The Shopping Shift—Instagram’s Takeover

By Dalin Try, G11

We have all heard of online shopping, and have most likely even shopped online already, from buying our stationery items, to books, to clothes, even to food. Online shopping took off in 1995 with e-commerce websites such as Amazon making shopping more accessible. Now, in the 21st century, with a new decade ahead of us and an ongoing pandemic worldwide, our shopping and traveling options are limited.

This year, the pandemic has made traveling virtually impossible due to intense restrictions and a two week quarantine upon arrival from the airport. So, we are limited to the shopping options available in our country—for those of us in Cambodia, there aren’t a lot to choose from. It is hard for people to access clothes from brands such as Topshop or H&M—stores we would often buy from when we travel overseas to neighbouring countries such as Thailand and Singapore. Because of this, we have seen a rise of Instagram shopping accounts peddling goods such as vintage clothes, stationery items, and pastries.

 This surge in Instagram shopping accounts started when online shopping websites stopped shipment to Cambodia, and was furthered by people being unable to visit their favorite shops that they frequented in neighboring countries. Instagram has become a favorite spot for these online shopping accounts due to its wider audience, especially teenagers—often checking their Instagram daily. 

The style of the clothes offered varies according to the owner’s preferences, and each shop targets a specific group of consumers. These accounts often sell women’s clothes aimed towards the demographic of teenage girls, and offer low prices, typically ranging from $10 to $20. What makes this such an attractive venture is the delivery option and contactless part of the shopping experience. You can simply order clothes through direct messaging, or alternatively, scroll through what the account has to offer. You could send them what you want or ask for a specific product that you are looking for. 

Online shopping through Instagram eliminates all of the all-too-familiar awkwardness you have when shopping, especially if you find it difficult to ask the shop assistant for help. The anonymity behind online shopping also makes it more appealing to young consumers, and in reality, many of the owners are often teenagers themselves, looking for a way to earn pocket money. This is an excellent opportunity to encourage young people to start and manage their own businesses. However, it has also come at a cost; where an influx of fast fashion has increased, harm to the environment has as well. Furthermore, what would happen to all these shops when countries begin to reopen, allowing us to travel to other countries for their goods and services instead? Would this not kick-start the closure of many online shopping accounts? 

 Although this pandemic has given many teenagers a chance to run their own businesses, encouraging the younger population to manage their own sales and earn their own money, is it worth the implications of harming the environment? Additionally, the anonymity of Instagram shops can make some of the clothing quality untrustworthy as some of the pictures posted do not reflect the product’s actual quality. Also, due to the business transactions done online, there would be many difficulties in delivery service and communications. 

The online shops on Instagram have proven to be a way for people to access more clothes and goods that they seek, but it does come with its disadvantages and advantages as well; it is ultimately up to the consumers to make their decision: to buy or not to buy?

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