Instagram requires you to build engagement with your audience and be consistent and creative with your post.
When Hetal Joshi was looking for an outfit for her Mehendi ceremony earlier this year, she stumbled upon an Instagram page named @pehanawa, populated with drool-worthy traditional attire options. Selecting her desired attire, she reached out to the coordinator of the page and arranged for delivery. “I picked this fabulous outfit because I got it at a great price,” says Hetal who was also impressed with the quality of the material.
Just like @pehanawa, hundreds of Instagram stores are being set up, catering to all kinds of audience. From scrapbooking materials, over-the-top jewellery to wardrobe items that you won’t find anywhere else, Instagram shops are creating a niche of their own. With a simple business account and uploading pictures of new products, which are up for sale on a regular basis, you can draw in the audience and have a flourishing business, no investment needed.
Click and sell
Nirali Shan, who runs @pehanawa, selling traditional clothes at pocket-friendly prices, feels that the popularity of Instagram stores have grown in the last couple of years. The 22-year-old Mumbai resident had earlier collaborated with a friend on another Instagram store so she was familiar with the platform. “It was not very hard for me to get clients on Instagram at first, because four years ago, I had experimented with another Instagram store. At that time, it was a little tough because people weren’t buying from Instagram. But after so many years, Instagram shopping has become a thing,” she says.
Before Instagram rose to popularity, Facebook was the king of social media and that is where many now Insta shops actually started. Neha Arora, who runs @tradition_meets_trends moved to Instagram after her clients started using the platform. “I was actually selling from Facebook, we got clients from Facebook and when those clients shifted to Instagram, we also decided to try it out. Instagram was not popular back but slowly, as people got more active on Instagram, we started getting more clients,” says Neha about the page, which sells traditional Jutis and now has over 50K followers.
Although it looks easy, selling your products on a social media page is a tough job. Unlike a website where you just have to upload all your product details mechanically, Instagram requires you to build engagement with your audience and be consistent and creative with your post. More likes and comments equal more reach and chance of selling your products. Sahiba Singh who runs @wanderlustbysahiba also has a physical store in Delhi, ships her products across the country through Instagram. Although she has close to 70K followers, Sahiba is still trying to figure out the intricacies of the platform. “Instagram algorithm is very difficult to understand and I still haven’t figured it out, although they say ‘post it on the right time and right audience will react to it’, but it’s not true. A lot of time when you post best of the content, there are still about 100 likes on it.”
The personal touch
As a social media site, Instagram was not designed to buy and sell products and hence customers can find the process tedious. Starting from getting in touch with the shop, checking about the availability of the product by chatting with the owner, and then paying online, Instagram shopping is not the most convenient for buyers.
Sahiba who sells clothes, shoes, and bags, among other quirky stuff feels, “Sometimes if the client is buying for the first time, they will ask a lot of questions. They’ll come back after a few with follow up question and eventually after a month, they decide to buy it,” smiles Sahiba.
Mumbai-based Urmi Agarwalla, who shops regularly from multiple Instagram shops, feels it’s more convenient than a website. “When I’m scrolling through Instagram and I come across a product I like, I can simply message them and place the order right then,” she says adding that website becomes a bit tedious as you have to create an account and log in before ordering.
With orders constantly pouring in, an e-commerce website is a good option for these businesses, but according to Nirali, who is all set to launch hers in a month, feels it’s a gamble. “We have a lot of international clients who want to purchase our products directly and they have issues with payment, so we wanted to make it easier for them. But it’s a risk actually, I can’t say if it will work or not,” she says.
Sahiba, on the other hand, has given up on the idea of starting a website and feels that Instagram gives a personal touch. “It’s a very personal touch, they are talking to somebody and the website is a very mechanical procedure. Especially while buying clothes, people have a lot of questions regarding sizes, all of that can’t be managed by a website.”
Beware of fraud
For a platform where you can create an account with only email id, there is no accountability and is an easy platform for fraud accounts. And since it’s not difficult to buy fake followers, it can get impossible to identify if an Insta shop with 70K followers is a legit one. Sharing an incident she faced recently Neha says, “Recently someone messaged our clients claiming that they have our stock and were willing to sell it for `500. So many of our clients paid them but they didn’t get anything and they were later blocked by the account.”
It’s not just fake accounts running a fraud, on the flip side, customers as well try to dupe shops on Instagram. Sahiba shares her own experience and says, “What these people are doing now is that they send a Paytm screenshot which will show it was a successful transaction,” but after crosschecking, Sahiba realised she hadn’t received the amount. “I knew it was a fraud because it actually meant that the person had actually updated their own account by that amount and she sent me that screenshot. So in a hurry, while taking an order, you might not check and confirm the order,” she adds.