As the internet continues to make it easier to connect with potential customers, some entrepreneurs have decided that Instagram isn't just for "selfies," but for marketing. Blogger Jason Kottke reported last month on Kuwait's "booming Instagram economy," where anyone with an Instagram account is simply putting a price tag on an item, taking a photograph, and selling it via the photo sharing online social network.
Everything from Manga to make-up, and more is being sold in this very simple and direct platform, leveraging additional free technology like WhatsApp (customer service), PayPal, and Square (transactions) to make the business infrastructure as simple as possible.
Not unlike eBay and the power-sellers it spawned, Instagram has the scale, stability, and user trust to create a viable marketplace. Once upon a time, if you wanted to sell online you needed a sturdy e-commerce site with analytics, a robust hosting facility, and a web team to create, design, merchandise, market, and more. Today, you need a couple of free accounts on some of the major online channels along with the persistence to keep at it. Is this the digital equivalent of a garage sale, or the next generation of business?
The answer is likely somewhere in between. It's doubtful that those in the upper echelons of the massive consumer packaged goods companies are going to care about this, or that Sephora and Walmart see this as a competitive threat, but the barriers to entry for someone to start and market a new business continue to be lowered.
These Instagram businesses may not be the next big thing, but they could well be the nascent stages of what is the next big, small thing in business today. On April 23rd and 24th of this year, the American University of Kuwait hosted a two day conference, featuring case studies, how-to's and networking for those wondering what it takes to build a business on Instagram. The Insta Business Expo, featured a slew of new entrepreneurs who built and grew their respective businesses through Instagram.
While this may seem inconsequential in the grander scheme of global economics and business, consider the global reach of Instagram, the burgeoning ability to use 3-D printing to create or augment existing products, and the desire from consumers for more unique products and services. There is also potential here for more traditional brands to try moments of commerce; an Instagram storefront could help validate a new product line or market ancillary products.
Instagram should not be underrated as an engine of marketing, considering the engagement beautiful images can generate. Today's Instagram entrepreneurs have uncovered an easy way for brands to quickly share new inventory, and a very simple way to conduct business from a smartphone. If your brand has the goods, you might want try out an Instagram store of your own.