Instagram isn’t just a platform for posting pictures of a fun night out, extravagant vacations or random life updates. The app’s ability to easily connect thousands or even millions of people through posts and ads has allowed fashion brands of all kinds to flourish on the platform.
A quick look through Instagram can open up a plethora of fashion labels that work either primarily off the app or an online store. Sofi Rife, a sophomore studying visual communications, said many of these smaller labels offer more unique options for buyers compared to what you normally see.
“It makes you more unique,” Rife said. “It sets you apart because you’re not like everyone else.”
These independent brands have more creative freedom because they aren’t a part of a massive cooperation they must adhere to. Emma Russom, a sophomore double majoring in art history and business management, said she appreciates the care put into the products of small fashion brands on Instagram.
“These people are putting in their own time and effort to make something for you,” Russom said. “Rather than big corporations who are just doing it to make a huge profit.”
However, when discussing the fashion industry, it’s difficult to ignore the environmental effects it holds. Rife expressed her distaste for fast fashion brands like Shein, saying she prefers buying from smaller creators to lessen the impact large corporations have on the environment and their workers.
The fashion industry accounts for about 10% of carbon emissions and is on track to increase those emissions by 50% within the next decade, according to a press release by the UNECE and a paper by Princeton University in 2020.
However, these smaller, more specialized experiences can come at a cost. When compared to the low prices of companies like Shein or H&M, some students said these smaller brands can be hard to stomach if their prices are much higher.
Farheen Saiyed, a first-year studying finance, said she doesn’t shop on Instagram much and is hesitant to start.
“I feel like a lot of the stuff on Instagram ads are also really expensive,” Saiyed said. “But the more I click on them, I start to see more and more, so it’s tempting to buy something.”
Saiyed is not alone in being tempted by the bombardment of Instagram ads. A slight majority of people ages 16 to 24 are shown to use social media as a way to decide their purchases, with 31% of these people also discovering new brands/products through these social media ads – according to data by Statista.
Dr. Sean Coary, a marketing professor at Loyola University Chicago, said Instagram’s interactive ads available on the app help brands create a direct path for consumers to follow in order to make a purchase.
“It’s a great way to make a very smooth transition from add to purchase with what we call reduced friction,” Coary said. “Nothing really slows down the buying process.”
Coary said for many smaller to medium sized brands, Instagram has become a focal point to their marketing strategies because of the platform’s ability to seamlessly bridge the advertising experience with the act of buying a product.
According to Coary, “People already know to go to walmart.com or amazon.com for their products because they know what’s there. […] a lot of the Instagram ads are for smaller companies […] It is a direct way to communicate your product, communicate your brand exists…”
Between 2019 and 2020 there was a 30% increase to e-commerce sales, according to the US Census Bureau News. Even as society begins to transition out of it, the number of consumers spending their time shopping online is still remaining above pre-pandemic levels.
People began shopping online for groceries and staple items out of necessity. “We get into a week-long, month-long […] five-month-long pattern, it actually becomes a habit,” Coary said. Now that people are used to buying online, with Instagram being a major part of what products people see.”