Over the past year or so, I have seen an increase in INSTAsales - pop-up shops on Instagram. It seems some people use Instagram as their actual shop, selling vintage or handmade items. Others use it as sort of a garage sale. It makes total sense. If you're active on Instagram, you're likely sort of addicted. It's mobile. It's free. It's incredibly easy to link to and share with others.
As I have watched these sales come and go in my feed, I have taken note of what seems to work and what doesn't. About six weeks after Ellerie was born, I went through everything in my closet and drawers and pulled the stuff that was still in good shape but realistically would not be worn again. The easy thing would have been to drop it off at goodwill, but there was value in some of the items so I decided to try my own INSTAsale.
It was successful! I sold all but one item and everything that sold was eventually claimed. It was also a lot of work - I didn't add up the hours but probably at least 16 were spent photographing, editing, listing, monitoring, invoicing and shipping. I made about $650 (after shipping and packaging) for 36 items though, so I was pleased.
Below are my tips for making your own INSTAsale work :
Create a separate feed. I found that it was easier to make a separate account to list my items. I share personal photos @elisejoy and I used @elisejoyshop for the sale. This meant that I didn't overwhelm (read : annoy) my normal followers with 36 listings AND it meant that I could prep the sale in advance by getting all the photos and listings up before I had people knew about it. I was able to work out a few kinks and typos this way too.
Promote. I used my own twitter account, blog and personal Instagram feed to promote my sale. I shared photos of the items listed and a link to the "shop." There is such a balance between marketing too little and marketing too much (read : being annoying) and I am always working to find it. Basically, I wrote a post about it once on the blog and then in a "ps" in another post. I tweeted about it at different times of the day (in an attempt to capture a "different" audience each time). And I mentioned it on my Instagram feed four times in two days. I was careful to use different types of photos each time (not the same image over and over). For extra promotion, ask friends or followers to help spread the word by posting an image and link for you. Consider giving them an item for free or a percentage off a sale as a reward.
Consider an auction. I held my sale in auction format after seeing the success Kim from Oh Sweet Joy had. I think this can be a win-win. For me, it meant I was able to make much more profit on a few items than I expected. All I had to do was set the base price and then interested shoppers could decide what it was worth for them. For the buyers, it eliminates the "rush" to claim an item. Nothing sells out right away and so if you love an item, it can still be yours depending on how much you want to pay. I really don't think the work involved is greater, because either way you end up monitoring the sale and invoicing buyers but it does end up being a longer time period (my auction lasted about 48 hours). I ended up making around $300 above my opening bid prices.
Consider donating a percentage of sales. Because I was hosting an auction, I decided to donate 10% of proceeds (money earned after shipping) to March of Dimes. This is totally not a necessary step and I have no idea if it influenced sales, but for me, having a charity at the other end of an auction makes sense. :)
Take good photographs. The bottom line is that your photos are going to sell your items. It's an Instagram sale so phone photographs are perfect, but make sure they are well-lit and clear. I hung my items on a hanger on a nail against a white wall and took photos during the part of the day when the light was best. Things that couldn't be hung were photographed against our dark table. When appropriate, provide detail photos that better show the item in addition to the full shot. You don't have to "style" your photos but a clean background makes a big difference.
Use Pic Stitch to combine photos. This app (or a similar one) will let you combine multiple photos into one square one for posting to Instagram. It's easy to use and saves you from having upload different photos of the same item. Be sure to share close up shots of patterns, the inside of items, etc.
Determine packaging and shipping rates in advance. Before I determined opening bid prices, I weighed everything on a postage scale (I have this one) and determined how much I would be spending on packaging and shipping. Some items are much bulkier to ship than others and you have to know if they are worth it to even list. I decided to include US shipping into the opening bid cost to make things less confusing for the buyer and easier for me. I have seen people use a flat-rate price in addition to the sale price and that seems to work. It totally depends on the size of the items and your shipping method.
Set the rules. It wouldn't be an INSTAsale without a long list of rules. Lay it all out there, shipping rate, who the sale is open to (international vs. domestic), bidding time, how the buyer will claim an item (most common is to provide their paypal email address), what will happen if the invoice isn't paid, etc. The clearer you make it, the easier it will be and the less questions you'll have to answer. I included my rules in the profile section and uploaded a graphic (created on my phone with the Beautiful Mess app) that shared rules. This image was at the top of my shop feed. Be sure to upload your rules photo last so it's seen first by buyers.
Close the sale and invoice promptly. Because it was an auction I had to be "ready" at the close to see who won. Thankfully, it wasn't like there was a ton of last minute bids that I had to sort through. I uploaded a SALE CLOSED image and went down the feed telling each buyer they had won the item. Then I sent out paypal invoices within the hour. In each invoice, I said :
- thank you
- specified what they had purchased and where
- requested that if they were international they let me know so I could charge for additional shipping
- reminded them that if they didn't pay within 24 hours, the item would go to the next highest bidder
When folks pay with paypal, their address will be sent to you when they submit payment (I was not sure on this until the first few orders came in).
So that's what I learned! I hope it helps you if you're considering trying your own INSTAsale. I know I will do something like this in a year or so when my closet needs another clear out.