Industry West: 900+ orders and $700K+ in sales from one Instagram post
Instagram is a no-brainer for eCommerce marketers—and it’s only getting better.
Why? Consider that of its one billion monthly active users, 90% follow a business account. What’s more: Data shows 84% of people there want to discover new products on the platform, while another 80% decide to buy a product or service based on what they see in their feeds.
These numbers speak for themselves. But is it enough to post nice photos, sit back, and watch the sales roll in? Not quite.
Savvy marketers like Ian Leslie are finding exciting ways to leverage the social platform as a powerful sales-driving tool.
He’s Chief Marketing Officer at Industry West, a SoHo and Florida-based eCommerce furniture company with a selection of modern and contemporary offerings. Leveraging the power of Instagram, he recently helped generate hundreds of orders totaling more than $700K in sales from a single Instagram post that leveraged a creative tactic.
How an Instagram trend inspired a new sales tactic for Industry West
Founded in 2011, Industry West was one of the earlier brands in the DTC furniture space. It’s now an eight-figure company operating across three websites, plus a showroom in NYC’s SoHo.
Earlier this year, they needed to clear out a stock surplus, which happened as a result of buying for a trade clientele that would all but disappear during the pandemic, as well as a few missed trends. “You end up with a lot of furniture just sitting around. To free up capital and space for new items, our deadstock had to move. Solution? Warehouse sale,” Ian said.
Ahead of what would be their second DTC warehouse sale, Ian was looking for marketing inspiration. He found it in an unlikely place: The iPhone Notes app. The Notes app screenshot has become popular for issuing statements or apologies. For celebrities especially, seems to be an increasingly popular medium of choice for sharing long-form text.
Ian noticed the trend, and it got his mental wheels spinning.
“I was struck by some of the post-framing Britney Spears fallout. Everyone was posting their apologies to Britney on social via iPhone’s Notes. Then, Cam Newton had a run-in with a high-schooler at a football camp. The high-schooler wrote his apology to Cam on an iPhone note and posted it to social.”
These posts go against the grain of Instagram’s curated aesthetic: Text-based and plain; there’s nothing pretty about them.
So why have they caught on? In a sea of carefully curated photos, they stand out as unfiltered, raw, and intimate. They hold a human appeal—we can relate to typing our inner thoughts into the Notes app. Celebrity or not, we all do it.
“It got me thinking about how people use iPhone notes as stationery of sorts, but also how it has this cultural relevance, is identifiable in terms of platform and translates on social. I thought it would be interesting to post a note that looked like thoughts for my team that accidentally got posted.”
What’s more human than posting something by accident, like a private message written in the Notes app?
Testing a marketing experiment
Industry West built a new, faster site (with product pages that loaded in .63 seconds) and set it up to feel more DTC.
They’d been teasing the sale with a landing page, but the Instagram post was more of a marketing experiment. It also targeted their audience.
So did it work?
That single Instagram post drove $250K in sales in a matter of hours. After adding a few more promos across channels, the orders kept coming, totaling more than $700K by the end of the week.
“The orders just rolled in. I'd say for the first 36 hours or so; we averaged a sale every four to five minutes.”
Ian broke down their impressive numbers even further:
- Averaged an order every five minutes and 12 seconds in the first 48 hours (when the site was password protected)
- After removing the password, they averaged an order every four minutes and 30 seconds over the next 48 hours
- The first 96 hours saw almost $600K in sales
- Around 72% of warehouse sale customers were first-time customers
So...yes, it worked. And yes, it came with a dash of criticism from a few people who didn’t care for the approach. But Ian didn’t see it as anything other than a creative approach to driving sales.
A tie into exclusivity and drop culture
There’s no denying this Instagram post approach was a huge success. So would he do something like it again?
“I would do it again,” he said. “I’ve been pushed by some great people on Twitter to expand my tactics. This was a step out of my comfort zone towards where I need to be as a 2021 marketer that’s focused on exclusivity and the 'drop' culture.”
Speaking of drop culture: This trend has dramatically shifted the way businesses approach consumers. Exclusive or limited product releases have spread from fashion into nearly every industry today, and eCommerce brands are well-positioned to take advantage of the trend.
Writer Adam Bluestein explains that marketers face “a generation of consumers weaned on social media and conditioned by Supreme, Nike, and YouTube to ‘shop the drop.’” And that was before the global pandemic hit. Now, even more, consumers are seeking comfort and novelty in the things they buy.
That may explain why KFC sold out of its fried chicken-scented fire logs for two years in a row. Or the appeal of the Costco-branded sweatshirt. When brands pair exclusivity with scarcity, consumers clamor for products. Ian agrees it’s a powerful combo that can’t be ignored.
“It's all around us: From NBA Top Shot to Puma and Adidas dropping limited runs of custom-designed shoes...it seems everything is an exclusive or a drop. FOMO is realer than ever. As a marketer, I shouldn’t write it off as ‘kids these days’ because it works.”
It comes as no surprise that Instagram recently named “drops” as the number one trend for marketing that helps position businesses at “the forefront of culture.”
They recommend a less is more strategy—a simple post that states a release date. It’s an exercise in restraint, given the number of marketing channels available. The absence of promotion creates hype; something Industry West has proven true.
Moving out of the comfort zone and into the future
More than ever, we all crave connection.
When businesses appeal to consumers through a larger cultural lens, it resonates. But Ian believes more is needed than simply seeming “relevant.”
“This whole thing helped me get a sense for the power of the brand we've established at Industry West. It wasn't just because I posted a note to our Instagram. Rather, the brand behind that note is one people want to buy from.”
Still, choosing marketing tactics that are on-trend is worth it, even if those trends seem risky or unrelated to your business.
“I would say anything is worth a go, as long as it's tasteful,” he said. “I went in thinking maybe this works; maybe it doesn't. If it doesn’t work, we’ll try something else. We all walk around so worried sometimes that we don't step out of our comfort zones. If you have enough self-awareness to be tactful, you can do cool things while being respectful of the customer.”
What’s considered cool or trending may seem like a moving target. But taking inspiration from unusual sources could reveal the “wow factor” your marketing strategy needs.