New technologies are changing the way people buy and sell, and in some cases, the changes are happening faster than many believe. Smartphones are the most transformative technology in this category today. They allow individuals to quickly share photos and build networks to which they sell products.
A recent Bloomberg story details the selling-by-smartphone economy by highlighting one shop in particular. Anissa Kheloufi started a company called Belmiraz that sells through a third-party retail platform called Tictail and pulls in nearly $40,000 per month. According to Kheloufi, about 90 percent of her revenue can be attributed to Instagram and the 119,000 followers she has there.
Kheloufi’s business model is part of a broader trend. The growth of Instagram and other photo and video sharing platforms is proving lucrative for people who want to start small businesses and build a brand. The ease of sourcing materials and products and hosting online stores on platforms like Tictail and Shopify has become remarkably simple. Those with the will can build followings and, in the case of Kheloufi, earn a six-figure income building their own brand.
Not everyone needs to be the next Kate Spade. The autonomy of earning a living while working in a small business that might be a one or two-person operation is often enough, even with all the hustling it requires.
The major social platforms for showing off goods are Instagram, Facebook, Pinterest and Snapchat. YouTube has also proven useful as a tool for growing brand awareness through influencers.
Around 80 percent of consumers from 18 to 54 years old say they’ve bought products through a social media platform. Platforms like Instagram and Pinterest are especially conducive to driving product sales thanks to their visual appeal. They are photo-first platforms, and keen entrepreneurs have long been taking advantage of this to display pleasant looking photos featuring products for sale accompanied by purchase links. These platforms are already working on making it easier to buy products without leaving the platform at all.
One of the reasons for this new trend is that smartphones have made it so easy to share photos. A person like Kheloufi can practically run her an entire business and generate half a million in annual revenue from a smartphone. Photos and videos can easily and quickly be uploaded. With a short but effective description using a few of the right keywords, someone can start making sales within minutes.
This outline of events does betray some of the more complicated things happening behind the scenes. It may not be easy for anyone to snap appealing photos. An Instagram filter can’t be used to make any photo look good. Likewise, videos require compelling visuals and personalities to grow an audience and sell products.
Many individual sellers are still able to make it work. Though their impact may grow in influence, retail giants also stand to gain from the trend. Many of these sellers are hosting their stores on larger platforms, including Amazon, the world’s largest e-retailer. Large tech companies are also getting an assist from AI technology, with which smaller market players can’t compete. For these smaller sellers using large platforms tied into sophisticated AI, like Amazon’s Alexa, there are clear advantages that benefit everyone. The impact of AI is another issue altogether, and one we will explore in another post.
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