Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, September 06, 2012

 

The Facebook Supermarket

By Munawar Mobin

Facebook has been the highlight of every teenager's life ever since Zuckerberg decided to make 500 million friends (and a few enemies of course) and hi5 got boring. It's a haven of information about our friends, family, and victims for grateful stalkers; it reminds us of birthdays, makes sure we stay connected and helps most to pretend to be completely different people, because on Facebook, you can be anyone you want.

Even after all the wide array of things that can be done using this network, it was quite surprising when people started using Facebook to promote businesses, advertise and sell products; specially in our little country. But it is happening, and as Brad Pitt said in Inglourious Basterds, “Business is a boomin'”, except instead of killing Nazis we are dealing out clothing, accessories and even food.

This all started happening about a year and a half back, in early 2011, with a few groups of people opening clothing shops and advertising their products solely through Facebook. Orders were made through wall posts and products were distributed by delivery. When they first opened, the pages showed a lot of promise and had quite a lot of customers. Companies like Waveshift, Red Rose Machine and a few others were catering to the clothing needs of the only age group who were rich and on Facebook all day: Teens. These companies became the pioneers and the industry rapidly developed afterwards.

What popped up after those were more clothing stores (pages). Designs were altered, competition increased, prices were slashed, special offers came into play. After a few more weeks, more people caught on, and as customers increased, our teenage “businessmen and women” took heed.

Tons of more pages surfaced and now, we have quite a good collection of Facebook pages selling not only t-shirts with funny messages, but every clothing article possible, as well as accessories, posters, watches, games, electronics, and cake.

The clothing section is by far the most developed with Waveshift and Red Rose still there and new competitors like Overture, Hardstyle Revolution, D'zine, Style lab, Rollout Clothing, etc, vying for the customers' attention.

They all follow the basic methods of any other Facebook shop, which is that orders are made by wallposts, customers leave their contact number, and a spot is fixed for delivery. Some even have special offers and contests to boost market share (likes).

When asked why Facebook, Safwan Rezvi, owner and founder of Hardstyle Revolution said, “Half of our lives are spent on Facebook. So if people want to reach us, the common consumers, it's the best place to grab attention; and we, as marketers can do it free of cost, which reduces our expenses.” A representative of Rollout Clothing agreed with Safwan about the cost-saving but added that, “A Facebook page helps us to communicate with our customers on a more personal level which we would like to single out as most important i.e. relationship-building.”

Most of these t-shirt stores design their products as they please, and as best as they can do to win over consumers.

There are a few unique stores which cater to very specific needs, like Arif Hossain's COMICICON which obviously sells products only related to comics and that particular culture. They've been in business for a while and so far they've made quite a bit of progress, sealing deals with certain shops and Bashundhara City's Cineplex to further promote the clothing line. Unlike most online shops, they've got a store up and running in Bashundhara and plan to open more soon.

Stores like Style Lab however, take a different perspective. They order and ship in products from other countries and thus sell only branded items. This particular page harbours not just branded t-shirts and jeans, but watches, shoes, hats, shades and anything your regular Dhakaiya fashionista would want. The downside is that customers are over-charged due to the shipping costs and other variables, but whether they are branded items or creativity induced with a deshi touch, they all sell like hot cakes despite the high prices.

What else sells like hot cakes on Facebook? Hot cakes. Pages like Hooray4cupcakes,The Secret Ingredient (TSI) and CherryBlossom Cupcakes have been up and running for a while, posting pictures of amazing baked goods on Facebook and making everyone's stomach a little heavier and their wallets a little lighter.

These pages have the same deal going, but with baked products, and what's great is that it's not just some dude with Instagram taking a snapshot of his first non-burnt cake. These are photos of beautifully made and decorated goodies taken by what seems like professionals. Although every monkey out there has a DSLR now, considering the amount of orders and likes these pages get, it wouldn't be wrong to say that these people actually use them pretty well.

The only problem with these stores is that there are too many choices for your appetite and wallet to agree with. Hooray4cupcakes says, “The response so far has been very positive. People here in Bangladesh have a sweet tooth and like to try new things.”

If you're looking for cupcakes, that's the page to contact, but if you want something larger and more filling (we mean, fattening) go for the ones at The Secret Ingredient. This page offers cakes, brownies and much more at affordable prices. It has a few items which your average Cooper's or Mr. Baker doesn't supply. Sharmeen Shehabuddin, Executive Pastry Chef and Managing Director of TSI said, ““We often come up with up with our own recipes or add a twist to old favourites, so as long as there's creativity, we'll be around.” She also mentioned the positive response, “We've had offers to open up stores, but for the time being, we prefer our online platform. This way we avoid waste and our customers get freshly-baked goodies every single time.”

One section yet to be truly explored is home décor, in the sense that there is just the one page selling posters and that is Bullfrog Creations. The monopoly might be a huge advantage to them, but the impressive thing is that with the increasing amount of customers lining up for posters, they have not become inefficient. Rather they've improved, added more choices and are catering to almost every age group on Facebook. They also do custom-made posters provided your photo fits the scales. In short, even if they weren't the only ones in this business, they'd still be the best to turn to.

Facebook is a pretty amazing tool, if properly utilised. Just like our brains. These entrepreneurs and businessmen and women are no older than you and I, and that's an amazing feat. The youth of our nation isn't as “unsmart” as our parents make us out to be. We can be great when we want to be. From founders of online shops to (hopefully and not far fetched at all) owners of Trump-like buildings all over Dhaka. Here's to us.




 

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