How Will Retail Brands Share Their Instagram Stories?


Last week, Instagram introduced Instagram Stories, a new feature that allows all users to take photos and videos that are only accessible for 24 hours. All Stories content will disappear from user feeds and grids after a day.

The new feature is undoubtedly Instagram’s response to Snapchat, and enables users to create compelling in-the-moment content.

The RTP team discusses how the Stories feature will impact Instagram’s standing in the social media race going forward, while highlighting the opportunities brands can create by using the feature.


Debbie Hauss, Editor-in-Chief: For marketers, the biggest problem when it comes to social channels, never mind short-term social content, is uncovering the ROI of strategies. As the retail industry continues to work toward tracking the entire shopper journey across all channels, with Instagram Stories they face the challenge of tracking shopper behavior based on a quick view of a video that disappears after 24 hours. They also need to discover the type of content for this platform that will resonate with consumers to help nurture the long-term, loyalty relationship marketers are seeking. Will Instagram Stories rise to the level of a budget priority for many retailers? I’m guessing probably not, at least at first, until some innovative, disruptive brands test the waters and find success.

Adam Blair, Executive Editor: As the Forbes coverage of Instagram Stories points out, this is another step in the “casual-ization” of marketing messages: “With Instagram Stories brands will have to start treating candid, less-staged photos as real marketing material.” To me, it’s another escalation in the Authenticity Arms Race. Today’s consumers, particularly Millennials and Gen Z, are allergic to anything that smacks of traditional advertising, with its celebrity endorsements and pronouncements from “experts.” They want the real behind-the-scenes story, as told by influencers that have built up credibility by being, well, a slightly more famous version of the consumer. Yet “authentic” messages can easily lose their power if they come across too much like pre-packaged corporate branding. The message for retailers is that they need to keep abreast of each new authenticity opportunity, such as Instagram Stories, as they appear on the scene. Otherwise they will fall behind in this all-important arms race.

Alicia Fiorletta Esposito, Content Strategist: I think Adam brings up a great point in that consumers, especially Millennials and Centennials, demand more authentic interactions with brands and marketing campaigns that align with their needs and lifestyles. Instagram Stories — especially the video capabilities — give marketers a great outlet to show a behind-the-scenes look at events, new collections, in-store experiences and so much more. If consumers are able to catch a glimpse of that content, it resonates with them and they feel like they’ll be a part of something special and exclusive. When looking at broader social strategies — especially paid advertising — retailers always had to focus on hard metrics and the ROI of their time and investment. However, this is clearly a vehicle focused first and foremost on engagement. It doesn’t take any money to produce, just some time, effort and thought. It’s great to see brands like Marc Jacobs and Tory Burch already hop on the bandwagon, but I can’t wait to see what other approaches and best practices emerge over time.

David DeZuzio, Managing Editor: Has there ever been a more level playing field for retail advertising? As the Curalate coverage pointed out, Instagram Stories allows retailers to show “a less glamorized, more fun side of the business” which is indeed very exciting and will give today’s shoppers that authentic feel they’ve been looking for. Everyone loves to take a peek behind the scenes and feel like they are part of something exclusive. I also love the fact that, as Alicia mentioned, this approach doesn’t take any money (or at least a very small amount) to produce, which allows retailers big and small to engage. The only thing that concerns me is that very small/independent retailers will have to pray extra hard that their spots are seen within the 24-hour window. Brands with hundreds of thousands, if not millions, of followers will obviously have a great reach and could realize a quick, profitable ROI. But startups will have to be even more creative and incredibly prolific content-wise to break through. This will be fun to watch.

Klaudia Tirico, Associate Editor: The Forbes article stated that Snapchat and Instagram Stories give brands “the ability to share authentic photos and videos that don’t ‘feel like ads.’” Is it just me or shouldn’t brands thrive to be authentic in all forms of content, whether it’s an Instagram photo or a Snapchat video? This is why I’m not really drinking the Instagram Stories Kool-Aid. Snapchat is understandable because its “stories” are basically the main point of the platform, while Instagram Stories are just a side attraction. The Curalate article pointed out a variety of ways that brands are already using Instagram Stories, such as showing behind-the-scenes footage and introducing followers to new products. But, in my opinion, these strategies can be done through the regular means of posting a video or image on an Instagram feed. And if they are done right, they can still be as authentic. Sure, Instagram Stories is another fun social media tool, but I think that brands should still focus on their actual Instagram content, especially because the user has to have a reason to follow the brand on Instagram in the first place in order to even watch the Stories. My colleagues do make a lot of great points, but I guess I just can’t get past the fact that it’s such a blatant copy of Snapchat (as Instagram’s video feature was of Vine).

Glenn Taylor, Associate Editor: Instagram and Snapchat had already been well on their way to positioning themselves at the forefront of social media marketing, and are expected to make a big splash during the holiday season. While social platforms such as Facebook and Twitter have long-established vehicles for retailers to further engagement with the consumer outside of traditional store and web channels, the visual style of Instagram and Snapchat signals even more of a shift to user-generated content (UGC). Retailers can create quick videos that not only highlight a product or promotion, but drive exclusivity to it since the feed disappears. Exclusivity still remains one of the biggest psychological factors retailers can leverage when building out sales strategies, and nothing says “exclusive” more than a promotion literally vanishing into thin air. Plus, the engagement from the Stories feature and Snapchat can convince consumers to hop along and create UGC related to the promotion, thereby going beyond B2C marketing and entering customer-to-customer marketing. As has been shown with hashtags and shares, a great customer-to-customer marketing campaign certainly can energize and create plenty of buzz among a consumer base.

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