How to Expand Your Delivery and Pickup Options

Alise Bailey, Editor – Square

Whether you own a taco truck, pizza joint, or high-end boutique, finding new ways to serve customers who are looking to shop and place orders from anywhere is key to adapting to today’s challenges.

If you’re looking to take orders online, on social media, or over the phone, you have a variety of options when it comes to how customers can pick up or receive their items.

From curbside pickup to delivery, here are a few options to easily expand the ways customers can get your pizzas, sweaters, cinnamon rolls, artwork — without missing a beat.

Add curbside or in-store pickup

If you’re located in a neighborhood where customers can come to you, you can provide them with the option to buy online, pick up in-store (BOPIS), or pick up their order curbside.

If you use Square Online Store and you enable in-store pickup, customers placing orders will see a selection for in-store pickup at checkout, and they can come inside your brick-and-mortar space when their order is ready for pickup.

If you enable the curbside option, customers will see a selection for curbside pickup at checkout. Your customer will receive a text message letting them know to call your pickup location’s phone number upon arrival, and you or your staff can bring their order out to their waiting car.

Learn how to set up in-store pickup and curbside pickup.

Set up local delivery

With Square’s local delivery, you can offer delivery for customers within a geographic range that you determine, and use your own staff (or yourself) to deliver goods. Eligible customers can select delivery at checkout and opt to receive delivery text alerts.

  • Local food delivery: When you enable local delivery with Square Online Store at your restaurant, order tickets sent to your kitchen will print all delivery details in the notes section.
  • Local retail delivery: When you enable local delivery with Square Online Store at your retail store, customers can select delivery at checkout. Order tickets sent to your Point of Sale will print delivery details in the notes section.

For both retail and food, you can also set an estimated delivery time, delivery fee, and a minimum delivery order value.

Learn how to set up local delivery.

Work with delivery partners

You can also set up delivery through integrations with Square partners. These integrations can help you offer customers delivery by courier, receive online orders from customers, and manage orders from these platforms within your Square Point of Sale.

Here are a few of our partners that can help you get set up.

To hear more from Square about additional resources and updates on Square products, please reference our resource hub, which is updated frequently.

Alise is an editor at Square, where she writes about how to start, run, and grow a business, highlighting our sellers around the world.

Instagram Provides Tips on How Brands Can Use Stories to Connect With Audiences Amid COVID-19

Amid the COVID-19 shutdowns and the broader human impacts of the pandemic, it’s difficult for marketers to understand where they’re placed, and how they can, and should, maintain connection with their audiences at this time. And while research has shown that most consumers are still open to brand messaging during the crisis, situational awareness is key, and reaching people ‘in the right way’ is essential to effectiveness.

To help with this, Instagram has this week shared some key tips on how brands can maintain audience connection via Instagram Stories.

And there are some great notes to consider – here are Instagram’s six tips to get the most out of Stories during COVID-19.

1. ‘Make it easy for people to support your brand’

Instagram’s first tip is to promote ways that people can support your business by using Instagram’s new gift card and food ordering stickers in your Stories frames. You can then save your Stories as Highlights to maximize their reach and response.

Instagram Stories tips

2. ‘Uplift and inform’

Instagram advises that brands should also look to ‘share positive stories around kindness and sacrifice, and support health and safety messages from trusted sources’.

Instagram Stories tips

This aligns with recent advice stemming from research conducted by Twitter, which indicated that consumers are looking to brands to provide accurate information, and assist in their local communities.

Instagram also advises brands to use tools like its ‘Stay Home’ sticker to reinforce key health messages.

3. ‘Share your story’

Instagram says that brands should look to share behind the scenes insights into what’s really happening at their business as a result of COVID-19, and how they’re looking to address key issues, and assist their suppliers and communities.

Instagram Stories tips

4. ‘Start a conversation’

Instagram suggests that brands use the question sticker to engage with customers and ask how they’re feeling.

Instagram also recommends using tools like the Countdown sticker to build engagement around digital events.

Instagram Stories tips

5. ‘Answer FAQs’

Instagram also suggests that brands consider using Stories to answer common questions they’re receiving at this time, helping to clarify what’s happening.

Instagram Stories tips

6. ‘Engage your community’

And finally, Instagram notes that Stories is ‘where people like to express themselves’, and brands can tap into this by providing challenges and templates for people to re-share in their Stories and tag their friends.

Instagram Stories tips

These are some good tips, and will no doubt get you thinking on how you can utilize Stories in your own approach.

And given the rising usage of Stories, it’s well worth consideration. Facebook has repeatedly noted that Stories are on track to overtake the news feed as the primary social sharing destination (if it hasn’t already), and as younger consumers who are more accustomed to Stories grow up, Stories does, indeed, look set to become the key way to communicate.

As such, it’s worth marketers and brands getting accustomed to the format, and these tips could be the first steps towards improving your Stories presence and process, helping you better connect with more potential customers.

You can check out Instagram’s full Stories tips video here

 

Sam’s Club to donate $1 million to a non-profit organizations that provides financing to small businesses

By Thad Rueter – Progressivegrocer.com

Sam’s Club will donate $1 million to a national non-profit organization that provides financing to small businesses – one of the latest ways that food retailers are trying to offset the massive economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The members-only retailer said those donations could ultimately help small businesses that buy from Sam’s Club to at least stay on their feet until the economy starts to reopen. Many businesses source food and related supplies from Sam’s Club, which, of course, also sells food to individual consumers.

Sam’s Club will donate that sum to the Local Initiatives Support Corporation, or LISC, which says it “works with a vast network of community-based partners to make investments” in business and other sectors. LISC is working to provide financial assistance to small businesses hurt by the pandemic. Some 90% of them have been impacted by the closures and other problems since the spread of the virus, according to the National Federation of Independent Businesses, a trade group.

Small businesses can apply online via LISC to receive $10,000 grants to help offset pandemic losses. “We will deploy grants to help them bridge the financial gap, and deliver technical assistance to help them navigate the intricate web of public and private resources now available,” the nonprofit said. “LISC will focus these efforts on historically underserved communities — especially those enterprises owned or led by women, minorities and veterans, which often lack access to affordable capital.”

Gaining access to fresh capital isn’t the only challenge for small businesses during the pandemic. Visibility also presents a problem – that is, making sure consumers are aware of the many small businesses that are still around even amid these pandemic troubles. To that end, Sam’s Club is taking another step designed to help its small business members.

“We’re giving our own small business members some extra visibility by sharing some of their stories on social and in email,” the food retailer said. “Over the coming weeks, we’ll be collecting information from our small business members on how they are operating in the current environment and distributing that information back out to members in their areas.”

The pandemic promises to bring lasting changes not only to small businesses but to the supply chain for food retail, as a recent analysis from Progressive Grocer shows. Retail chains are already improvising supply chain improvements in response to the COVID-19 outbreak. A recent example comes from Sam’s Club parent Walmart. It is offering its suppliers fresh resources designed to speed the supplier on-boarding process, among other moves. Given the size and influence of Walmart and Sam’s Club, it’s a safe bet their recent moves could encourage other food retailers to make their own changes, even if on a much smaller scale.

Bentonville, Ark.-based Walmart Inc. operates about 11,500 stores under 56 banners in 27 countries, and ecommerce websites, employing more than 2.2 million associates worldwide. The Bentonville, Ark.-based mega-retailer is No. 1 on Progressive Grocer’s 2019 Super 50 list of the top grocers in the United States.

The PPP and EIDL Are Closed. Now What?

The SBA announced on April 16 that they will no longer be accepting new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program and the Economic Injury Disaster Loan. After two weeks of fulfilling requests from hundreds of thousands of business owners across the country, the relief funds have run dry. The PPP is expected to re-open at some point, and it’s possible the EIDL may be replenished as well.

So what should you do right now? We recommend three things:

  1. Get your 2019 bookkeeping and taxes completed
  2. Pre-apply for the Paycheck Protection Program
  3. Explore alternative funding

Get your 2019 bookkeeping and taxes completed

Most businesses have gladly taken advantage of the 90-day tax filing deferral to July 15, 2020. However, getting your taxes filed will give you the official documentation you need to get approved for the PPP and EIDL if they’re reopened. And in order to fill out an accurate tax return, you’ll need 2019 bookkeeping completed. (Plus, the sooner you file your return, the sooner you’ll get your tax refund.)

So if you want to position your business to be ready if the PPP or EIDL reopens, the best thing you can do today is to get your bookkeeping and taxes taken care of.

Pre-apply for the PPP

It’s estimated that there are 800,000+ applications waiting to be processed once the PPP opens up again.

If you want to be first in line once the PPP opens, we recommend getting your application in order today and submitting it to a PPP lender.

Right now, that’s a little tricky since many lenders have stopped accepting applications, and the official SBA Lender Match page is currently displaying no lenders.

So what should you do?

We recommend reaching out to the financial institutions you’re already a member of first to see if they’re participating. Failing that, reach out to the community banks in your city, or check out online lenders that are taking applications such as PayPalFundera (technically a loan aggregator), KabbageBlueVine, and others.

Explore alternative funding

If you don’t qualify for the PPP but still need cash flow to keep your operations going, here are resources we recommend looking into.

Support from government

The Save Small Business fund

The Save Small Business fund is a grant made available by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and supporting partner companies. It provides $5,000 to small businesses with 3–20 employees.

  • $5,000 grant
  • Applications open April 20, 2020 at 12PM PDT
  • Requires W-9 form
  • Your business must be located in an economically vulnerable community. You can enter your business’s zip code on the site to see if you qualify.

You can apply here.

The employee retention tax credit

You can be eligible for payroll tax credits if you keep your employees on payroll, if you paid COVID-19-related sick leave for employees, or if you had to suspend operations.

Further readingEmployee Retention Credits: A Simple Guide (COVID-19)

The Express Bridge Loan

You can borrow up to $25,000 for disaster-related purposes from a lender you have an existing banking relationship with.

Further reading: The Express Bridge Loan Pilot Program (A Simple Guide)

Support from large businesses

Many large companies have stepped up with resources and funding for small businesses affected by COVID-19.

Facebook Small Business Grants Program

Facebook is providing cash grants and ad credit to small businesses with 2–50 employees.

  • Applications will be open to cities on a rolling basis. Visit the site to see if it’s open for your city
  • Must be a for-profit company that has been in business for over a year

You can apply here.

Google Ad Credits for Small and Medium-sized Businesses

Google is providing ad credits to small and medium businesses that advertised on Google in 2019. Credits will be added automatically.

Salesforce Care Small Businesses Grant

$10,000 grants for small businesses. Applications not yet open.

Regional support

There are many region-specific supports and resources offering emergency funding. Check your local chamber of commerce, economic development office, or nonprofit for relief programs.

Further reading: COVID-19 Resources, State by State

Private lenders

Banks, merchant processors, and other private lenders may offer lines of credit or other lending options. But the terms won’t be as favorable as the PPP and EIDL. One other thing: some of the below offers may have been changed due to COVID-19.

Traditional bank loans

We’ve compiled our recommendation of the best bank loans for small businesses in 2020.

Business line of credit

A line of credit is more flexible than a bank loan, and usually cheaper too. Here’s our recommendations of the best business lines of credit in 2020.

Business credit card

Using a credit card to float your business is usually a bad idea. However, some business credit cards offer 0% interest for the first year. Check out our recommendations for the top business credit cards to see if any fit your needs.

This post is to be used for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal, business, or tax advice. Each person should consult his or her own attorney, business advisor, or tax advisor with respect to matters referenced in this post. Bench assumes no liability for actions taken in reliance upon the information contained herein.

7 New Financial Resources For Women Business Owners

Planning & Development

For years female entrepreneurs have fought for their seat at the table, collectively inching from secretary desks to C-suites. In 2019, American Express reported that majority women-owned businesses made up 42% of all businesses, employing 9.4 million workers—up from just 4% of businesses and 230,000 workers in the 1970s.

And for years small businesses have been the engine fueling female entrepreneurs’ rise, as 99.9% of women-owned businesses employ fewer than 500 staffers.

Now the coronavirus pandemic threatens to undo much of that progress in a matter of months.

With COVID-19 wreaking havoc on the economy, a recent poll from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce showed that 24% of small businesses are less than two months away from shuttering permanently, and 11% are less than one month away. And according to American Express, many women-owned businesses work within industries most vulnerable to COVID-19 devastation. Roughly 22% of all women-owned businesses are hair salons, nail salons, and pet groomers, and women also own 16% of the hospitality and food service sector.

“Women tend to have less of a track record with banks,” Laurie Fabiano, president of the Tory Burch Foundation, explains, “because women tend to borrow less than men. Most of them don’t have a banker on speed dial.”

The Tory Burch Foundation is one of many organizations that have mobilized to support female entrepreneurs during the pandemic, in ways ranging from resource gathering to professional mentorship to COVID-19-specific funding.

If you need help, start here:

Hello Alice, a machine learning company founded as a women’s virtual accelerator, is offering immediate $10,000 grants to small businesses, supplied by Silicon Valley Bank, the eBay Foundation, and other partners.

IFW COVID-19 RELIEF FUND

IFundWomen, a crowdfunding platform, is giving micro-grants to women-run businesses, issued on a rolling basis. “Start a campaign” to be considered.

FACEBOOK SMALL BUSINESS GRANTS PROGRAM

Of the $100 million fund, $40 million in grants is set for 10,000 U.S.-based small businesses. And of those, Facebook said it’s “prioritizing 50% of grants to eligible minority, women and veteran-owned businesses.”

Applications open by location, with an upcoming round in New York and Seattle on April 18. Check the website to see when your location opens.

VERIZON SMALL BUSINESS RECOVERY FUND

Verizon joined with the Local Initiatives Support Corporation to offer up to $5 million in grants of up to $10,000, “especially entrepreneurs of color, women-owned businesses and other enterprises that don’t have access to flexible, affordable capital.”

Its next round of applications starts mid-April. Register to stay updated.

SHEAMOISTURE COMMUNITY COMMERCE FUND

The beauty brand announced a $1 million campaign to support minority business owners. While the fund’s grant applications appear closed, women of color entrepreneurs can still enroll in an e-learning lab to “gain education, access to resources, mentorship, and advice on how to prepare for the economic downturn” from Sundial Brands, Unilever, and Dartmouth’s Tuck School of Business.

ASSISTHER EMERGENCY RELIEF GRANT

Texas Woman’s University is offering $10,000 grants to women-run businesses in Texas. The funds are intended for “technology upgrades or other items needed to change or adapt your business model,” but should not be used for “payment of sales tax and payroll, advertising, purchase of food for consumption, penalties and fees, and charitable donations.”

ANONYMOUS WAS A WOMAN EMERGENCY RELIEF GRANT

Anonymous Was A Woman and the New York Foundation for the Arts are offering $250,000 in grants of up to $2,500 apiece, to women-identifying visual artists over the age of 40.

VISA FOUNDATION

The Visa Foundation pledged $200 million over five years, to be distributed in $60 million grants to NGOs that support small and micro businesses worldwide, with a focus on women’s empowerment. “When women thrive, communities thrive. We know this matters now more than ever as the global economy seeks to recover and rebuild,” Visa said. It has not yet publicized which NGOs will participate.

PayPal, Square Start Lending to Small Businesses Hurt by Virus

Financial-technology firms PayPal Holdings Inc.Square Inc. and Intuit Inc. are starting to lend to small businesses that couldn’t get access to coronavirus relief funds through the biggest U.S. banks.

Fintechs had been pushing to provide emergency loans to small businesses since mid-March, more than a week before passage of federal legislation that created the Paycheck Protection Program. The companies have said that they can approve loans faster than traditional banks and reach the most vulnerable businesses but ran into obstacles before getting Small Business Administration approval.

“The PPP program has manual checks and processes that require time, and we’re doing the best we can despite having tech that can operate at scale and efficiency,” said Brian Peters, executive director of Financial Innovation Now, an industry group that counts PayPal and Square as members. Fintechs have had to “retool their lending programs to make PPP work.

PayPal Chief Executive Officer Dan Schulman was on calls with the Treasury Department for weeks prior to getting PPP approval Friday, including speaking directly with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, according to a company representative. They discussed PayPal’s capacity and capabilities to get funds in a timely manner to small and midsize businesses, particularly those from disadvantaged areas or demographics.

One reason it took fintechs longer than traditional banks to participate in the PPP was that they had to wait on final authorization from the Small Business Administration, said Karen Mills, a senior fellow at Harvard Business School and former SBA administrator. The Treasury Department and the SBA didn’t release the application form for fintech and other non-bank lenders until last week.

“I think the fintechs were working very hard on the front end, but the back end of the pipe that hooks up to the fire hose of money, they had to wait for the Treasury for that,” Mills said.

The SBA didn’t provide an immediate comment.

PayPal, Square and Intuit all serve small businesses that are often overlooked by large banks because it’s costly for them to underwrite very small loans, according to Jo Ann Barefoot, chief executive officer of the Alliance for Innovative Regulation.

Smaller Loans

As many as 70% of PayPal’s small-business loans go to U.S. counties that have lost 10 or more banks since the financial crisis in 2008, according to Schulman. The company’s loans are generally less than $25,000 each — something true as well for small businesses seeking help from PayPal under the PPP, Schulman said in an email.

Square also serves borrowers that “have been locked out of the financial system,” said Jackie Reses, Square Capital lead. Women make up 55% of Square Capital borrowers, and 37% are under-represented minorities, she said in an interview.

Under the PPP, financial institutions including Bank of America Corp. have been favoring existing small-business customers because the process is easer if a borrower has been previously approved. On Monday, a federal judge ruled that preferential treatment under the CARES Act wouldn’t be barred after Bank of America was sued by a number of small businesses for being left out.

Florida Senator Marco Rubio said Monday on Twitter that the main challenge with PPP is no longer lender confusion, but that more lenders, including non-bank lenders, are needed to speed up distribution.

Fintechs are starting to take part in the PPP when almost three-quarters of the $349 billion program has already been allocated. The funding may run out as early as Thursday, top White House economic adviser Larry Kudlow said. An effort to add an additional $250 billion has stalled in Congress.

PayPal is offering access to the PPP to its existing 10 million merchants through a relationship with WebBank, a Salt Lake City-based bank that it already partners with for its Working Capital business. The company’s first emergency-loan borrowers include a chiropractic office in Kansas City, Missouri; a nail salon in Bayonne, New Jersey; and a shoe store in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, the PayPal representative said.

Automated Process

Intuit is using QuickBooks Capital, its existing business-loan platform, to automate and expedite the PPP application process, according to a company statement. Square’s program is first being offered to users of the Square payments platform, but the company said it plans to extend it to other borrowers once processes start moving more efficiently. The company has yet to approve any PPP applications.

“We launched when we were confident we could provide a smooth processing experience for all applicants, to give sellers more transparency around the status of their funds,” Reses said. “This is also why we’ve staggered our application rollout to Square sellers, as loan reviews are still a manual process.”

Now that fintechs have PPP approval, the next challenge is getting enough funding from the federal government to reach everyone in need, said Mills of Harvard Business School.

“I’m encouraged by the progress,” she said, “but we are not quite at the point we need to be where billions of dollars are flowing seamlessly to smaller and more vulnerable businesses.”

— With assistance by Mark Niquette

Small business rescue loan program hits $349 billion limit and is now out of money

  • The Small Business Administration says it’s “unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding.”
  • It adds: “Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time.”
  • The first-come, first-serve Paycheck Protection Program of $349 billion had promised to ease some of the financial burden for the nation’s smallest businesses.

The Small Business Administration’s rescue loan program hit its $349 billion limit on Thursday and is now out of money as the nation’s top Republicans and Democrats struggle to agree on how to restore its funds.

The SBA website reads that it is “unable to accept new applications for the Paycheck Protection Program based on available appropriations funding. Similarly, we are unable to enroll new PPP lenders at this time.”

The announcement from the SBA on Thursday comes as scores of small American business owners work to deal with the fallout of the coronavirus and the move by some states to shutter the vast majority of commerce.

The first-come, first-served Paycheck Protection Program of $349 billion, approved by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump in March, had promised to assuage some of the financial burden for the nation’s smallest business owners.

Signs that the program was reaching critical capacity first came on Wednesday, when the SBA said the aid may be nearing a ceiling for loan commitments, with more than 1.3 million loans given approval at a value of more than $296 billion. By Wednesday evening, $315 billion had been approved, a person familiar with the situation told CNBC.

Staffers for Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi are expected to continue talks with the Treasury Department on Thursday, a senior Democratic aide told CNBC. Those discussions will follow a similar one Wednesday afternoon as the nation’s top Democrats and Republicans seek to hash out the new funding just a few weeks after Congress passed the historic $2.2 trillion coronavirus relief spending package.

Though lawmakers appear close to extending funds for the programs, the pace at which U.S. small businesses exhausted the initial $349 billion program likely speaks to the extent and severity state-imposed business closures are having on restaurants, gas stations and other mom and pop retailers across the country.

“Small businesses are the backbone of the American economy, employing 47% of all workers. In high-cost cities, the median small business has only enough cash to cover 2-3 weeks of expenses,” wrote Ron Temple, head of U.S. equity at Lazard Asset Management.

“It’s critical for both parties to recognize the unprecedented stress on small business and their employees from this crisis, and pass incremental funding as an urgent priority,” he added.

Senate Democrats last week blocked a move by Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., to push through an additional $250 billion for the program. Republicans then later rejected Democrats’ proposal that sought $250 billion in funds to small businesses, hospitals, states and food assistance programs.

A historic drop in retail sales in March, a 5 million jump in jobless claims and weaker manufacturing data released this week have all suggested the U.S. economy is likely already in a deep recession. Job losses in the food services and lodging industries, in particular, have led the U.S. economy to erase nearly all the job gains accrued in the last 11 years.

 CNBC’s Lauren Hirsch contributed reporting.

Selling on Instagram: Everything you need to know

Businesses shouldn’t be shy about selling on Instagram anymore.

Recent Instagram statistics point to the fact that the platform is booming for brands right now.

And as noted in our guide to Marketing in Gen Z, younger consumers rely on Instagram to discover, research and buzz about new products.

But selling on Instagram isn’t as simple as posting product photos and calling it a marketing day.

If you want to turn your fans and followers into actual customers, you’re going to need a strategy.

In this guide, we break down the best practices of doing business on Instagram and how to get your products in front of eager shoppers.

What does selling on Instagram actually look like?

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to selling your products on Instagram.

That said, some strategies make more sense than others depending on your target audience and what you’re selling.

Below we’ve highlighted real-world examples of selling on Instagram and why they work.

Product photos and promotions

No secrets or surprises here.

According to Instagram themselves, a staggering 60% of users rely on the platform to find products.

Whether you’re a retailer or ecommerce brand, publishing product photos is a no-brainer to reach your followers and digital window-shoppers alike.

This post from Alex and Ani is a straightforward example of selling on Instagram. A time-sensitive offer coupled with a stylish photo is totally fair game for brands looking to drive traffic to their stores.

Here’s another good example from Lisa Frank, which points followers to their bio link to check out their latest product line release. Product and promotional posts like these are perfect for not only driving clicks but also creating conversations around whatever you’re selling.

Meanwhile, many brands are seeing success with Instagram Stories as an avenue for social selling. Doing so allows brands to experiment with new creatives, calls-to-action and Stories-specific offers beyond their regular feed. But if you’re still building your brand following, be aware you need a 10,000 follower minimum to use this feature.

Selling via Instagram Stories

User-generated content (customer photos)

Selling on Instagram doesn’t always have to be totally in your face.

It shouldn’t be.

That’s why so many brands are making user-generated content a cornerstone of their Instagram sales strategies.

Customer photos go hand in hand with high engagement rates and let your customers serve as your best billboards. Given how eager consumers are to share product photos, scoring user-generated content is often just a matter of asking.

For example, BARTON encourages fans and followers to share their latest purchases on Instagram through their branded hashtags.

Encouraging user-generated content via branded hashtags is a great way to encourage organic selling on Instagram

In turn, they regularly use customer photos as a means of highlighting their latest promotions with a much-needed sense of authenticity.

User-generated content allows your customers to see what your products look like in-the-wild. This also serves as a break from traditional promo posts and allows you to show your products from different angles, so to speak. For example, brands like KitchenAid supplement their commercial content with “after” shots of their customers’ creations.

Instagram Shopping

During 2019, Instagram’s native shopping features underwent some major changes for e-tailers.

Your followers can use now the Instagram Shopping platform to purchase products directly from your page (denoted by the shopping bag icon).

Instagram shopping is now seamless for retail profiles

In short, Instagram Shopping integrates with your product catalog and tags into your Instagram feed to create a seamless shopping experience.

Let’s look at an example of what the Instagram Shopping experience looks like with Bellroy.

Scrolling through the brand’s feed, a simple tap on a shopping-enabled photo highlights tagged products in that post. These posts are denoted by Instagram’s shopping bag icon in the top right corner.

Bellroy's profile is a shining example of shopping on Instagram

After tapping on the product tagged, visitors can see additional product details and close-ups. Then, visitors can make their way to a product page directly from Instagram.

native Instagram shopping allows customers to access product pages directly through Instagram tags

Users are also able to view all active products on a brand’s feed by tapping the Instagram Shopping icon.

Instagram shopping can also be done directly from the shopping icon

Enabling shopping on Instagram is a smart move for e-tailers and brands who already have an active product catalog on Facebook. If you’re interested in activating Instagram shopping, note the guidelines to approval that must be reviewed by Instagram themselves including:

  • Agreeing to the platform’s merchant agreement and commerce policies
  • Having an active Instagram business account
  • Having a connected Facebook Page
  • Selling primarily physical products and goods
  • Having a connection to a Facebook Catalog (either directly or through a third-party ecommerce service)

Shoppable Instagram tools

Beyond native Instagram shopping, there are plenty of tools out there with features focused around selling on Instagram.

Platforms such as CuralatePixlee and Dash Hushdon each represent all-in-one social selling tools for brands interested in turning their Instagram accounts into storefronts.

For example, Outdoor Voices uses Dash Hudson’s “LikeShop.me” bio link which sends visitors to a shoppable Instagram feed. Visitors can tap through individual photos to visit the product page for any given post.

Third-party Instagram shopping tools

A bonus of using these types of tools includes advanced analytics and user-generated content curation. Check out Outdoor Voice’s lookbook of Instagram content. User-generated content on-site not only helps convert more visitors but also funnel customers to your social presence.

Third-party Instagram shopping tools often have features which allow you to curate user-generated content

Influencer marketing

Note that not all selling on Instagram has to happen from your account.

Case in point, influencer marketing has exploded as a way for brands to get their products in front of their target audience through a more compelling and relatable manner.

The concept is simple: partner with someone with a highly engaged audience to raise awareness for your brand and potentially uncover new customers.

Influencer promotions are effective often because  they don’t feel as “salesy.” Also, influencers typically have highly engaged audiences whose reach might be greater than your brand’s own account.

Forming relationships with relevant influencers is a cost-effective way to hone in your Instagram promotions on people who will realistically become customers.

Instagram ads

Of course, many brands have found success selling through Instagram ads.

Taking advantage of creative ad types such as Stories and Carousels, such ads offer tons of flexibility and targeting options to reach customers shopping on Instagram.

Stories ads are a growing in popularity when it comes to selling on Instagram

What are the best practices for selling on Instagram?

As noted earlier, hammering followers with product photos and promotions isn’t exactly the best way to sell on Instagram.

Here are some key tips to consider to make your Instagram presence more sales-focused while still sticking to the platform’s best practices.

Craft compelling captions

How salesy you come across on Instagram really boils down to your captions.

Don’t want to shove offers or price points in your followers’ faces? You don’t have to! There are plenty of Instagram caption ideas that can help you inject personality into your posts without coming across as too promotional.

For example, consider how you can show off your products while asking your followers a question. Here’s a great example from Paper Mate.

Meanwhile, check out how JOAH manages to put their products front-and-center by asking for a comment.

See how that works?

Note that there’s currently quite a debate over whether or not salesy captions restrict your reach as part of the Instagram algorithm. To be safe, experiment with different call-to-action phrases if you’re looking to point followers to your bio.

And speaking of which…

Sell yourself in your bio

Your Instagram bio is valuable real estate, especially if you’re interested in sales.

After all, your bio link represents the sole avenue from your follower to your storefront if you’re not connected to Instagram Shopping.

As a result, make sure that your bio includes a combination of the following:

  • A call-to-action directing followers to your shop
  • A mention of your branded hashtags to encourage user-generated content
  • A trackable link (think: Bitly or a shoppable Instagram tool) to monitor traffic to your storefront
Alex and Ani's Instagram bio is optimized for selling on Instagram with their CTA

Publish people-centric product photos

Instagram isn’t the place for “ordinary” product snapshots.

And on the flip side, research shows that promotional photos containing actual people perform well on social media.

Why? Because people want to see products in a real-world setting. This not only makes them more compelling but serves as social proof, showing potential buyers that you have a track record of satisfied customers.

For example, Camelbak shows off their products in the great outdoors rather than confined to photo studio or kitchen counter.

Frequently featuring photos of people, specifically user-generated content, creates a snowball effect. That is, customers will want to take their own snapshots with your product so they’ll get featured on your feed, too. This results in more engagement and reach, creating even more opportunities to win customers.

Make your product photos pop

We’ve said it before and we’ll say it again: creativity counts on Instagram.

This rings true if you’re trying to sell products too.

Remember that you’re fighting for your customers’ attention, especially since they’re more than likely following competing brands on Instagram.

For example, this stunning snapshot from Skullcandy doesn’t feel like a sales pitch at all. In fact, it makes us want to stop and stare.

Meanwhile, Skullcandy regularly switches up their content’s color scheme as inspiration for styles and settings for the product photos.

 

Even when selling on Instagram your content needs to be creative and eye-popping

Here’s another awesome example from IL MAKIAGE. Although the brand has plenty of customer photos to choose from, they make sure to keep their content strategy fresh with eye-popping product shots as well.

Ask yourself: would your product photo be worth “liking” if it wasn’t trying to sell something?

You don’t need to be a master photographer to make it happen, either. Just take the time to review how to take good Instagram photos and explore creative filters and apps that can give your snapshots some pizazz.

Post more than just products!

This might seem counterintuitive, but hear us out.

Arguably one of the most important pieces of selling on Instagram is not selling.

Not all the time, anyway.

Sure, retail giants might solely post promotion content. However, if you’re an up-and-coming brand or you’re trying to grow your audience, some non-sales related content is the best way to warm up potential customers. After all, brands today are expected to show off their personalities.

Here’s an example. Suavacito regularly publishes photos about their products but also sprinkles lighthearted content like memes and dog photos throughout their feed.

These types of posts score tons of engagement and can be a gateway for new followers to discover your brand. As noted in our guide to social media for retail, it’s crucial for brands to create content for every step of the customer journey. That includes folks who are warming up to you or might not even know you yet.

As a side note, this speaks to the importance of putting together a social media content calendar. With the help of social media management tools like Sprout, you can find a balance between promotional and non-promotional content. Doing so ensures that your followers are consistently engaged with the right marketing messages day-by-day.

Sprout publishing calendar

Monitor your sales performance via Instagram analytics

Lastly, don’t forget about your data.

So much of selling on Instagram revolves around your analytics.

For example, which product photos score the most engagement? How do your Instagram shopping posts perform versus non-promotional ones? How much of a direct ROI are you seeing from Instagram?

Sprout’s Instagram analytics can clue you in on the answers and then some. Our comprehensive reporting makes it a cinch to track your paid and organic campaigns all in one place, including those happening beyond Instagram.

https://media.sproutsocial.com/uploads/PI_Analytics_Cross_Channel_Group_Report.png

With a constant pulse on your top performing posts, you can better align your sales and social strategy without second-guessing.

Sprout can help identify you top-performing posts on Instagram

And with that, we wrap up our guide!

What are you selling on Instagram?

Fact: consumers are more than happy to shop on Instagram.

And although brands don’t need to be subtle about selling on Instagram, sales don’t happen by accident.

Hopefully, these tips above serve as some much-needed motivation and inspiration to score sales on the platform. As long as you stick to Instagram’s best practices and keep a close eye on your analytics, you’re on the right track.

We want to hear from you, though. What’s your own experience with Instagram shopping and selling? Any success stories or struggles? Let us know in the comments below!

By: Brent Barnhart for Social Sprout

Here Are Current Temporary Restrictions Imposed Bars And Restaurants Stem Spread

As the coronavirus epidemic continues to spread throughout the United States, local and state governments are implementing temporary measures to limit the number of people gathering at restaurants and bars.

Nation’s Restaurant News has collected the most recent restrictions from official statements and news reports.

Updated at 1:30 p.m. EST March 19.

As of March 16 at 2 p.m. EST, the CDC recommends gatherings of no more than 50 people.

These states updated or added restrictions on March 19: Atlanta, Texas

These states updated or added restrictions on March 17: Florida, Miami-Dade County, Nevada, North Carolina, Orange County, Calif., South Carolina, Wisconsin

These states updated or added restrictions after 5 p.m. EST March 16: Colorado, Minnesota, Oregon, Vermont, Dallas, Harris County, Houston, San Antonio

Here are the limits currently imposed at the state level:  

California: Bars, nightclubs, wineries and brewpubs are closed. Restaurants must cut capacity by half to ensure tables are six feet apart.

Colorado: Restaurants and bars will be closed for dine from 8 a.m. March 17 for 30 days. Delivery, drive thru and takeout will be available.

Connecticut: Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned. Restaurants and bars are restricted to delivery and takeout only, effective March 16 at 8 p.m.

Florida: Bars and nightclubs will be closed for the next 30 days. Restaurants must limit customer entry to 50% capacity and stagger seating to ensure guests are a minimum of six feet apart when dining in.

Illinois: Restaurants and bars must close dining rooms through March 30, but delivery, takeout and curbside pickup allowed.

Indiana: Bars and restaurants must close through March 31, but takeout and delivery are allowed.

Kentucky: Restaurants and bars must be closed with limited exceptions for takeout and delivery.

Louisiana: Restaurants and bars will be closed until April 13 except for takeout or delivery. Gatherings of 50 or more people are prohibited.

Massachusetts: Gatherings of more than 25 people are prohibited. Bars and restaurants must remain closed for dine in March 17 through April 5, but delivery and takeout are allowed.

Maryland: Restaurants and bars must close until further notice at 5 p.m. on March 16 but carryout, delivery and drive-thru are allowed.

Michigan: Restaurant and bar dining rooms are closed as of March 16 at 3 p.m. Delivery, takeout and drive-thru are allowed.

Minnesota: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in from 5 p.m. March 17 until 5 p.m. March 27. Delivery, takeout and drive-thru are allowed.

New Jersey: Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned and a curfew from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. will be enforced. Restaurants and bars will be delivery and takeout only, all effective March 16.

New York state: Gatherings of more than 50 people are banned. Restaurants and bars are restricted to delivery and takeout only, effective March 16 at 8 p.m.

Nevada: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in until further notice beginning at 12 p.m. March 18. Delivery, drive thru and takeout are still available.

North Carolina: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in until further notice beginning at 5 p.m. March 17 but will be open for takeout, delivery and drive thru.

Ohio: Restaurants and bars must close dining rooms, but delivery and takeout are allowed.

Oregon: Restaurants and bars must close for dine in for one month, beginning on March 17. Gatherings of 25 or more people are prohibited.

Pennsylvania: Restaurants and bars must close dining rooms until March 27 but takeout and delivery are allowed. State-run liquor stores will close indefinately beginning March 16 at 9 p.m.

Rhode Island: All dine-in and food services will be shuttered until March 30, and public gatherings will be limited to 25 people or less. Drive-thru and takeout are allowed with a re-evaluation by the governor in two weeks.

South Carolina: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in but takeout, delivery and drive thru are still allowed.

Texas: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine but takeout, delivery and drive thru are still allowed. Gatherings of more than 10 peole are prohibited.

Vermont: Restaurants and bars are clossed for dine in starting close of business March 17 through April 6; delivery and take out are still available. Gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited.

Washington state: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in; public gatherings are limited to 50 or fewer people. Takeout and delivery allowed.

Wisconsin: Restaurants and bars are prohibited from serving food on premises but delivery, takeout and drive thru are still available.

Here are the limits currently imposed at the municipal level: 

Atlanta: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in until further notice beginning at midnight March 20. Takeout and delivery are still allowed.

Dallas County TX: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in for a week after March 16 at minimum. Gatherings of more than 50 people are now prohibited.

Harris County, TX: Bars are closed effective modnight March 16.

Houston, TX: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in for at least 15 days, effective 8 a.m. on March 17.

Los Angeles County: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in through March 31. Delivery, drive-thru and takeout are allowed.

Miami-Dade County: Restaurants and bars with more than seating for eight people are closed for dine in. Kitchens will remain open for drive thru and delivery.

New Orleans: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in but delivery, drive-thru and takeout are allowed.

Orange County, Calif: Restaurants and bars are closed for dine in through March 31. Delivery, drive thru and takeout are allowed

San Antonio, TX: Gatherings of more than 50 people are prohibited.

Washington, D.C.: Restaurants and bars will close at 10 p.m. on March 16 until April 1. Takeout and delivery will still be allowed.