MSA Member Dispatches from Home: Virtual Markets – The New Norm
August 3, 2020
By Ibai Demirdache, Kinzoku Custom
Let me preface this blog by saying that I’m a complete neophyte when it comes to social media. I’m a private person and, prior to COVID, you would have been hard pressed to find any images of me online. Now I’m on Facebook (still no personal pictures) and on Instagram for my business. Suffice to say, this is a whole new but necessary direction for me, and I am speaking from my experience as a newbie.
If the last few months have taught us anything it’s that life is unpredictable and you need to be able to adjust. In my case, I realized early on in the spring that I needed to expand my social media footprint and so I created a new Instagram (IG) page to promote more meaningful gifts, namely our line of custom jewelry & accessories made with your art (@madewithyourart).
The first virtual market I did to promote made with your art was through Leslieville Flea Market here in Toronto (fee $45). The market ran for a week and each vendor was given access to Leslieville‘s Instagram stories (@leslievilleflea) for a two-hour period on a set day. Vendors could post up to 15 stories within the two hours, with one photo or one video up to 15 seconds in length equaling one story.
At the beginning of each time-slot, a one-page slide was posted with an image of the vendor’s products and then once the two hours were up, the vendor was given a closing slide to post with their contact information. Over the course of the week that the market ran, three vendors were featured per day, at 10 am-12 pm, 2-4 pm and 7-9 pm. Once your time was up, your presentation would remain up for 24-hours.
For this first virtual show, instead of posting a bunch of photos, I decided to create one 3-minute video that I could post at the beginning of the two-hour timeslot. That turned out to be not such a great idea because Instagram story videos post in one-minute increments so I had to cut the video in such a way that it would work to have it in three different segments. After I posted it, I noticed while watching it that a one-minute video on IG stories has a short skip every 15 seconds. This means that you have to be careful about what is happening in your video at that moment or the video will appear glitchy.
To my perfectionist way of thinking, there was definitely room for improvement! Nevertheless, I gained new followers and made some sales but none of that happened in the two-hour window in which I was featured. That was the most anti-climactic part. Most of the interaction happened that evening.
Based on the success of the first virtual market, I decided to do it a second time when the market ran again a month later. This time was a lot more successful than the first and I think the reason is that, in addition to doing a lot more marketing ahead of time, I fine-tuned my presentation to include a mix of photos and a one-minute video edited so the short skips every 15 seconds would be less noticeable (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lUTlakmbVqM).
I also took my time with the photo slides, posting each one individually and labeling them with tags so that people could instantly click and reach me or go straight through to my Instagram page (@madewithyourart).
In a lot of ways, participating in a virtual market is a lot like doing a wholesale show. The more varied and visually attractive your presentation, the more people will stop and notice you. The more you connect with your customers beforehand and promote the show, the more successful the outcome.
Another type of virtual retail market that I encountered, also on Instagram, is the one-of-a-kind show (@ooak_toronto). Having cancelled their in-person spring show due to COVID, they organized a virtual market in July with artisans from across Canada (fee $50).
The show featured 10-15 vendors a day, three times a week for the month of July. Similar to Leslieville, the market was advertised on their IG stories. The difference here is OOAK controlled the visuals in the sense that they created a template so the background of all vendor stories looked the same. The only things that changed were the product images and a couple of lines of description. For OOAK, the slides were uniform in style and this reinforces their brand. As a vendor, however, I prefer the Leslieville format, where you can control the look and feel of your pitch and have the opportunity to present an array of media content, such as videos.
The last type of virtual market that I want to mention operates more like a curated pop-up shop featuring local vendors. Toronto Market Company (@torontomarketco) organizes artisan markets at holiday time and, in the summer, farmer’s markets that include handmade objects. With no in-person markets in the foreseeable future, they now host virtual markets every other week (fee $0).
For these, they curate a selection of products and feature them on their Instagram stories over the course of five days. After customers make their purchases, TMCo contacts their vendors and orders what has sold. Vendors then deliver their products to TMCo who puts each order together and ships them to the customer. It’s an interesting model because there’s no participation fee for the vendor and no up-front inventory cost for TMCo.
Using the TMCo format, a museum store could connect with vendors and include their products in the store’s own virtual market. By arranging drop ship terms with vendors, they wouldn’t even have to be restricted to local vendors. They could also run thematic pop-ups once a month using their store’s current inventory to curate product. I’m already picturing a ‘market’ page on the store websites of MSA member stores!
All three of the examples I’ve given of virtual markets didn’t exist three months ago. For me, this whole experience has been life changing. I went from someone who was hardly ever on social media to someone who’s connecting with people all over the world and enjoying it! There’s something reassuring about being in an isolated environment yet feeling connected and heard. The ability to sell product in a virtual marketplace is a good way to move forward as we adjust to this new reality.
Good luck and stay safe!
* The following free apps I've found useful in preparing content: InShot (videos & IG posts), Untold (IG stories), Canva (IG & FB), Unsplash (stock photography), Layout (IG posts), Hootsuite (scheduling posts).
Ibai Demirdache is the founder and Design Director of Kinzoku Custom. A third generation jeweler, Ibai apprenticed for several years in Japan. It is there that Kinzoku (meaning metal in Japanese) was born. She credits her time in Japan for opening her eyes to the beauty and simplicity of good design. Her newly expanded line of custom jewelry & accessories made with your art are a reflection of her core philosophy: the best gifts are the ones with a story behind them and as she tells her customers, “let us tell your story”.
Kinzokucustom.com / @kinzokucustom / @madewithyourart