An ecommerce brand's guide to Instagram Ads

Barney Cox
minute read
Written By
Barney Cox
August 25, 2022

A shirt, a pair of rainbow mugs, a marbled candle, a set of aftershave samples. These are just a handful of the things I bought after seeing them on Instagram Ads recently.

Did I need them? Nope. Did I want them? Absolutely.

Instagram provides a useful way for would-be customers to connect with your ecommerce brand. According to Instagram itself, about 70% of its users turn to the social media platform when considering their next purchase.

Long story short - if you’re a brand looking to increase your ecommerce sales, you’ll want to get in on the action. This guide walks you through how to set up your Instagram Ad campaigns. Then we’ll end with a dash of Instagram Ad inspiration from other DTC businesses.

But first …

Why advertise on Instagram?

There’s a reason most ambitious, growing ecommerce brands use Instagram ads to reach a wider audience. Let’s go through a handful:

Instagram has an engaged audience

This is the part of the article where I hit you with some statistics. Buckle up.

63% of Instagram users are opening up the app at least once a day. Each time a user opens the app is an opportunity for you to get eyes on your products.

And once potential customers see those promoted posts, they’re likely to engage with them. According to Instagram itself, three-quarters of Instagrammers take action after seeing a sponsored post.

So it’s hardly surprising that Instagram Ads, on average, perform better than their Facebook counterparts. An ad on Instagram generates about 23% more engagement than the same ad on Facebook. It makes sense when you think of Instagram’s format. Unlike Facebook, promoted posts and Instagram Stories take up your entire phone screen. Less distraction means less temptation to scroll past.

Btw - here's some tips for ecommerce brands on creating Facebook ads.

It integrates with the Facebook Ads platform

Facebook (now Meta) acquired Instagram in 2012 and they’ve become pretty integrated over the past decade. You can now manage both Instagram and Facebook Ads campaigns through Facebook Business Manager.

That means any ads you’re running on Facebook can be co-opted for Instagram with zero editing on your part. While you probably want to optimise your ad creatives for Instagram at some point, this could be a good way to get going and test the water.

Facebook Business Manager can help you out when making ad creatives, too. For example, you can use pre-made templates to make video ads.

You can use it to boost your influencer marketing

Although TikTok is nipping at its heels, Instagram is still the dominant platform for influencers. Of all the social platforms, 79% of marketers consider Instagram an important part of their influencer campaigns.

Regardless of whether you’re working with big-name celebrities or micro-influencers, it’s a good idea to have a presence on the platform. You can use Instagram advertising campaigns to boost the performance of your influencer posts and get them seen by more would-be customers.

Getting started with your Instagram Ad campaign

Okay, so you want to launch your ad campaign. Here's how to start.

How to advertise on Instagram in 6 steps

1. Link your Instagram to your Facebook page - This one’s pretty easy. Head to your business’s Facebook page, then go to ‘Page settings’. This will give you a menu with loads of options. Select (you guessed it) ‘Instagram’ and click the big blue ‘connect account’ button.


2. Set up the Meta pixel - This is a piece of code you can add to your website which helps to track conversions. It requires a bit of technical know-how but it’s worth the pain. Here’s how to install it, courtesy of Meta.

Without this magic pixel you won’t be able to create retargeting and a lookalike audience. These are audience sets who’ve done something of value on your site, like visited a product page or added something to their basket, but abandoned the process.

3. Pick a goal for your campaign - Now that’s done, head to Ads Manager and start creating your campaign. First, you’ll need to pick what you want to achieve with your campaign. Here’s a few of the options that’ll be most relevant to DTC brands:

  • Awareness - This is a great option if you’re new to the market and don’t have a lot of brand recognition. It’ll help you reach the largest number of people which Meta deem (somewhat ominously) “most likely to remember your ad.”

  • Traffic - This will serve ads to people Meta think will be most likely to click on your website. This is useful for when you have a more expensive product with a longer average buying cycle. Driving people to your site means you’ll then be able to retarget them later down the line.

  • Sales - This one’s pretty explanatory. Use this ad goal when you want to drive sales of your product.

4. Define your target audience - Next you can start creating the audience for your ad. Dust off your buyer personas if you have them to hand as they’ll be handy here!

You have a ton of different targeting options to pick from so try not to get overwhelmed. If it’s too many options to choose from, then keep it simple to start. You can always adjust and refine your audience set once you have some performance data to go on.

5. Set your budget - If this is your first foray into Instagram advertising, I’d recommend starting low and increasing your budget when you start to see success. Instagram is slightly more expensive than Facebook, and has an average cost-per-click of £0.35 - £0.75 (that’s $0.41 - $0.88 if you’re state side). However, it can increase up to £2.70 / $3.18 if you’re in a more competitive industry.


If you’ve already added your target audience, Ads Manager will give you a recommended total budget and a rough guess at results. You can use the slider to see how adding or decreasing the budget might impact results.

6. Pick your placement - By default, Ads Manager will set your campaign to run on both Facebook and Instagram. If you’re just interested in Instagram, just click on ‘Placements’ and deselect Facebook.

But wait, what about your ad creative?

The different types of Instagram Ads

When getting your ad assets created, you’ve got 5 different options when deciding which Instagram ad format to use. Here’s what each means:

  • Feed image ads - These are promoted posts which appear mid-feed as a user’s scrolling through their friends’ posts.

  • Feed video ads - Exactly the same as above, just in a video format (obvs).

  • Reels - Instagram’s answer to TikTok. This will show your ad between different Reels a user is viewing. This format is video-first.

  • Instagram Stories - These work similarly to Reel ads in that they appear between Stories from accounts a user follows. Unlike Reels, these support ads in single images and a series of images, as well as video formats.

  • Instagram Shop ads - These can boost shoppable posts and get more eyes on your products. They use product tags to send people to a page with more information.

We’ll go through inspiration for ad creatives from other brands in a second. But first, this is a good point to think about how you’ll want to store and manage all the ad content you’ll need to create.

Keeping your Instagram Ad creatives organised

To really see what helps you sell your products on Instagram, you’re going to have to create different variations of your ad graphics. Stacks, an ad agency, recommend small businesses run 20-40 different ad variations per campaign. This will give you enough data to see what images, text and colours your audience respond best too.

If you’re planning on running multiple campaigns and reaching different audiences, that’s going to be a lot of visual content to keep track of.

Please, we beg of thee, don’t use Drive or Dropbox to store your Instagram ad creatives. Instead, opt for a digital asset management tool like Dash. You can neatly categorise your ad creatives and make it easy for your team to access them.

You can also log the performance of your assets using Dash’s custom fields, like so:


Take it from us - your future self will thank you.

Tips for Instagram Ad creatives from other ecommerce brands

Now you’re ready to get started making your ad assets! Here’s a few examples we’ve picked from other growing ecommerce businesses. Scroll through these and see if inspiration strikes.

Feature real customers (and use video)

People buy from people. If you’ve got loyal customers, feature them in your Instagram Ads (with their agreement of course). Why? Prospective customers need to have trust in your brand before they hand over their hard earned cash. A great way of doing that is showing your product being used by people just like them (also know as user-generated content). 

{% video_player "embed_player" overrideable=False, type='hsvideo2', hide_playlist=True, viral_sharing=False, embed_button=False, autoplay=False, hidden_controls=False, loop=False, muted=False, full_width=False, width='1000', height='750', player_id='82998563220', style='' %}

Short video of  an ad run from Skin + Me's Instagram account

Take this great example from personalised skincare brand Skin + Me. They open with a grid of different customers unboxing their product. Then they follow one customer’s glowing testimonial. It’s a great way to introduce customers to their brand and give them the confidence it’s being used (and loved!) by others.

Push your social proof

Like the point above, potential customers want to know your business is trusted by others.

Unlike the tip above, this one requires a little less effort. You’re most likely already on review platforms like TrustPilot or Feefo. And that means you’re sitting on a bank of social proof you can use in your advertising campaigns, with relatively low effort.


Still of ads from Misfits Health's Instagram account

Misfits Health does this really well. Check out the variations of ads above which they’re currently experimenting with. These are especially clever as, not only are they featuring rave customer reviews, they’re also introducing audiences to their different flavours.

Promote flash sales

Who doesn’t love a good bargain? Use time-limited Instagram Ad campaigns to promote site-wide sales you’re running. Make sure you feature the reductions and savings prominently in your ads - like this series from super sleek furniture brand


Still of ads from's Instagram account

They’ve overlaid their beautiful, styled product shots with punchy and simple text. As well as the “40% off” promotion, they’ve also included ‘free shipping’ as an added benefit. Tying this in with a seasonal promotion, like Black Friday, could make your ads go even further.

Make use of Instagram Ad carousels

Fun fact - carousel ads are the most engaged-with type of ad format on the platform. So it makes sense to make use of them, right?

That’s exactly what UK-based men’s jewellery brand Frederick Grove have done with this in-feed carousel of clean, simple photo ads.


Still of ads from Frederick Grove's Instagram account

These impeccably-styled product shots show off both their rings and bracelets, too. That’s pretty clever in our book as they’re promoting multiple products in one ad and showing how they can be worn together. The bottom line = more £££.

Align your brand with causes your audience care about

Customers are increasingly driven by their values. They expect your business to share their values, and will actively support those who do. A whopping 64% of consumers say that having the same values as a brand was the primary reason they had a relationship with the company.

So if you’re an ethical business, leading with your values is a great way to connect with new audiences.

Let’s take Wild as an example. They make deodorant free from cruelty and parabens. Sustainability is key to what they do. Their cans are made from aluminium and you can order non-plastic, compostable refills.

{% video_player "embed_player" overrideable=False, type='hsvideo2', hide_playlist=True, viral_sharing=False, embed_button=False, autoplay=False, hidden_controls=False, loop=False, muted=False, full_width=False, width='1000', height='750', player_id='82994954277', style='' %}

Short video of  an ad run from Wild's Instagram account

In this ad, they’ve taken a wider cause their audience care about - ‘going green’ - and show how their product helps their customers achieve that.

Let your product speak for itself

Don’t get us wrong - videos, pop-up banners, scrolling text, that’s all great. But it’s worth testing if ads which feature your product with zero distractions perform well.


Still of ads from The Healing Pear's Instagram account

That’s what ethical jewellery brand The Healing Pear have done here in a series of Instagram Story ads. These ads show off the jewellery in its best light and speak for themselves.

💡Here's a post on how to reinvigorate your organic Instagram content, too - with inspiration from 30 DTC brands.

Get the right tools for your Instagram Ads campaigns

You’ve got a load of ideas and you’re ready to get started.

Before you do, make sure you have all the tools you’ll need to succeed. Here’s a few marketing tools I’d recommend getting set up before you take the plunge.

  • Content creation - This is going to be a necessity if you don’t have a graphic designer on hand. For simple, effective designs, you could use Canva. If you’re more comfortable with advanced design tools, you might want to consider Figma or Adobe Creative Suite.

  • Content storage - As we’ve mentioned, you’re going to need a load of visual content to make your campaigns a success. Don’t keep everything stored in your Drive, or, even worse, buried away in your ‘Downloads’ folder. We recommend using a tool like Dash to keep it all organised and easy to find. Record individual asset performance for bonus points. Set up a free trial in seconds to see if it’s a good fit for you.

  • Analytics - If you’re about to invest money in advertising, you want to know what you’re doing is actually driving revenue. Use an analytics provider specifically built for ecommerce stores - like Triple Whale or Peel - to measure your conversion rate.

And that’s it! Now the rest is up to you. Happy selling!

Barney Cox

Barney is the Marketing Lead for Dash. He writes about small business marketing strategies and how DTC brands can boost sales.

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Barney Cox

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