Why being 'Instagrammable' is becoming the cost of doing business to get ahead

·3 min read
A customer takes a photo of the wall at Ayko Cafe. The wall is popular on Instagram, and the cafe said it attracts some customers wanting a selfie.  (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC News - image credit)
A customer takes a photo of the wall at Ayko Cafe. The wall is popular on Instagram, and the cafe said it attracts some customers wanting a selfie. (Gabriela Panza-Beltrandi/CBC News - image credit)

In the age of social media, businesses are learning that being 'Instagrammable' could help them get ahead.

Ayko Cafe opened on Edmonton's Jasper Avenue in January. Their unique wall, adorned with white kitchen wear, was quickly spotted by eagle-eyed photo enthusiasts.

"We had a very busy month when someone posted on TikTok, and people were coming to see us and to try our doughnuts and coffee," said owner Rita Collu.

She said the design was inspired by pictures she saw on Pinterest — another photo sharing website — but she didn't expect the wall to be a draw for customers.

Her business isn't the only one using social media to drum up business. Brew and Bloom Cafe & Floral Studio, also in Edmonton, was specifically designed as a photogenic space, according to the owners.

Cute cafes aren't the only Edmonton businesses focusing on adapting in the digital age. LaVie Academy is a school training medical estheticians.

The school is in Manchester Square, a shopping development at 107th Avenue and 120th Street that resembles a European street.

It's a popular place for photos. The school, whose target demographic is younger people, said they chose the location because it's a pretty backdrop for photos and TikToks.

"It was less about what is strategically easy for people to get to, more about what looks beautiful and what is going to attract attention on social media," explained director of operations Hira Fida.

She said part of their business plan is finding ways to stand out on social media. The school posts TikToks and Instagrams, and are looking at bringing in a selfie wall, beauty bar, and other eye-catching attractions.

"We're aiming to, number one, have a really esthetically pleasing location. We're aiming to have fun content, whether it's on TikTok or Instagram, to be able to kind of reach our ideal market," Fida said.

"Definitely Instagram and TikTok right now are our number one things that we think about every time we're doing some sort of business planning."

The square is a popular photo spot, according to businesses in the area. Janice Yeh and Mark Tabernilla visited to kill time and take photos for a family member's graduation.

They said they check sites like Instagram when planning to go out.

"Sometimes, I even just open Instagram and search the hashtag like #YEGeats or something, to be like 'What's the new place that I haven't been to or I haven't heard about?'" said Yeh.

More competition online

That's not a unique experience for consumers, according to Heather Thomson, executive director of the University of Albert's School of Retailing.

"We have this global market at our fingertips, literally. And so as consumers, we are just going to be spoiled by all this choice," Thomson said.

"[For businesses], esthetics are not a nice to have, they are a cost of staying in the game now."

She said consumers are picky about where they spend their time and money, and having an esthetically pleasing social media page could be the make or break between going to one business over another, especially for younger, more tech-savvy consumers.

"They are wanting to connect in an organic and authentic way, and Instagram is a huge part of that," Thomson said, adding if a space is photogenic more people will post pictures online, in turn, promoting businesses.

"All of a sudden people are doing your own marketing for you for free. And we're seeing this with murals in back alleys, we're seeing this with restaurants."

Thomson added nowadays, a business can sell a great product or experience, but without an online presence, customers will move on to the next, prettier place.

For cafes like Ayko, they brought in more decor and plan to hold events to keep customer interest in them, and their wall, growing.

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