Instagram Ads and E-commerce


With over one billion users as of June 2018, Instagram has reached elite status in social media/tech history, joining house names like Facebook and WhatsApp. In a time when society depends on social media, Instagram’s simple UX framework makes it one of the best options for digital marketers.

A few recent trends in the apps development have made marketing for businesses that much easier, from the rise of shoppable Instagram stories to advanced targeting capabilities.

This article will tackle a question on all digital marketers minds in 2018: How effective are Instagram ads for e-commerce?

Beginner’s guide to ads on Instagram

The existence of social media ads is likely one of the most useful tools for digital marketers this day in age. It provides them with both advanced audience target options and reliable conversion tracking. AdEspresso said it best when it explained “Instagram ads give you an opportunity to create well-rounded campaigns for users at all stages of the funnel, more effectively build brand awareness, and driving conversions at the same time.” There are many reasons that businesses should give Instagram ads a try.

The Forbes article titled “A Guide To Effective Instagram Advertising For Small Businesses” is a great resource for companies looking to dip their toes into Instagram advertising. According to Jon Clark, Founder and CEO of New York City digital marketing agency, Fuze SEO, there are several factors to consider when it comes to assessing whether or not Instagram ads are effective for you or your business. First, it is important to ensure that your target audience is part of the site’s user base. According to Pew Research Center, the majority of Instagram users are between the age of 18 and 29. Also, because visual aesthetic is very important on Instagram, a company or business must also consider their capabilities when it comes to creating content that would draw in users. From there, there are five main ways to create and manage ads on Instagram: Within Instagram itself, via Facebook Ads Manager, Instagram partners, Facebook’s Marketing API, or Power Editor. Instagram ads can also be created through other third-party tools such as AdEspresso.

The most prominent method is to create ads directly through the Instagram app. From there, there are four main types of ads one can choose from.

Types of Instagram Feed Ads

  • Photo Ads: photo ads or single-photo ads are the most basic and easiest ad format to use on Instagram. With photo ads, users are able to construct up to six ads each containing one image. As explained by Forbes’ Jon Clark, “Photo adverts allow you to tell your story in a clean and creative canvas, where photos can be in landscape or portrait format.” For those looking to test out the waters of Instagram advertising, this is a good place to start.
  • Carousel Ads: Compared to single-photo ads, carousel ads are more complicated to set up and manage. They enable you to create ads with “two or more scrollable images or videos by creating different cards.” Carousel adverts usually allow users to create up to ten cards which can display either photos or videos.
  • Video Ad: video ads are very similar to single-photo ads. They allow you to advertise using either videos or gifs up to 60 seconds long. As explained by Forbes Jon Clark, “User engagement with videos are fast outpacing that of static images, so if branding or engagements are a key KPI, a video may be worth testing.”
  • Story Ads: Instagram stories, the newest form of Instagram advertising, allows/permits users to advertise using either photos or videos. However, it is important to mention that Instagram stories are only temporary and disappear after a 24-hour period. Thus, Instagram story ads would be a great option for time-sensitive messages.

How does Instagram advertising work?

Advertising on Instagram is fairly easy to spot; at the top of each post a grey ‘Sponsored’ banner will appear. Instagram ads work in a very similar way to those of Facebook. Users will likely remark that the ads on their feed are targeted to their own interests.

One drawback of advertising on Instagram is mobile advertising. For some reason, links are on the mobile app do not work. And with over 50% of users who access the app exclusively from mobile devices, this could pose an issue to the future of e-commerce on the social platform.

Targeting on Instagram

If there is one thing to take away from this article it is the importance of ad targeting. Instagram ad targeting is the key to the success of any social media campaign. Similar to Facebook, Instagram has clearly defined how its ad platform works. Targeting on Instagram occurs by  selecting a number of traits whether it be age, gender, interests, etc. to which you want to market.

Instagram then offers a variety of tools to help a user create and manage target audiences.

Why Instagram Advertising is Essential

It is no secret that in 2018, social media has become a pillar for both marketing and e-commerce.

But why invest in Instagram ads? One of the main reasons why we believe Instagram is essential in leveraging a brands advertising is due to its engagement rates. Instagram has one of the highest engagement rates of all social sites. According to a Yotpo Voice article, the social media platform research shows ad recall from sponsored ads was 3x higher than ad recall from other social networks. Similarly, Forrester, a market research company, did an independent study and found that “consumers are 58x more likely to engage with branded content on Instagram compared to Facebook and 120x more likely compared to Twitter.”

Similarly, Instagram is mobile-first, possessing one of the highest number of mobile audiences of all social media platforms. This is important because it allowed the platform to create an ad experience that would be unobtrusive to its users. And this is clear when using the app; ads on Instagram have been well-received by its mobile users.

In conclusion, the fact of the matter is that promoted or sponsored posts on Instagram work. When you use Instagram to promote a product or service, that post does reach new audiences that would have never seen it otherwise. However, that increased visibility does not directly translate into e-commerce growth. When it comes Instagram ads the question is how does one create a sponsored post that not only incites a reaction, but “generates more followers, sales, and engagement for your account.” So, when done right, the benefits of Instagram ads are unparalleled.


Campbell, Casandra, “The Beginner’s Guide to Advertising on Instagram”, Shopify Blogs, March 23, 2018.

“9 MAJOR INSTAGRAM TRENDS MARKETERS MUST KNOW FOR 2018,” MediaKix Team, February 21, 2018.

Millwood, Aimee, “Instagram Advertising in 2018: What You Need to Know,” Yotpo Voice,

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