When we talk to successful ecommerce merchants, most of them stress the value of social media as a marketing channel. Instagram in particular is loved for its high engagement and visual appeal, but one of its drawbacks when it comes to ecommerce is the fact that it limits URLs to a single clickable link in the user profile.

Foursixty is one of a number of apps geared at making Instagram feeds “shoppable.” It does this by letting merchants create galleries that mirror their Instagram feeds, tag products in posts, and place the shoppable feed on their website. Part of what makes Foursixty stand out from its competitors is the level of customization it offers, allowing merchants to tailor the integration to match their store and brand aesthetic.

“When Adam and I started Foursixty, design was at the forefront of what we were doing,” says Michael Chachula, founder of the Toronto-based company. “We knew that if these galleries were to live inside a brand’s store, they had to look incredible and be completely in line with their brand identity—not ours.”

The app offers three embed styles, including a “Styled on Insta” gallery that can be added to product pages to show all the Instagram posts featuring that product. Foursixty works on any platform, although earlier this month the company introduced a new Shopify-exclusive feature that lets shoppers add to cart directly from the Foursixty feed, including options for variants like size and colour.

“With most companies in this space, their goal is to link you to the point of sale, either through a thumbnail image or some other link,” Michael says. “We’ve seen success with that, but we wanted to take it one step further. This new feature shows merchants what kind of activity happens once their customers are in this pop-up view.”

Instagram product image on the left with a collection page of bracelets on the right

We chatted with Michael about the Instagram landscape and how merchants can best use the platform to increase their sales.

Do you want to start by explaining briefly how Foursixty works?

Step one for every brand is to create an account at Foursixty.com. That’s where merchants manage their integration. Setup is pretty simple. Merchants hook up their Instagram account and hashtags to the dashboard through an authentication process, which allows us to pull all their content. Next, they can start making their content shoppable, tagging one or more products featured within their posts. This works in the same way you’d tag a friend on Facebook. So, for example, if there was a photo of a girl wearing a top, a pair of sunglasses, and a necklace, the brand could make all three of those items shoppable or just pick one or two. There’s also a lot of custom capability  in terms of what the actual CTA looks like and how the tags look.

Once merchants are through the setup process and understand how to make their posts shoppable, they’re ready to create their code. Once they’ve done that, they can drop their Foursixty code into their site’s code base to get the integration live within their site. And once that’s all done, the integration can be managed from either our web app or our iPhone app. That’s one of the most important features of Foursixty—that you can do all of this on the go from wherever you are.

What do you offer that’s better or different from what your competitors are offering?

When we launched Foursixty, there were a few  competitors in the space already, and we had all started at similar points. Foursixty’s goal was to provide brands of any size or financial standing with the ability to create beautiful, on-brand, and actionable Instagram experiences for their customers. A lot of our competitors were offering this kind of tool for thousands of dollars a month, which is more than what most Shopify merchants could afford. We’re talking about brands with beautiful websites, relatively inexpensive themes, but really amazing approaches to using Instagram—these are the brands we wanted to support. At the end of the day, our product provided them with exactly what they needed and nothing that they didn’t. And now, we have a product that’s used by some of the top brands in the world, and merchants are moving over to our platform because we simply provide a better solution.

What is it about Instagram that makes merchants so driven to find the best integration for their site?

Instagram has  a massive user base and their engagement is out of this world. And they make it really easy for brands to present their products in a way that creates an almost insatiable purchase desire. It’s a combination of those factors that a brand needs to be successful, and our product is here to help them take advantage of that.

I was going to ask you about Instagram ads and whether they’ve affected your product strategy. Have they?

The introduction of Instagram ads has actually been great for us. A lot of our clients use Instagram ads in addition to using Foursixty. The reason it’s great is because our clients can now monetize within Instagram—the actual app itself, I mean—and then when their followers get to their site they have the ability to engage with our shoppable Instagram galleries. So whether they’re coming from Instagram or going right  to their site, we’ve  created this world where Instagram’s touchpoint is everywhere. So they’re very complimentary.

What kind of products do you find sell best with Instagram and Foursixty?

Our userbase is comprised of brands in the swimwear, streetwear, activewear, jewelry, fashion, homewares, and health and beauty products. Imagery created by brands from within these verticals perform incredibly well because they’re usually placed in beautiful scenic locations or have a raw, organic feel to them. Swimwear brands do very well on Instagram because their content is very aspirational. Streetwear is often done with really cool photography. With active wear you might have yoga models doing intricate poses in stunning locations, and with jewelry there’s all kinds of possibilities. At the end of the day, these types of products are Instagram gold.

If you can show the utility of your product in a ‘lifestyle’ context, the potential for making deeper connections is much stronger. Let’s use Pura Vida Bracelets as an example. You will rarely see a photo on Pura Vida’s Instagram of just a bracelet. You are always seeing it on a girl who’s wearing a great outfit, might be riding a skateboard, enjoying a picnic on a beach, or surfing. Their products are always tied into an amazing lifestyle experience, and as a result it brings their products to life. And when that tie-in happens, it makes the viewer want to be a part of that. That’s why the product categories we service do so well—because they pull you into the  world they create.

That’s great advice for merchants who are looking to improve their Instagram presence. Do you have any general advice for ecommerce merchants starting their first online store?

Yeah, I have three things. The first is to focus on making great content that’s completely in line with your brand identity, and once you’ve found what you want to do, don’t deviate from it. There are so many ecommerce brands out there right now—it’s never been more important to be who you are and stick to it.

Next, share what inspires you with your community. If you’re designing a new line of products, share your creative process, or parts of it, with your customers. That makes them feel like they’re a part of your world.

My last point, and we’ve learned this from doing countless integrations for brands that we work with, is to keep your website simple, but make sure that you’re completely crazy about making it simply beautiful. Simplicity is key. As theme developers, Pixel Union probably does that better than anybody else. As long as you have an amazing and beautiful theme that’s simple, you can really do no wrong.

Are there any ecommerce patterns you’re watching with special interest in 2016?

Personally, I’m excited to watch the evolution of micro-marketing, or micro-moment marketing. I think more often than not, people are bored and just grab their phones out of habit without any idea of what they want to look at or engage with, and that habit presents an awesome opportunity for marketers. I’ll be interested to see how ecommerce brands take advantage of those opportunities.

Learn more about Foursixty at www.foursixty.com

 

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