Every now and then I find myself on a new retail odyssey. I spend embarrassingly large portions of my day staring at a screen, looking high and low for a loosely defined product that may not exist. My latest quest is for a vintage rug that meets comically specific requirements I’m too ashamed to share.
After scouring the internet for months, I learned that I can’t find what I’m looking for at any of the big retail stores or at the rug shops I’ve come across. I found some options I was only slightly disappointed with on Etsy, but the online location where I’m seeing the greatest possibility for success is on Instagram, specifically through the Stories feature.
Instagram’s Stories connects consumers with brands they may never have otherwise known existed, and some sellers are making a killing.
Selling on Stories
For those of you who aren’t addicted to watching Stories and need a little background, the feature allows users to post photos and short videos that disappear after 24 hours.
While recreational app users post to Stories about their avocado toast or a night out with friends, many brands use Stories for marketing purposes: think seasonal launches and sale promotions. Big brands and established retailers typically include links that directly connect the product advertised on Stories to the product on the website, so users waste no time searching on their own. But for the really small retailers without a website, Stories is so much more than just a marketing strategy—it’s a method to make direct sales.
If an Instagram user watches a story that features a specific item, the user can connect with the seller directly, make an offer, and purchase the product through a third-party payment app, like Venmo or PayPal.
The whole process is akin to livestream selling, a marketing strategy that allows a host to promote a product through live video. But selling on Stories reminds me more of QVC for Millennials. Retailers sell goods online to people who are watching either in real-time or shortly thereafter, and there’s a rush to buy because users have no idea how many other people are vying for the product they’re seeking.
The Benefits and Drawbacks
There are several reasons why selling on Stories is so popular. First and foremost, it’s incredibly convenient for buyers: all the information they need is located in one app—no Google searches, no infinite row of open tabs. These shoppers don’t need to pursue the products at all. Instead, the app feeds desirable products right to them on the platform they frequent most. This also means that these sellers aren’t waiting around for people to find their inventory. They’ve figured out exactly how to reach their customer base and can target them directly.
Beyond the convenience, Stories is also entertaining. That’s why Millennials and Gen Zs are watching them in the first place! Companies promoting their products on Stories can incorporate catchy music, text descriptions, and fun filters to make the buying process engaging.
But because the experience of Stories is so captivating with the colors and the music, buyers get lost in the fun of it all and forget that it’s an absolutely ridiculous way to buy goods. Consumers are rarely given enough information to make an informed purchase. When I’m looking at rugs on Stories, I’m never told what material was used, I can’t read any customer reviews, I’m completely unaware of the cost, I’m not sure there are any written return policies, and I can’t even vet these sellers at all! But somehow, all of those essential aspects of the purchasing process completely disappear from my mind because I think the post looks cute…
For sellers, on the other hand, Stories is genius! Retailers with sought-after products and a knack for creating visual content can sell immediately without even needing a web platform. They don’t need to waste their time generating product descriptions or having items professionally photographed if people like me will buy anyway. It’s the ultimate selling opportunity for new entrepreneurs looking to target younger buyers.
Moreso than any other method I can think of, Instagram’s Stories allows extremely small companies to compete on an even playing field with big brands. That’s really exciting for the future of retail.
Could your company benefit from marketing on Instagram’s Stories? Contact Sophelle today to get advice from retail experts.
Retail is transforming, how we consume is evolving, and “normal” will never be the same. For a Millennial’s outlook on retail in the age of COVID read The Soph’s take on all things retail.