Retailers in various industries—be it fashion, homeware, or food—are reaping the benefits of Instagram.

With over 800 million monthly active users, 500 million daily actives, and billions of likes per day, it’s evident that people aren’t just using Instagram, they’re also coming back and engaging with the content on a regular basis. This makes it a fantastic tool for retailers who want to connect with their audience.

Of course, your success on Instagram largely hinges on the content you put out there. You can’t just post promotional or low-quality images or Stories, then expect engagement and followers to pour in.

To get a good ROI from your Instagram efforts, you need to invest the time and resources into regularly publishing engaging content.

What exactly are the content types that you should be posting? That’s what this post aims to answer. Below are examples of posts that typically do well on Instagram. Go through them and see if you can incorporate them into your Instagram posts or Stories.

1. Actionable or practical ideas

Give your followers ideas that they can apply to their wardrobe, home, or even kitchen (depending on what type of store you have).

For instance, if you sell apparel, why not post outfit inspirations featuring your very own products? And be sure to tag them with the hashtag #OOTD to get more traction.

Fashion and beauty store ASOS does this all the time and gets great results.

Remember, you can apply this tip even if you’re not in the fashion industry. Homeware stores, gift shops, and food retailers can also publish these types of posts and tailor them for their industries.

West Elm, for instance, constantly posts images of home furnishings to give people decorating ideas, while Whole Foods publishes scrumptious food photos with recipes.

2. Motivational and inspiring posts

Don’t just utilize Instagram to post product images, use it to spread motivational and inspirational messages as well. These types of posts are bound to put a smile on your followers’ faces and get them to genuinely *like* you.

Check out Vend customer Glamour Boutique, which regularly posts feel-good messages such as the one below.

3. Photos of people your customers admire

Do a bit of research on who your customers’ role models are. Who do they look up to? Who are they constantly talking about? Figure out the answers to these questions, then find images that you can post.

Nike does a really good job at this. The brand often puts out images of great athletes, and they always get a lot of engagement from doing so.

4. Behind the scenes photos

Give your audience a peek at what’s going on behind the scenes. In addition to adding variety to your Instagram profile, these types of posts offer your followers a look at a different side of your company. This could strengthen their connection with your brand.

Consider T-We Tea in San Francisco. On top of posting photos of their amazing products and fun staff, they also throw in images of their teas being made.

5. Posts that empower and promote good causes

Does your business stand for a good cause? Are you running any philanthropic initiatives?  Spread the word through Instagram. This will enrich your followers’ feeds, and it could even help your bottom line.

A study by Cone Communications and Echo Research found that 87% of consumers factor in corporate social responsibility in their purchase decisions and that “given similar price and quality, consumers [91%] are likely to switch brands to one that is associated with a good cause.”

Take a leaf out of Raven + Lily’s playbook. An ethical fashion and lifestyle brand, Raven + Lily constantly publishes uplifting posts on women empowerment and thoughtful living.


6. Shoppable posts

Showcase some of your best merchandise on Instagram and give your followers opportunities to buy right from the app. Look into Instagram selling solutions such as Soldsie and Like2Buy to power this type of post.

TopShelf Style does a killer job at this. Owner Christina Ruiz uses Soldsie to sell merchandise through the app. All she has to do is post a great-looking photo of what she’s selling, then invites followers to comment “sold” if they want to purchase it. TopShelf will then generate an invoice to move forward with the transaction.

7. Crowdsourced images

You don’t have to be the only one doing taking pictures. If you have active customers who like to show off how they use your products, why not ask their permission to repost?

Invite people to tag images with your store-specific hashtag, then see if you can post those same images on your account. Just be sure to ask permission and give credit to the owner.

Have a look at what GoPro does. The company frequently posts “Photos of the Day” from their users who take great-looking shots using their products.

8. Ask the audience

Here’s another way to connect with your Instagram followers: Why not ask them questions through posts? Doing so will not only generate engagement, but you’ll get to know your followers better.

Check out this example from Nasty Gal:

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9. Offers and Promotions

It’s ok to publish promotional posts on Instagram, just as long as you don’t do it very often. The number of non-promotional images should outweigh your promotional ones, so your audience doesn’t feel like you’re only using the platform to push your products.

That said, the occasional promotional image—such as the one by Bundle Boutique below—could help generate awareness for any offers that you’re running.

10. Giveaways

Giveaways are hugely popular on Instagram simply because people love free stuff. If you’re running a contest in your store, give your Instagram followers a heads up by posting an image or Story on the app. Be sure to provide details on the prize as well as how to enter.

Here’s a great example by Filson, an outdoor clothing and accessories retailer:


11. “We’re hiring”

Looking for new employees? Your next great hire just might be on Instagram. Most of the people who follow you on the app are likely those are already familiar — even enthusiastic —  about your brand. These are the best to people to hire because you won’t have to orient or convince them to be brand ambassadors.

Pana Chocolate is one example of a shop using Instagram as a hiring tool. Take a look at their post below and notice how well-received it is.


12. Throwback posts

Throwback photos are also quite popular. If you’be been in business for a while, consider posting an image of early versions of your products. Another option is to post an old photo of your founder or a key employee.

People who’ve been shopping at your store for a while will get a chance to take a trip down memory lane, while your newer customers will have the opportunity to glimpse what your business (or your people) looked like years past.

One brand that does this well is BMW. The automaker regular posts photos of its classic models on Instagram, and people love it.

13. Funny posts or jokes

If it makes sense for your brand, consider showing your sense of humor by posting a hilarious photo or joke. It’ll help you stand out from accounts that are always posting product photos or “me too” types of posts. Plus, it’s a great way to get laughs — and shares!

Here’s a cool example from Mint Boutique in Australia:

14. Beautiful spaces

Images of great-looking places are a huge hit on Instagram. That’s why if you have a gorgeous store or if you’re running an event or popup in an amazing location, don’t forget to snap tons of photos that you can publish on Instagram. In doing so, you’ll not only generate likes and engagement, but you’ll even encourage your followers to pay you a visit!

Take a look at this example from Empire Homewares:

15. Timely Instagram posts

See to it that your Instagram feed keeps up with the times. If there’s a special holiday or if it’s a particular time of year, be sure to acknowledge it with a relevant Instagram post.

Kate Spade does a good job at this. Whenever there’s a significant holiday or event, you can bet that the retailer has a timely Instagram post to go with it. Here’s what Kate Spade posted on July 4th:

Additional Instagram tips

The above-mentioned posts are pretty great on their own, but if you want to increase their effectiveness, consider implementing the following tips:

Incorporate these themes in your Stories – The suggestions above make for great Instagram posts, but don’t forget that you can also use them in your Instagram Stories. There are now more than 250 million people using Stories daily so this tool can offer tremendous opportunity to reach your audiences.

As Y&R’s creative technologist Gracie Page puts it, Stories can “supplement the always-on social media approach that is expected of consumer-facing brands today. Where a fashion or candle brand with an Instagram presence is now expected to post a static image once per day, a Story can then breathe life into the otherwise extremely styled and curated profile that brands seek to cultivate on the platform.”

How can brands leverage Stories? According to Page, you “can use Stories as a way to show what goes into the making of the product, behind the scenes at special events in the year such as launch parties or photo shoots, or even give over the account to employees on a day to day basis to let their personality shine through.”

“Of course, the product can be put front and center of the Story too,” she adds. A product-centric Instagram Story “acts as another way to entice customers with moving images of the product in action.” As an example, Page mentions Stephanie Gottlieb, a private jeweler in NYC, who shows off her jewelry’s glittering diamonds through Instagram Stories.

Use hashtags – Tag your posts with the appropriate hashtags to increase their findability. Look for common tags in your industry, and see if you can incorporate them into your content. For instance, in fashion, many retailers tag their posts with popular #OOTD hashtag. You could also explore trending hashtags on Instagram to find popular ones that you can leverage. Just make sure that you’re only using relevant and appropriate hashtags in your posts.

How many hashtags should you include? According to a study by Buffer, there doesn’t seem to be a saturation point for hashtag use on Instagram. Their research shows that “interactions are highest on Instagram posts with 11+ hashtags.”

Combine post types – For best results, consider combining the post types above. For example, if you’re posting a photo of someone your customers admire, why not include an inspirational quote from them?  

Bottom line

The Instagram posts above obviously worked well for the brands that posted them. However, before you start posting the same types of images or videos, be sure to do your research to see if they would resonate with your audience.

Also, don’t be discouraged if you don’t get immediate traction. Keep posting, do a bit of trial and error, then take note of what works and what doesn’t.

Good luck!