It is almost impossible to imagine that it has taken us 15 years for most business to transition from a physical first sales model to a hybrid virtual/physical sales model. Evolving technology has made this possible, and more people are gravitating towards using a digital store and the drop ship model instead of the capital and labour intensive process of selling their products and services physically.
Online retail has been especially useful to women who want to start small businesses. Though digital stores, they are able to reach larger markets, avoid harassment that usually happens when women interact directly with customers, and helped women who want the focus of their businesses to be on their products instead of themselves earn a second or third income.
Instagram (and Facebook) are the most popular sites for Nigerian women who want to expand into online retail. While these platforms have provided tools that enable you to set up shop pages formally, many of these tools like Instagram Shop and Facebook marketplace have restriction that affect African businesses. To get around this, most retailers just convert their personal accounts into a digital store.
But to truly maximize the opportunities that are possible via online retail, you must invest in the customer experience. A positive shopping experience leads to referrals and more demand. Understanding what customers need, changes everything.
Here are our tips for upselling your digital storefront and maximizing the potential of online retail as a small business.
Write a good bio
A bio that captures what your page is about encourages potential customers to engage and purchase. Something important to note: as an online shop, your bio is most useful when it explains what you sell and your policies on refunds, returns and deliveries.
Consider your media format
Every Instagram grid can only be a mix of photos and videos. A good storefront prioritises the medium that is more effective in converting interest to business.
“When I go looking for a dress, I like to see a video of someone wearing it. Sometimes, it makes me see the movement of the dress so I feel like I know what to expect,” says Ade, a frequent IG shopper.
Consider video when posting items on your page. When video isn’t possible consider posting all the necessary details of the item being sold as a carousel. Customers love products that are displayed in an interactive way.
Make prices visible on single post tap
“I know I want to move forward with a purchase when I can see the price upon clicking the product post,” says Stella. “Whenever I see’DM for price’, I don’t think twice before exiting. I must really need it to stay longer.”
Like Stella, many social shoppers want as much information as quickly as possible so they can make a decision. If your digital store doesn’t allow you share price tags (that option is available on the IG store tool), your captions or carousels should carry that information.
Keep your feed uncluttered by archiving and deleting
“Shopping on Instagram is a sport I actively seek to avoid. Sometimes, it’s endless. Other times, I’m lost. Now, imagine I find something after scrolling more tham 7 rows down and its not my size or it’s…”SOLD ❌❌,” says Addy. “These IG vendors just don’t communicate early.”
Resist the urge to clutter your feed or stories by posting multiple items. A chaotic feed with too frequent posts makes the process of browsing through your digital storefront tedious. When an item is sold out but you’re in active sales mode, archive the post. When you’re in inactive sales mode, you can unarchive but remember to post a disclaimer that items are sold out.
Always think consumer first
Take note of your consumers. Who are the repeat consumers? Who are the newbies? Who recommends or refers you? It’s always a better route to think of your customers. Put yourself in their place. How easy is it to shop from your page? In summary:
- Organise grids according to size chart (announce ahead of time how you will be posting just as you announce that you will be posting in 30 minutes or 1 hr)
- Archive things that are sold out for things available to be on the feed alone (I know, you might want to say that this is how will they know what you’ve had in stock)
- Make use of stories and highlights – most vevdirs have a posting day. When posting is done for the day and the sales are made and you’re closed on taking orders that day. Asides from posting that posting is done for the day and you won’t be processing new orders, tell them that available items are listed in story highlights. Date the highlights. As your new batch arrives, update the highlights by adding the available items from the new bail to it. Your highlights should not exceed 20 stories.
Here’s a tip: Make the available items stories into collages and index them. Turn in your story reply feature so they can quickly leave a message.