After sites and applications, is the Instagram the future of online shopping?

The most maligned of all generations, millennials spend an eye-roll-worthy amount of time on their phones. A quick search on Google will reveal that over two hours of a day are spent by the average millennial on their phones out of which, an average of 15 minutes is spent on Instagram. Now think of walking into your favourite store every day for 15 minutes, won’t you be compelled to buy something if you saw a fresh inventory each time?
After e-commerce websites and then apps, now the gap between a customer and store is shortened to point where one can shop in the same time they browse their feed for updates on their social circle. Marketers are quick to place their money based on such behavioural tendencies. With the growing number of accounts making sales via their Instagram, the social media portal has been modifying the app to be a thriving ground for business.
Service first
American consumers of Instagram can already conduct sales via the enhanced tagging feature that allows the seller to direct the customers to shoppable links. While the feature remains to be extended across the globe, Indian designers have already started early on the trend. Bridal couture label Shyamal & Bhumika has a sales team entirely dedicated to enquiries that come through social media. The brand experiences a hike in requests around the wedding season both in India and overseas.
A whooping four lakh such enquiries are made every year, which are translated into sales through WhatsApp chats. “The sales teams are well experienced to tell a genuine buyer from a fake. Having said that, we look forward to sharing our information with every enquirer as promptly as possible,” shares Shyamal Bodhani, who handles the business development of the brand.
Trust falls
A large part of India’s growing fashion economy owes itself to the bridal market of which jewellery forms a substantial part. Jaipur-based jewellery label Sunita Shekhawat communicates with its customer base through Instagram frequently. Fine jewellery is traditionally shopped for after physically examination and trials, given the hefty price of the product. But Shekhawat’s team is changing that. “It doesn’t matter if they make a purchase at that time [when they see a product on Instagram], [because] what we offer is high value, where decisions take time. Every query is important, the interest is good to hear, and sometimes they come back year later when they have an occasion to buy for,” says Shekhawat.
She maintains that the customer on Instagram is usually a one that has shopped from the brand in the past and is absolutely trusting of the quality and nature of sale made. But there is something to be said for the brick and mortar experience. “Visiting the store allows for more product discovery and appreciation, and helps the patron understand the product in a way that is difficult to explore on a text message. However, consumer buying styles are changing especially if they are long-standing consumers. Since they trust us, they are more comfortable being impulsive,” she adds.
The star effect
Masaba Gupta is a popular name amongst the celebrity crowd. Naturally, the curiosity amongst her audience sees a sharp rise whenever a star is spotted in her designs. “I cannot compare the sales via Instagram to sales via a shopping portal because the focus on Instagram is purely on us as compared to an e-commerce website where we share space with other labels,” she says. Gupta doesn’t have specific strategy in mind but does her best to meet the frenzy of demands. “Of course, the requests start pouring in when Kareena Kapoor Khan or Sonam Kapoor is spotted in the label. That’s just how consumption patterns have changed right now and you have to keep up,” she says.
Tried and tested
While it’s one thing to shop from acclaimed labels, it’s another to shop from a brand that you just happened to discover on your feed. For Vogue’s senior fashion editor, Priyanka Kapadia, it’s all about the presentation. “As a visual person, I am personally drawn to Instagram as a medium. I even get my news on it. For me the distinguishing element is how the product is presented—whether it’s the styling or the composite, it’s more relatable that way. I love the ‘shop the look’ links that direct you to the accounts of shopping portals. The Grace Atelier bag that Gigi Hadid carried was one of my first buys on Instagram.”
Kapadia strongly feels that to grow a holistic wardrobe of young and known names, Instagram is a great place to start. Rely on the app’s discover feature to find more based on your interest. Don’t believe everything meets your eye, basic rules of internet safety should always be at the back of your mind. “I prefer to shop from registered e-stores like Revolve, Shopbop and MLM. Beware of fake accounts. I once paid upfront for some Kylie make-up merchandise which I am yet to receive!” she says.

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