NRF 2018: 5 brands using Instagram for business success

Instagram’s chief operating officer (COO), Marne Levine, used her presentation at the National Retail Federation’s (NRF) Big Show to detail how retailers and brands are using Instagram to connect with their customers, thanks to the launch of the company’s Stories and Ads features in the last two years.

Levine said that the social media site is increasingly being used for commercial gain, with 180 million interactions between users and businesses on the platform in the last month alone. The site has a community of 800 million+ people, 80% apparently connect with businesses on Instagram voluntarily.

Retail Connections was in the audience at the retail showcase event in New York, and has picked out five brands that have leveraged Instagram to boost commercial opportunities, based on the COO’s comments.

Outdoor Voices. Tyler Haney, founder and CEO of Outdoor Voices, which sells apparel for everyday activities such as dog walking, yoga and running, was on stage at NRF with Levine. She said Instagram advertising based on user-generated content has been two times as effective as content produced elsewhere.

“This is interesting because there are efficiencies there, where we don’t need to have these long produced asset creation projects,” Haney explained. “We can turn around ads when we see one we like and it’s effectively free.”

Michael Kors. Levine argued to NRF delegates that social media marketing is increasingly powerful, saying “digital isn’t just a sideshow, but it’s really a key feature of the main show”. Designer handbag and accessories retailer Michael Kors had success on Instagram, simply by re-cutting its TV ads for the platform, she explained.

Beats by Dre. The Instagram COO suggested that even product ads perform well on Instagram, often to the surprise of those businesses displaying their content on the site. “A good example of this is Beats by Dre,” according to Levine. “They had one lifestyle ad and one product ad – they thought the lifestyle one would perform better. As it turned out it was the product ad which performed better.”

The headphones brand pulled the lifestyle one, and ran with the product ad which “translated in real business results”, Levine added.

J Crew and New Balance. The US fashion retailer J Crew and sports footwear brand New Balance have both used the Instagram polling sticker to communicate with their customers, according to Levine. In a prime example of a demand-led supply chain – a trend retail analysts are confident will grow in popularity over the coming years – the two businesses asked their customers which type of product to develop and acted according to their wishes.

As Outdoor Voices CEO Haney explained: “Instagram is all about creating that emotional connection with our customer – around our product, our community and the mission of the brand.

“The brand talks to you like a best friend [on Instagram].”

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