How 3 Startup Retailers Made $65 Million In Less Than 3 Years On Instagram

Image via SalesHandy
Image via SalesHandy

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We are living in the Instagram era. It is the platform where 700 million monthly users go for their daily dose of news, fashion, beauty, health advice, travel pictures and of course, selfies.

What started out to be a photo-sharing platform has now had a major transformation. It is now a strategic tool brands can use to reach their market, share content, engage with their customers and obtain consumer insights. These key factors provide your business with critical information about your customer base, growth opportunities and competition.

This platform offers the ability to reach millions of viewers and generate critical consumer insights within a short amount of time. It may sound complex, but fear not, we’ll teach you everything you need to know.

Why Instagram?

Instagram was first launched in October 2010, and within 3 years there were over 100 million users.

Ever since, Instagram has seen an unprecedented growth. 

This year alone, Instagram has reached its fastest-ever growth rate. It was reported that over 100 million new users joined within 4 months.

Brandwatch (2016) reported that

  • Instagram receives over 4.2 billion likes per day.
  • Over 70% of brands are active on Instagram: making up for 8 million registered businesses.
  • Over 50% of Instagram users follow brands.
  • 57% of consumers say they’re more likely to buy from brands they follow.
  • 40 billion photos and videos have been shared on this platform.

Evidently, Instagram is growing at a rapid rate; thus, it is important that businesses keep up with this trend. From 1 million users in 2010, Instagram’s growth is showing no signs of slowing down, and as a result brands are thriving. Whether you’re selling shoes or software, the power of the gram reigns on as social media-savvy brands stay connected to their customers. It is critical that driving growth and retaining followers is paramount in your social media strategy.

So you may be wondering, what is the most efficient way to infiltrate this platform and successfully boost your brand’s reputation and revenue?

Well, keep reading and we will show you how 3 multimillion-dollar businesses used simple best practices to take their brand to the next level.  

3 Brands and their Instagram Best Practices

Here, we’ll take a deep-dive into 3 exemplary retailers that have been successful in utilising Instagram to generate millions in revenue in a short span of time.

1 – Gymshark


Gymshark Instagram

Image via Gymshark

Gymshark was founded in 2012 by two students from Aston University. It is an online sports apparel and accessories brand which is growing at rapid speed; growing from generation £83000 in 2013 to over generating 12.8 million this year. Gymshark has recently been recognised as the fastest growing and biggest brand in gym clothing in the UK.

Only having 50 employees, the Marketing Executive, Elliot Myers, attributes much of their success to their marketing strategy of being the “customer’s friend”. They used Instagram to achieve this through ambassadors to build a community and a desirable brand image.

“We have a unique social background and approach to customer engagement, which has meant that our affiliate presence is being done differently to other retailers. Our strong social presence has meant that Gymshark had a small army of influencers and content publishers endorsing the brand” – Elliot Myers

Gymshark is forecasted to generate more than double their current figure next year. This is a result of launching online stores in countries such as Australia, Germany and Russia. Gymshark are also hosting a range of temporary retail ventures and retail stores, with their most recent launch in Soho, Manhattan.

2 – Charlotte Tilbury Beauty


In just four years, Charlotte Tilbury has created nothing short of a beauty empire, generating over £20 million per year. Charlotte Tilbury Beauty successfully grew from a start up to employing over 700 employees with over 1.4 million Instagram followers.  An integral part of her marketing strategy focuses on social media, and in particular Instagram.

Social media is an incredibly powerful tool in engaging your consumer in a deeper relationship than is possible at a counter in a store, and also for expressing your brand DNA, giving instant access to behind-the-scenes content, sharing artistry and expertise, and a customer service tool, too. In today’s world, social media is king and the key to connecting to people from every generation. It allows you to create buzz, engage in a dialogue with your consumers and reach millions of people instantly. I will never forget when I first reached 20k followers on Instagram and realized that I literally was communicating with an entire football stadium of people in the palm of my hand—it was really powerful” – Charlotte Tilbury

3 – Triangl 
Image via Triangl

Image via Triangl

Triangl is a business that makes neoprene bikinis and is becoming the epitome of young women’s summer dreams. The Australian label is extremely successful in the international market. For a company that only started three years ago, Triangl is already turning over an annual profit of £38 million. Triangl built their brand on Instagram, where they currently have over 3.1 million followers.

The social media landscape is really what’s driving a lot of the industry at the moment. I just know how often I’m on Instagram and I want to find new brands, I want to buy things every day, so there’s always room for a new business and new product. I truly believe that if the product is good, the rest will flow from there » – co-owner of Triangl,  Erin Deering

In particular, they favour Instagram because « it is quantifiable – post drives traffic. It goes to show the power and reach of social media. »

They provide an important lesson for emerging brands to build their Instagram presence: « To create a truly distinct branded account, discover what your fans like about you, then consistently create content around that theme » – Honigman

From the evaluation of these brands, a simplistic yet efficient “6 step” strategy has been generated. Through small changes, your business could put this strategy in place. This will help increase brand equity and build a promising Instagram community.

6 Simple Steps to Take to Transform into a Multimillion-Dollar Brand with Instagram

Instagram gives you the ability to build an online empire – but it’s all about putting your best content forward.  From analysing Gymshark, Charlotte Tilbury Beauty and Triangl, their strategy can be broken down into 6 simple steps.

1 – Know Your Customer: Define Your Audience Segments

As a brand, it is critical that you identify who you are selling to…

  • If you haven’t already, build some customer profiles. Of course you can go deeper into your key customer profiles but the short of it is, if you are not speaking to your core customers, you may as well not speak at all.
  • Share their world: Know what your customer is up to – are they going to Coachella? What events in the global and local calendars for your industry are they going to be attending or watching on social media? Aligning with concepts that your customers care about will only serve to bring them closer to your brand.
  • Segmentation is golden. Target the right products at the right people and chances are you’re a step-ahead of your competition. This can be locally – i.e. by city, neighborhood, coast or country, age range, spending power, marital status and so on. Facebook ads are a great testing ground for this and the integration with Instagram advertising will only improve your engagement.

This said, you need to specifically tailor each post (image and content) that will actively engage with them, spark interest, and attract new followers.

2 – Create a Feed That is Aesthetically Pleasing

Social media serves a free, and easy to use platform that you can use to spread the word about your brand and what you offer to customers. Using social media can help you boost your store’s visibility and grow your audience, however it is critical that you understand what they want to see and the content they want to read. Knowledge on consumer insights will further help provide information on this.

High-quality, on-brand photos and captions need to be specifically tailored to reach out to your market. When considering your captions, let your brand’s authentic personality be reflected.

Color palette and theme is a significant strategy that needs to be understood – ensure that it is aesthetically pleasing so your audience will stay on your page and develop positive associations with your brand.

How have the 3 brands done this?
  • Gymshark is a brand that is very particular with their theme and strives to be as aesthetically pleasing as possible. Each photo has one model wearing their work out attire. Their captions are short and focus on providing the audience with specific information on the availability and where to buy the product. Having such a large fan base and distinguished brand identity, they utilise this platform to further market and provide information about their launches to their audience.
  • Charlotte Tilbury’s Instagram vastly focuses on her product line, and thus the posts try to convey an aesthetically pleasing appearance. She also includes a personal side to her Instagram, sharing pictures of her families as well as selfies.
  • Triangl exemplify the importance of creating a consistent style, and this marketing strategy is integral to their success. Their main Instagram strategy is very simplistic yet successful – each Instagram update alternates between a picture of a model wearing one of their swimsuits and a photo of a perfectly picturesque waterside scene. The photos are varied enough to be interesting, but consistent enough to be distinctly branded.  They capitalise on word of mouth, through hosting competitions such as “Tag 2 friends for the chance to win a Triangl Swimsuit”.

Once you choose your colour palette, tone and brand personality, it is important to start posting on a daily basis. For some inspiration, here are a few best practices to follow.

  • Share your customers’ content.
  • Use hashtags and mentions: it makes your information, updates, and posts easy to find. This will come up on the Instagram discover tab. 
  • Share a plethora of media to keep things interesting and fresh.
  • Ask questions to spark opportunities to provide help and answers: building a relationship is paramount.
  • Stick to one filter: using a specific filter is a quick and easy way to bring a level of consistency to your instagram feed – 60% of the top brands use the same filter for every post.
3 – Set SMART goals

Smart, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Timely: Goals are critical to set to ensure your business is making progress and benefitting from using Instagram. Here are common goals that brands set when using Instagram:

  • Showcase your products or services daily.
  • Build your community through responding to questions and reaching out to the audience – be as engaging as possible.
  • Increase awareness of your brand – set goals with regards to follower growth.
  • Exemplify your company culture – strive to be perceived as a desirable brand.
  • Advertise to potential customers and attract new followers.
  • Increase brand loyalty through measuring metrics such as likes per image.
4 -Engagement: Touchpoints, Channels, and the Customers

Instagram recently launched a new algorithm that means your profile should drive high engagement with your content. The more engagement you generate (likes and comments), the more your posts will show up in your followers’ feeds. Thus, engagement is critical to ensure high visibility. Engagement needs to be focused on through:

  • Consistent posts: can help your audience learn when to expect new content from you, the Instagram strategy should clearly outline a target post frequency to help you stay engaged. 2-3 times per day is optimal, however, don’t post if you don’t have fresh content.
  • Promotion coupons and discounts: Gymshark’s brand ambassadors often share a 10% discount code when they make a post.
  • When your company’s customers are understood, you should have information on their Instagram touchpoints: use this information to make sure your brand is prevalent wherever they are.
  • Answer their questions that arrive as comments on your posts: responding is a great way to build a strong community. If someone takes the time to share their thoughts with you, it’s important to respond back. Charlotte Tilbury does this, where she includes a personal side to her Instagram. She does this by responding to questions and sharing photos of her personal life, such as with her family. 
  • Launch contests: Contests are a great way to increase engagement with your audience on Instagram. Contests can have many benefits for brands: increase awareness, build a community and create brand advocates. Contests can be a photo sharing competition, like and comment contents, or a tag friends contest.
  • Leverage user-generated content (UGC): this is becoming a popular technique to encourage the community to create content for them to use. It is extremely powerful and gives you the ability to repost content. This encourages brand love and a close-community feel.
5 –  The 3 Options on How to Partner with Influencers

These 3 multimillion-dollar enterprises all have one thing in common: the use of influencers.

  1. Gymshark, Triangl and Charlotte Tilbury Beauty all started establishing their brand through the use of micro influencers. This is a low cost strategy that helps penetrate a particular market (depending on the influencer you choose). There are applications, such as Brandslip, who help your business connect with micro-influencers, providing you with the opportunity to affordably reach customers touch points, obtain visibility and engage with the audience. Think about it, if someone who inspires is wearing a product, you’ll probably be more inclined to buy it. Triangl uses micro influencers to advertise their products, which are models. 
  2. Once establishing your brand and generating revenue, you can choose to use ambassadors. Gymshark uses this affordable approach to marketing, where the partnership is simple. In return for free clothing, their ambassadors would agree to advertise the product on Instagram and other social media platforms. Their ambassadors are strictly athletes, namely Nikki Blackketter, Steve Cook, and Ross Dickerson, who collectively have 5 million followers on Instagram. They are not as big of an influencer as someone like Usain Bolt, who personally has 7 million Instagram followers. Thus, they are more of an affordable option. 
  3. The previous step is evidently extremely successful, as Gymshark is still using it despite their rapid growth. However, companies may choose to go to the next step: the use of endorsements and large influencers; which inevitably has a greater cost. From years of experience in the fashion and beauty industry, Charlotte Tilbury has had the ability to network amongst the fashion and beauty big names. These include names such as Kate Moss, Cara Delevingne, who promote her brand, which she shares on her Instagram page. This is more of an expensive option. 
6 – Measure Success

It is important that you measure success against your goals to truly quantify and evaluate your efforts. This can be done by analysing  your most successful posts, which include:

  • Which posts get the most likes (and evaluate why this happens).
  • How the number of posts you share can influence your engagement.
  • Your most commented on content.

Applications, such as Buffer, provide you with metrics, making an analysis a quick and easy process. This provides you with quantifiable consumer insights that can be utilised to ensure further success with your posts.

Don’t forget:
  • The basic Instagram settings: the bio, picture and username need to stay consistent – relate it to the brand’s mission statement. It takes two-tenths of a second for someone to form an opinion on your brand online. You need to ensure its aesthetically pleasing and the content makes a great first impression.
  • Make sure your profile is an Instagram Business profile, which provides you with useful insights.
  • Boomerang and collages: an up-and-coming trend – make your Instagram as artistic and aesthetically pleasing as possible.
  • Search your competition and other brands – stay inspired and up to date with the trends.
  • Download additional apps that focus on Instagram statistics – they provide metrics about daily views, follower count and overall reach.
Key Takeaways: Follow the Steps

In order to thrive in today’s volatile retail landscape, businesses must utilise the digital age to promote their products. It is no longer about large advertising budgets, it is about building a social media platform and holding the attention of millions of actively-engaged individuals.

Instagram provides a significant opportunity for retailers to gain inspiration and connect with their customers.

There are of course difficulties with leveraging on such a popular social media platform. But it is critical your business stays up to date and makes the most of this app as it has the ability to stimulate growth.

Gymshark, Charlotte Tilbury and Triangl exemplify how they used Instagram to transform into multimillion-dollar enterprises.

Attracting the right followers to your Instagram account is possible with the right techniques. Brands all around the world are making use of this, and with the right approach, you’ll be seeing results in no time.

Let’s “double tap” to that.