How to Turn Your Instagram Feed into an Online Shop

by

With A Minute Away From Snowing's Michelle Lau.

When Perth girl Michelle Lau left her corporate marketing career after nine years, she decided to try her hand at full-time blogging. But despite her blog’s success it wasn’t the right fit for Michelle, who admits it’s a volatile and saturated space (with 31 per cent more bloggers today than there
were three years ago). So when she made AU$2500 in just 24 hours selling items straight from her wardrobe through her personal Instagram feed, Michelle discovered a more lucrative business path. She partnered up with long-time friend Jess Chan to launch online store A Cup of Chic. So, we ask them straight: how can you transform Instagram crowds into a bonafide business plan?

IT’S A BUSINESS LIKE ANY OTHER

First up, like any business – regardless of its customer base – it needs to be unique and know its target market. “If you can’t differentiate yourself without undercutting [competitors] by price, then you really have to come up with a unique brand, a really amazing looking logo, a compelling selling proposition and a marketing strategy that will differentiate your company to get you ahead,” says Michelle.

USE YOUR EXISTING ACCOUNT

“I was posting a lot, I was engaging and following people and using my current platform [and blog], A Minute Away From Snowing, to really drive consumers to the store. In those two months [of planning] we probably racked up 8500 to 9000 followers before we launched.”

LAUNCH ESCAPISM BRANDS ON A MONDAY

Michelle says posting at specific times is dependent on your market. “We launched our store on a Monday and that was strategic as well because I think on a Monday people are still in weekend mode and are looking for a little pick-me-up.” She also stresses the importance of not going in for the hard sell with every post. “Even now, I hold back on driving a really obvious court[ing] action to our website.”

FOLLOW YOUR CUSTOMERS

For Michelle, following her customers is essential in making connections. “For the shop, I follow everyday people who would like our photos or comment on our photos, who share the same style with us, and build the engagement from there. You really have to go through your feed and comment on people’s photos, like them as well, because without the photos and without the engagement, you’re really not going to get anywhere.”

LINK YOUR ORIGINAL STYLE TO YOUR STORE

Michelle believes posting photos styled in her own home gives the brand a personal and approachable quality. “Our homes aren’t perfect either but… we let customers into our own homes because we’re not just a store; we’re two girls who love homewares as much as you do.”

HAVE YOUR STOCK READY TO GO

Having a good supply – and supplier – of stock is paramount. “The day before we launched, we received a shipment of a particular item from a supplier overseas and we opened up the box to find that 90 per cent of them had been damaged… Out of 12 pieces we received, we only had one to sell.” Add to that a contingency plan in case the worst does happen, so you can keep your customers – and reputation. “Customers don’t like to wait… if they find a cheaper item somewhere else, they will buy that item somewhere else.”

ENSURE YOUR AESTHETIC IS CONSISTENT

When it comes to editing photos, Michelle confesses she spends more time on it than “an average person” would – about one to three hours, from finding the perfect lighting for their product shots through to final edits. “If you really want to maintain a consistent-looking feed, then you do need to edit it in the same way as you’ve edited the other [personal] photos. It’s more like I’m editing or curating a feed rather than just a photo. If you’re kind of all over the place, I think people can’t develop that emotional connection with your store.”

REWARD CUSTOMERS

Instagram users may be familiar with the giveaway concept, where a store might ask users to follow them and repost a particular image with specific hashtags, and Michelle was hesitant once the store reached 10,000 followers, but admits she’s seen the benefits. During the giveaway period, A Cup of Chic gained 4000 followers, whereas on an average week, it generates about 1000 followers. “You really need to pick an item people will want to win – it sounds really obvious but it can be a detail that people miss.”

MONITOR THE COMPETITION

Michelle says product selection is the hardest part of running an Instagram-driven store. “Keep an eye on your competitors – see what they’re doing from a social media point of view and from a product range point of view,” she says. “We’re not looking to stock identical products to everyone else because we’d shoot ourselves in the foot doing that.”

BE PREPARED TO WORK

Owning her own business, Michelle says the work is never-ending and gone are the days of specialising in just one area. “We actually designed our own logo, we came up with the name, we designed our own website and we’ve done everything ourselves,” she says. “It’s been a lot of work but we’ve managed to keep costs low because of that. It’s one thing to have a dream, but it’s another thing to act upon it.”

Images courtesy of A Minute Away From Snowing

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