10 Tips for starting an Instagram thrift store according to an owner who got it right

Illustration. Photo by Getty Images
Illustration. Photo by Getty Images

While I’m no advocate for ‘burnout culture’, we could all do with some extra cash, especially in this economy. One of the more popular and simple ways to do this is by selling thrifted or secondhand clothing online. 

Between my marketing experience and binge-watching Netflix’s ‘Girlboss’, I decided to start an online thrift store of my own.

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Here’s are ten things that I learnt:

1 - The marketing mix is always a good place to start

The ‘marketing mix’ refers to the business model for establishing a basic business plan. It consists of the ‘4 Ps’: product; price; place, promotion. This should be your first step.

Product: Quite obviously, what you are selling (clothing, accessories, shoes, books, etc.).

Price: The markup on your goods is entirely up to you, but remember that thrifted/secondhand items are meant to be affordable.

Place: In this case, online with the platform being Instagram.

Promotion: Your method of promoting your business (Instagram ads, word-of-mouth, influencers, a good-ol’ fashion poster, etc.). Naturally, online ads work best for an online store.

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2 - Know your target market

The only way you can accurately market and sell your goods is by knowing who you are selling to (demographics), the location of your customers (geographics) and the interests, feelings and preferences of your target audience (psychographics). For example, your target market could be women aged 18-30 who live in Johannesburg and like ‘70s-inspired clothing. 

3 - Find your unique selling point (USP)

Your USP is what differentiates you from others. This is something every successful business has. Whether it be your product offering or simply making your business stand out with a fun logo or interesting content - do that. This creates a position for your brand in the market, which refers to how consumers see your business in relation to your competitors. Always make your position a positive and exciting one.

4 - Establish your distribution channel 

Whether it’s delivery, collection or using courier services, you need to make sure you’ve got a distribution plan on-lock before starting your business. I personally find PAXI to be the most convenient and affordable for its geographic range.

5 - Some basic SEO is the way to go

In order for more people to find out about your business, you have to do some SEO (Search Engine Optimisation). This includes using ‘keywords’ in your business name and bio consider using words such as thrift, clothing, thrift South Africa.

  • Hashtag your keywords on your posts as well to get a greater reach.
  • Create your own unique hashtag such as #ThriftBy(whatever your store name is) and ask customers to use it when sharing images of your clothing. That way, more people learn about your store and you get to show off your happy customers!    
  • Instagram business tools is your friend as it provides you with the best insights and allow you to filter your promotions to reach your specific target market. 

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6 - Develop your Ts & Cs

Make sure your returns, refund, payment, clothing reserving policy etc. is established and stated clearly on your page from the get-go to refer back to should any customer issues arise.

7 - Good product images are key

When it comes to selling clothing, people are more likely to buy things once they see how they look on someone else as opposed to simply a picture of the item itself. You’re also able to style the items in many different ways to show the potential they have. Save money and model them yourself with the help of your trusty self-timer option. If the clothes don’t fit you, consider asking a friend for help.

8 - Stock variety

When sourcing clothing to sell, it can be easy to look at things through your own style lens. I’ve found that sometimes the things I think would never sell end up being a hit. So if you’re skeptical about posting something, do it anyway- you never know who may be interested. Try to stock clothing as close to the current season as possible. Inclusivity is definitely key as well, so stock as many different sizes as possible.

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9 - Good customer service is vital

Make your online space a good one for new and existing customers. Be polite and respond to queries as soon as you can. Make sure customers receive their products and ask for feedback. Communication is always key!

10 - Be consistent

With online thrift stores being a relatively saturated market, it may take a little while before you sell anything - don’t let that discourage you. Showing your consistency will make customers regard you as a trustworthy brand, so definitely keep at it. Not everything in life is going to be an instant hit. 

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