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TemiO: Vendors of Instagram

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Instagram High Street is a fun place to be. One can compare it to Oxford Circus where there is something for every consumer – ‘Primark’ for cheap and cheerful shoppers, ‘H&M’ for the middle-class shoppers and ‘Miss Selfridges’ for bourgie buyers.

Economists classify this particular market structure as a perfectly competitive market where there are ‘many producers and consumers and low barriers to entry’. It is no wonder that Instagram introduced new shopping features to its app in 2019 and barely one year after, approximately 130million shoppers tap the feature monthly. The saturated nature of Instagram High Street is the reason why consumers are advised to adopt the watchword Caveat Emptor (‘Let the buyer beware’) because many have gotten their fingers burnt by dubious sellers. Retailers are also advised to take their customer service seriously, as a displeased customer can take your matter to the Supreme Court of Social Media.

Picture this, you have an event to attend on Saturday and you need something to wear. It is Tuesday evening and you are combing through Instagram High Street. What types of vendors are you most likely to see?

‘DM for price’

Ahh, these sellers are special. Their business model can be likened to a consumer walking into Ebeano Supermarket and having to ask the cash attendant for the price of every item on the shelf. To be honest, this model could have worked if it were to be our parent’s and grandparent’s generation because they possess the ‘long-suffering’ type of patience in excess. However, this microwave generation does not have time or patience for such (bad) behavior. The idea that consumers would take to their heels if prices were put on display should be trashed in 2020. Nothing is ever expensive for a potential customer; he/she is just not your target audience.

‘Let’s chat on WhatsApp’

For some retailers, WhatsApp is the preferred mode of communication with their clients and prospective customers. This may be because photo sharing on WhatsApp is often easier than other social media platforms such as Instagram and Snapchat. Some vendors even go as far as restricting customers from Direct Messaging them on IG. If a customer regularly meets this type of vendor, there’s a likelihood that his/her phone contacts will be filled with ‘Mr. Tamedu (IG)’ or ‘Mrs. A (bag seller on IG)’.

Tip: Only save the vendor’s number if you plan to be a returning customer.

‘Good day Ma’ or ‘Hey Dear’

One more reason to love the Instagram marketplace. In normal marketplaces, the title ‘ma’ befits you only if you drive a big jeep or wear expensive (looking) clothes. However, everyone is ‘ma’ on IG streets, irrespective of their economic status in real life. These types of sellers take the catchphrase ‘the customer is king’ very seriously and aim to use (fake) platitudes to lure unassuming consumers. For these types of sellers, we the consumers have just one question: ‘tani dear e?’

‘We’ve not heard from you’

In Yorubaland, these types of sellers are tagged as people that are good at ‘oro aje’ (i.e. they possess great marketing skills). They offer ‘after inquiries’ services with the intention of appealing to your good judgment to spend your coins. As a customer, you can choose to handle this type of seller using any of the following techniques: ignore the message altogether, be honest and say you cannot afford the item or that you found someone selling it for cheaper or give in and spend that money because… YOLO.

Disclaimer: This piece was prepared on behalf of the Consumers Association of Instagram. We are aware that we possess our own bad behavior – not reading the caption to the end, oblivious to the size chart pinned in Highlights, ‘I’ll get back to you’ syndrome amongst others. We promise to work on our bad behavior if retailers do likewise. Here’s to more hassle-free transactions in 2020.

TemiO is an economist by day and a writer by night. When she's not discussing economic hot topics, she can be found reading a good book, trying out the best food places in Lagos (because, foodie!) and watching her favourite series. TemiO is skilled in the art of research and data analysis and enjoys the field of development economics - poverty, education, healthcare etc.

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