With its recently relaunched “InstaKors” program, Michael Kors is hacking its Instagram feed to turn its 8.2 million followers into not only customers, but returning customers.
It’s no small task. Despite opening its API and introducing an algorithm-based feed, Instagram still doesn’t allow active links in captions. So retailers, and fashion brands in particular, have been coming up with ways to make the products in its posts easy to find off the platform.
With InstaKors, Michael Kors recreates its Instagram feed on a webpage, pairing its posts with links to product pages for each item pictured. The feed can be accessed in the brand’s bio, the one place Instagram does allow a link to an outside page. This trick isn’t entirely new: Nike has a similar online feed for its Nike Women Instagram photos, and plenty of retailers link products to Instagram posts in user-generated content feeds on its site.
The process is an update on the 2014 version of InstaKors, which asked customers to sign up for the program with an email address. Every time an InstaKors member “liked” an image on Michael Kors’ feed, if it was tagged #InstaKors, product details and a link to shop would be emailed to users. That model was dropped last year.
Beyond just a click-to-shop feed, however, InstaKors is offering benefits for customers who regularly engage with the brand on Instagram. InstaKors shoppers will get access to special promotions through the feed, and at the beginning of each season, the brand will release select products before they’re available to buy in its online store. The company is hoping that the social shopping tool will not only generate sales through Instagram, but will create a sort of social loyalty program for its most engaged followers.
“We know that our social media fans are some of our most engaged fans, and we wanted to find a way to give them a little something more,” said Lisa Pomerantz, svp of Michael Kors. “By using the data we gain from our 8.2 million Instagram fans every day, we’ve been able to not only choose the right product for this initiative, but also shoot it in a social-friendly way that we know our fans will love. We see it as a way to keep them engaged season after season.”
More retailers are looking for nontraditional ways of building customer loyalty. Sephora and Olay offer ways to keep track of consumer’s skincare profiles and give better product recommendations. Menswear companies like Frank + Oak and Combatant Gentleman store customers’ personal data around suit fit and preferences in order to make return in store and online purchases easier.
“The great majority of loyalty points don’t get redeemed,” said Zach Paradis, director of experience and innovation strategy at Sapient Nitro. “It’s a huge vacuum of value. People are jumping through hoops and not getting anything out of it. Modern day loyalty is about personalization and generating relevance with consumers.”
In January, online direct to consumer retailer Everlane launched a second, private Instagram account, @EverlaneStudio, meant to weed out spammers and create a community of highly engaged Everlane customers. In six months, the account has 5,800 followers. The company uses the page to engage customers beyond its shop: they invite San Franciscans to company events around new product launches, transparency practices and more, and solicit customer feedback through posts, like the one below asking them to discuss a new style of shoe, the Modern Babo.
At launch, social media manager Red Gaskell said that the account was an experiment. So far, posts have been getting active engagement, receiving around 25 comments, and Everlane responds to each.
While the Everlane Studio account is a way for a young company to get valuable consumer feedback, Michael Kors is looking to get followers to buy and keep them coming back. The brand doesn’t have a native mobile app for shopping (it launched a temporary “Jet Set” app around its 2014 collection launch, but that’s it), so it’s looking to Instagram to make it easier for people to shop on their mobile phones without making them download and use an app.
It’s not frictionless: Shoppers have to navigate from Instagram to the mobile web, find the post they want to shop, then continue the transaction from there. But unlike third-party shoppable Instagram feeds like Curalate’s Like2Buy platform, used by retailers like Nordstrom and Target, Michael Kors has full control over what’s being promoted on Instagram and what’s available to shop on the feed.