Instagram has more than 500 million active daily users.
Yes, you read that correctly. Five hundred million. As a point of reference, that’s behind Facebook, but ahead of Twitter. Though it is important to note that Instagram users engage with brands 25% more than users of other social media channels.
Brands have caught onto this trend. It’s estimated that 48.8% of brands will have a presence on Instagram by the end of 2016, a number that’s forecasted to rise to 70.7% in 2017.
Consumers react to this presence. In fact, 75% of people take action after seeing a photo on Instagram. And if brands can etch out a significant space on Instagram — along with a seamless digital and in-store experience — the opportunities to increase sales are endless.
But an effective Instagram presence isn’t limited to a brand’s profile and self-promotion. A brand is more powerful with a strong network of advocates.
That’s why encouraging customers to post photos or Instagram Stories of a retailer’s space is so powerful. Not only does this increase brand awareness, but it also has the potential to help retailers increase foot traffic, drive more sales, create a repository of user-generated content, and build meaningful relationships with customers.
We know why it’s so important and beneficial to include Instagram as an essential part of your marketing strategy and in-store experience. But that leaves us with how to encourage customers to take and share photos of your space on Instagram.
Interior design is so important, and it’s extremely beneficial for retailers to enlist the help of an experienced commercial interior designer. That’s why we asked the professionals for help ourselves. Trystin Kier of Trystin Kier Company and Rhonda Burgess of Powerhouse Interior Design share their expertise in making your retail space photo-worthy for social media.
Know Your Brand Identity
Some retailers may already have an established, documented brand identity. That’s fantastic. If you don’t, it’s probably a good place to start. Think of it as the building block for almost everything you do as it relates to your business.
Think about how you want consumers to perceive your brand and what they will associate it with—and make sure it’s unique and authentic.
Once you know that, allow your brand’s personality to shine through in the retail space.
But wait, how does this relate to Instagram?
Not only will a brand identity document help you craft everything from the tag line in your Instagram bio to the paint color you put on the walls in your brick and mortar locations. But, when a retail brand experience is cohesive and evident to customers, “[they] will become enthused and want to share this experience and knowledge with others,” says Burgess.
Create an Experience First, a Store Second
Instagram is not a product ad.
Kier emphasizes the importance of creating an in-store experience, not just a bunch of product displays, in order to be able to create an environment customers will want to share on Instagram.
Use your store to inspire customers and create a space they will want to explore. People share experiences more than they share things, so make the experience of your brand at the forefront instead of the product.
There are a number of ways retailers can go about this. Burgess suggests a lounge area or a display of innovative and interactive props and products.
Kier tells of windows he’s working to implement in his design for Lee’s Flower and Card Shop in Washington, DC. “It’s the experience we’re creating, so customers can actually come up to the window and watch [employees] pick flowers. They can take selfies and videos and post them to social media.”
Less Is More
“Retailers have a tendency to put so much on the floor,” Kier says. But he follows the “less is more” philosophy, advising retailers to avoid overwhelming customers with product. “Just give [customers] the bare essentials that will be impactful to their everyday lives. This tells the customer that you understand their needs.”
Burgess agrees. “Avoid too much product too soon. It is a sensory overload.”
She also says that product needs room to breathe. One mistake that she sees often is not enough white space around merchandise. “Proximity is critical! If there is insufficient space between displays or the items of merchandise in displays, the overall presentation will be very busy or cluttered.”
Cluttered, busy displays don’t make for great Instagram shots. Artfully displayed merchandise can actually inspire customers to take pictures and upload them to the platform. Be creative in displaying your product, and approach it as you would a piece of art.
But she recognizes that not all retailers have the luxury of space in their shops. To that end, she suggests giving a hierarchy to the products in displays. “Showcase the premium merchandise in a display arrangement to give them status. The less important or supportive merchandise can be filed in an accessible manner below or above.”
Another good tip is to place the important products at eye level.
Include Your Brand Strategically
At every location in your shop that you think is “Instagram-worthy,” make sure there is a visual nod to your brand. But be smart — too much or too little could send the wrong message. “Too much sends a message of desperation,” says Kier.
Instead, look for subtle touches. Place a sign with your logo, or create a hashtag and include that somewhere.
On the topic of Instagram hashtags, Kier believes they are very important. “There always needs to be one hashtag that defines the retailer. The hashtag should be very simple, short, and to the point.”
It can be as simple as the name of your store or your slogan (if it’s short enough), or retailers can create hashtags around marketing campaigns. Regardless of the inspiration of the hashtag, make it easy to remember and make it known.
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Light It Right
Lighting isn’t only essential to showcasing your product attractively — it also has a huge effect on photographs. Natural light is the best, so include lots of large windows if possible.
If you’re stuck in a space without the option to add windows and allow natural light in, look for amber-colored lighting. Fluorescent lights don’t create an attractive environment, and they certainly aren’t conducive to pretty Instagram photos.
Another element to consider is the time of day. “After work, customers don’t want too much brightness,” Kier says. Dim the lights as the day goes on. This can also create a visual effect for Instagram photos.
Incorporate Distinctive Design Elements
Customers don’t necessarily want to take pictures of your products. They want to take pictures of the experience. And the experience should be littered with unique elements that cater to your brand identity, the customer experience and Instagram appeal.
“Featured design elements will captivate and motivate people to take photos of themselves in front of them,” Kier says.
Those windows Kier is working on at Lee’s Flowers are actually old ice-block windows. So they’re not only functional in creating that experience, but they’re unique and visually stunning on their own.
Here are some other ideas to inspire you as your create your Instagram-worthy space:
Create a Wall With a Unique Pattern
This makes an awesome backdrop for selfies especially. If your logo lends itself, look to create a cool design that incorporates it.
Create an Actual Art Installment
Choose pictures, paintings or other pieces that are synonymous with your brand. If you have the resources, make it dynamic and change it regularly. Customers may come in to your shop just to see the art — and share it.
Consider Unique Lighting Fixtures
Unique lighting fixtures can help you kill two birds with one stone: get the perfect lighting and entice customers to take and share Instagram photos. Taylor Gourmet, a sandwich shop also in D.C., uses old buckets as their light fixtures. You can find all sorts of photos of them on Instagram.
Curate Distinctive Furniture
A piece of furniture that’s either super modern, antique or unique in some other way. Kier is exploring this idea with an antique chest he will put in Lee’s Flowers.
Look Beneath Your Feet For Inspiration
Much like you can play around with the walls, look at what’s beneath your feet. Put a striking pattern on the floor, or use stickers or lights that share messages. This could work especially well for footwear retailers.
Play With Word Art
Incorporate quotes, sayings, messages or jokes—on the walls, the floors, price tags, receipts, displays, signs out front (we’ve all seen one of these chalkboard signs on the sidewalk go viral at some point). Depending on your brand, these messages can be inspiring, witty or informative, making them perfect Instagram material.
Invite Customers to Post
Sometimes getting someone to do something is as simple as asking them to do it. “An invitation to post sets a precedence by promoting a sharing culture within the retail establishment,” Burgess says. “It informs patrons that photography and social sharing is not only permitted, but encouraged.”
But that doesn’t mean your associates should ask customers to post a picture on Instagram as soon as they walk in the door. This can be done with other visual cues.
Perhaps the most obvious would be to have a frame resembling the Instagram interface. Make sure to include your shop as the location, your hashtag and your username.
But if you want a subtler approach, put the Instagram logo in places where it makes sense, such as the receipt, price tags, mirrors and other places where customers may take photos.
Not sure where customers are snapping shots? Ask your employees to keep an eye out. That display case in the back corner that you forgot about could actually be an Instagram gold mine.
“In-store experiences and events are essential to increased sales,” Kier says. “And social media plays a great role, because everyone trusts word-of-mouth.”
Hosting in-store events is a great way to build buzz around your store, but you need to make sure it’s Instagram-friendly. “There has to be something fundamental and essential for the customer to be compelled to take a photograph,” Kier says.
When people are posting about this event, geotagging and hashtagging it appropriately, others are going to see that and be intrigued. “When they’re posting that, everyone sees it,” Kier says. “And that’s your real estate on social media.”
Run an Instagram Contest
One surefire way to encourage social media engagement is through hosting a contest. “[Contests] allow people to show off their creativity if they win, and show people that they’re active in their community,” says Kier.
The contest should encourage entrants to snap photos of your space and post them on Instagram, geotagging the post and including your branded hashtags. The key is to make sure the contest aligns with your brand identity.
Host an in-store scavenger hunt, and tell customers to post photos of the items when they find them. Challenge followers’ creativity and ask a thought-provoking question about how they would use your product to make the world a better place. Or simplify your contest by seeing who can write the best Instagram caption accompanied by a photo in your store, choosing a winner every week, and awarding the winner with a freebie.
All in all, creating an Instagram-friendly space in your retail shop is similar to creating a customer-friendly store. Subtle cues and unique design elements allow customers to have an experience when they walk through your doors, and if the experience is a good one (with great lighting, of course), they’re going to share it with the world.