A Social Revolution for the E-Commerce Industry
By Rishabh Luthra
“SOCIAL COMMERCE”, a term coined by Yahoo! in 2005 has taken the world by storm. The Global Web Index associated one’s use of social media with his/her eagerness to purchase. Even without us realising, it has become an integral part of our daily lives. A lot of advancements are done under this segment as it is touted to be the future of the E-Commerce industry. Before delving deeper into the topic, let’s first understand what Social Commerce is.
1. What is Social Commerce
Social commerce, in its literal sense, is conducting commercial operations over social media. It is a part of e-commerce. But, unlike e-commerce, where buyers need to browse through different pages in order to complete their purchase, social commerce simplifies the process into different steps. Social commerce uses networking websites such as Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, and Twitter as vehicles to promote and sell products and services. This model moves social media beyond its traditional role by encouraging users to complete the entire purchase process without leaving their preferred apps.
2. Why Social Commerce
E-commerce refers to the trade of commodities over an online network. This model is convenient but has a lot of flaws. Over 50% of all internet traffic is from smartphones and mobile devices, and these users have a much higher cart abandonment rate than desktop users. As buyers shift to the small screen for everyday purchases, briefing the checkout process is key. This is where social commerce has a major advantage over conventional e-commerce. It removes the drop-off points and all the commotion resulting in deserted transactions.
Social commerce ensures bilateral communication between customers and sellers. This not only provides a more comprehensive customer engagement to the business but also gives them the opportunity to use social media as an efficient customer service channel where it’s possible to solve problems.
Social commerce provides consistent audience growth to its business. Every day, thousands of users join these social media platforms and millions of people are already active on them. Thus, the target audience for the businesses engaged in social commerce is expanding vigorously every moment.
3. How it Works
It follows a very simple model where sellers list their products on social media apps. They use different marketing techniques over these platforms to increase the presence of their product in the global space. Then, buyers browse through the products online on Instagram, Facebook, etc. and if they like it, they contact the seller over the platform and buy the product from the app itself without going anywhere else.
Social commerce engages buyers under three verticals:
1. Content-driven: Unique content created by brands, influencers, or individuals drives authentic discovery, engagement, and action. For example, social media users are discovering new goods and experiences via shoppable posts and in-app stores on YouTube, Facebook, and Instagram to name a few.
2. Experience-driven: These experience-driven channels enable shopping with an overall involvement, most commonly live to stream, but could also include AR / VR experiences or gaming. This forms a complete journey of an interactive shopping experience.
3. Network-driven: People are harnessing their existing social networks to buy and/or sell. This implies that people are either getting together to procure bulk discounts or individuals are using their influence and network to inflate sales and earn commissions. India’s Meesho has a strong network of 13 million+ entrepreneurs, who connect with their customers on social media platforms such as WhatsApp.
Source- What is Social Commerce? (2022). Why the future of shopping is set for a social revolution. Retrieved from https://www.accenture.com/us-en/insights/software-platforms/why-shopping-set-social-revolution.
4. Social Commerce- Indian Scenario
India’s social commerce market, measured at $800 million, is largely driven by social media platforms such as Instagram, Facebook, WhatsApp, Trell, and Chingari. These platforms dominate 65% of the social commerce market in India and the rest lies with e-commerce-led platforms such as Meesho, GlowRoad, Dealshare, and Shop101. India is expected to have 228 million native social commerce consumers by the end of 2022, according to a study conducted by Recogn.
Some factors contributing to the growth of social commerce in India are-
- Pandemic – The global pandemic has underlined the importance of “connection” and has forced us to adapt and connect in many new ways. Lockdowns shifted people from the workspace to their homes, increasing their social presence substantially. This became a major driving factor in the growth of social commerce in India.
- Distinct abilities of social media- The major reasons behind the increase in social commerce are the abilities of social media platforms to modify the interactive experience by having buying and selling groups, as well as messaging, video sharing, and photo-sharing features making online socialising and shopping highly compatible. Companies have also been adding several features to enable brands to sell online, and for shoppers to discover goods online.
- Increasing preference for online shopping- Due to pandemic restrictions, consumers shifted to online shopping as opposed to stepping outside. This changed the whole trend of purchases made by buyers. Their preferences shifted to an online medium from previously shopping offline. This led to an increase in the social commerce industry in India.
- Widening social media influence- Social commerce is becoming the next-gen tool for Indian manufacturers, with the majority of millennials buying products sparked by social media influencers. This moves customers to follow people in order to stay updated about the trends and fashion in the industry. E-commerce players are making significant efforts to build their social media presence, adapt digitisation and promote products on these platforms to reach the younger generation.
- Influencer Marketing- Collaborating with a social influencer is one of the reasons that brands are able to reach target consumers, who pay attention to specialised content and may be ready to shop. This is because the quality of the audiences that influencers cater to, tends to be better, with a higher potential for a like-minded tight-knit community of shoppers eager to take recommendations from one another.
5. Impact of Social Commerce
- Evolving Business models- Due to the high growth rate of social commerce, various businesses have evolved their business strategies such as providing options of reselling and group buying, which was not common earlier in this segment. For example, Meesho, an India-based social commerce platform, follows a reselling model, wherein suppliers list their product catalogue on the app, and individual entrepreneurs/businesses connect with them via Facebook and WhatsApp for relevant purchases. The growth in social commerce has led Meesho to expand its native business model and expand its reach in this segment.
- Social commerce players vying for bigger market pie- Social commerce in India is witnessing two-sided value creation, from smooth customer social media shopping experience to the overall development of social commerce players. This has led to social commerce players, needing to get insights into social media to enable their brand development. This has led these social media platforms to become vulnerable to user data breaches.
Social commerce is increasing its foothold in the e-commerce segment at a tremendous pace, due to the changing consumer preference in recent times. This has made many famous social media companies imbibe a separate shopping function in their apps so that the sellers can list their products and follow the wave of social commerce. Social commerce has been beneficial for consumers, as they can buy products in one place, without scrolling through tabs and pages. Further, Covid-19 came as a boon for the social commerce industry, increasing its growth rate. With people stuck at home, they started spending more time on these social media apps and making purchases. All these changes boosted the growth of social commerce and allied industry in this segment.
- Chatterjee, A. (2022, January 6). Social Commerce to grow three times as fast as traditional e-commerce: Accenture. Return to frontpage. Retrieved from https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/technology/social-commerce-to-grow-three-times-as-fast-as-traditional-e-commerce-accenture/article38143223.ece
- Dollarhide, M. (2022, March 27). What is Social Commerce? Investopedia. Retrieved from https://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/social-commerce.asp
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