram tip. If you use Iconosquare, you can see a list of who your “top followers” are (this is a list of all your followers, sorted by follower count). Maybe you have an influencer or two already interested in your brand, but you didn’t know it. You could make a point to be friendly to them on Instagram, and maybe one day a collaboration will ensue!

Another thing that seems really obvious when I say it, but it’s easy to forget: when I’m really excited about what I’m doing on social media is when I get the most interaction. Of course!

But it’s so easy to feel like social media is a chore that I must do, so I just plod away at it, and wonder why no one’s replying. When I can make it fun and interesting for me again (by trying something new, or creating posts that I’m proud of), it’s a win-win. I don’t hate it, and people respond well to it.

Which of course creates a great feedback loop: do good work, people praise it, feel proud, do even better work, people like it even more, etc.

If you’re doing the bare minimum, people can tell.

Get your Targeted Traffic workbook

Want to get started figuring out how to do this yourself? Grab our workbook to research and pin down what you know about where your best customers are hanging out. It explains traffic-generating concepts in more detail, and you can use the included tips to make a plan to get high-quality, high-converting traffic to your website.

Browse Posts

A Newsletter That Goes Beyond Shopify 101

It’s easy to find beginner info about ecommerce online. If you’re past that? Subscribe to our newsletter for advanced strategies and need-to-know info for established shops.

Learn how the top shops grow:

"*" indicates required fields

This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.

Leave a Comment

Let's take your online shop to the next level

The Shopify websites we design have a reputation for substantial improvements to ecommerce conversion rates and online sales. Let's talk!

Want to learn more? See our services.