How to Use Instagram Stories Ads for eCommerce

How to Use Instagram Stories Ads for eCommerce

If you’re an online retailer, you’ve been around the block with Facebook Ads. The CPMs for newsfeed placements are sky-high, especially when using catalog sales or conversion objective sales ads.

Facebook/Instagram Stories Ads are an awesome stand-alone placement option when you’ve got the right creative. With less competition and lower CPMs, what’s not to love? Plus with Black Friday around the corner, Stories Ads may be one of the most affordable placement options for brands with smaller budgets. Let’s dive in and I’ll show you how to make killer Instagram Stories Ads that will convert!

Instagram Stories Ads Overview

The best part about Instagram Stories is its all user-created content. Glossy, professional ad creative sticks out like a sore thumb. This is one of the golden places on the internet where cheap, do-it-yourself ads are perfect. If you can shoot your product with your phone, you can make killer Instagram Stories Ads.

If you can’t make a video, the next best thing is an animated GIF. GIFs just make your products pop a bit and will increase your click through rate. If you aren’t an Adobe Pro, Bannersnack is an excellent option for DIY multi-purpose banner ads including animated GIFs.

Here’s an example of an ad I threw together in Bannersnack in less than 5 minutes (please excuse the shoes, they were on a white background):

If you really need someone else to do this for you, you can check out designers on UpWork. The best option would be to pay one of your existing customers or influencers to demo the product for you. Then you can edit to the Instagram Stories ad specs and you’re ready to launch!

Instagram Stories Ads Specs

For the latest in Facebook/Instagram Stories ad specs visit Facebook’s Design Recommendations page.

Some important technical considerations:

  • Consider leaving roughly 14% (250 pixels) of the top and bottom of the image free from text and logos to avoid covering these key elements with the profile icon or call-to-action. This means, if your image is 1080×1920, ensure key elements appear within a 1080×1420 title-safe area.
  • Image ratios: 9:16 and 16:9 to 4:5
  • Images that consist of more than 20% text may experience reduced delivery. (This is important! Unlike newsfeed ads, I’ve had stories ads with 20% text not serve even when approved.)
  • Minimum image width: 500 pixels
  • Maximum Aspect Ratio: 90×160
  • Aspect Ratio Tolerance: 0.01
  • Length: 7 seconds for images, 15 seconds for video

Instagram Stories Creative Ideas

Now that we know how to make the ads, here’s the type of creative that does best in the stories placement:

  • Sales (duh). If you have a great product and offer, put it in an animated GIF or put the product and you in a brief video describing the sale. Something as simple as “Hi I’m ____, founder of ______. We’re offering 15% off ____ this weekend only! This is the (last/best) deal of the (year/season), don’t miss out! Swipe up to shop now.”
  • Influencer content. If you have an influencer using or demo’ing your product, have them shoot an Instagram Story with their phone, save it from Instagram, and text or email it to you. Then upload their story, tag them in the post, and tag your product in the post (if you have a shoppable Instagram feed). This is a great way to make your story seem organic. You’ll see lots of these for mascara and other makeup tools. It’s very effective for direct response.
  • Nurturing series/product education. If you have a longer buying cycle, this is a great (and cheaper way) to keep your product top of mind. I’ve seen this used by food companies, stand up paddleboards, jewelry, and more. The key is targeting a warm audience (examples: email subscribers no purchase, retargeting 90 days no purchase, engaged with FB/Instagram page in the past 90 days no purchase, etc.) Make use of Instagram’s poll feature to make the story seem less salesy (for example, releasing a flavor, add a poll asking “yum” or “yuck” with a product tag). Paddleboarding often makes use of blog content, like best destinations to paddleboard, yoga poses for paddleboarding or paddleboarding with a pet. You can use your imagination here, but creating a series that subtly overcomes common objections can help you get more sales from your warmed up audiences.
  • Giveaways. I’ve found that while the overall conversion rate in stories is lower, the CPMs/impressions are higher, so definitely a great spot to promote a giveaway.

How to set up your Instagram Stories Ad

Now for the fun! Here’s how you set up an Instagram story –

Step 1 – Log into

Step 2 – Navigate to your business, click the hamburger menu in the top left, click on ads manager

Step 3 – Click the green +create button

Step 4 – Select your objective. Almost always, it will be the conversion objective. I often use a cost cap and CBO.

Step 5 – Once the adset screen has loaded, choose your conversion event. Then select edit placements and deselected everything but Instagram Stories. Set your cost cap (if you’re using one) and conversion event window.

Step 6 – Upload your video, set up your landing page and primary text (text for story placements is not visible). Best practice is to always use UTM tracking, and you’ll see an option for a poll if you’d like to add one.

And that’s it! Please remember that Instagram Stories are a mobile-only placement – you will not be able to preview your new ad on your computer outside of ads manager. You can also choose to duplicate this ad set and run the same promotion using the other available placements. Once duplicated, you can either exclude Instagram stories or accept there will be overlap between audiences.

Please drop me a note in the comments section with questions, tips, or screenshots of your favorite Instagram Stories Ads!

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