How Outdoor Voices is winning with Instagram

For more from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show on January 14 – 16 in New York City, visit the official recap.

For more from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show on January 14 – 16 in New York City, visit the official recap.

Instagram might have started as a hip photo-sharing app for filter-loving shutterbugs, but now it’s both a beloved app and a key tool for consumers and retailers to connect, talk and share. Marne Levine, COO of Instagram, and Tyler Haney, founder and CEO of sportswear retailer Outdoor Voices, discussed how to play and win in this digital space during a panel at NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, “The future of retailing: How tech is changing the game.”

“Social shopping isn’t a trend, it’s a force. It’s redefining the essence of commerce,” Levine said, underlining the extraordinary opportunity for retailers. Consider the numbers: Instagram now has 800 million daily users and 25 million business profiles. Retailers simply cannot afford to pass this audience up.

So what are the strategies that make companies like Outdoor Voices Insta-famous? “OV is about being human, not superhuman,” said Haney, who advised brands to talk to each user “like a best friend.” OV uses this strategy to advance its brand of daily, fun recreation — building both emotional connection and a wider social conversation.

Four lessons stand out:

Marne Levine on stage

Marne Levine on stage

Embrace the mobile mindset

According to Levine, it’s critical that retailers develop a mobile mindset of “shorter, faster and being yourself.” This includes experimentation and testing that incorporates user feedback. For example, OV invites customers to respond to product development ideas, guiding decisions while deepening engagement. This requires significant resourcing to social channels, which must be high-energy, quick-response and always-on.

Leverage user-generated content
Haney emphasized that user-generated content is more effective than produced content —and also less expensive. Younger consumers are eager to share retail content on Instagram, such as with OV’s #doingthings. Retailers can then select from and share this array of ready-made, free content. The goal: drive engagement in real life and then amplify it through social. 

Engage micro-influencers
Levine described Instagram as a powerful tool to amplify the age-old relationship between brands and influencers. In particular, Haney said that “micro-influencers” — those with hundreds of thousands of followers, not millions — typically drive more engagement than those with larger followings.

Explore Instagram’s existing tools

Levine encouraged retailers to explore and utilize the tools that Instagram already provides to help tell stories, connect with customers and drive sales:

  • Stories – In August, Instagram launched the Stories feature, which allows users to post a series of videos and photos that disappear after 24 hours. Now, roughly one-third of Stories are posted by businesses. OV uses Stories as a customer retention tool and a way to create an inclusive call to action for followers.
  • Insights – The Insights feature for business profiles provides vital analysis for retailers, such as the most important geographies and times for its followers. An Australian retailer flipped its posting schedule after it saw that most followers lived in the United States.
  • Poll stickers – Retailers can use poll stickers to collect customer feedback on product decisions; both J.Crew and New Balance have used the feature to decide which color products their customers want.

For more stories from NRF 2018: Retail’s Big Show, visit the official recap page.