By Deep Mehta
The pandemic has taught us a lot.
Learnings like – knowing that most meetings can take place online or be replaced by a simple email, employees can work completely remotely with robust processes in place to work within pajamas quite productively if they really wanted to. It also taught us that most of our shopping can be done entirely online and that is why the online retail market grew by 25% in fiscal year 2021.
While this gigantic growth was driven by need (since we were locked down anyway and couldn’t go to any local malls or stores), a much deeper shift in behavior took place among shoppers. People spent far more time on social media than they usually would, exposing themselves to a new way to explore new products and services, on their feeds! Many of us have subscribed to fitness programs on Facebook or Instagram and taken live sessions on the platform itself or over Zoom calls. Many of us have started receiving messages on tiffin services on whatsapp from nearby home setups. The restaurants were locked down so we relied on the Zomato & Swiggy ad that popped up immediately after, while watching foodgasm videos on YouTube. We used mom and pop shops on Instagram to deliver handmade gifts to our friends for their birthdays.
This is social commerce ladies and gentlemen!! It’s basically buying and selling through social media. During the pandemic, FnB brands that fall into the “essential” category have sold insane volumes! From healthy snacks and protein-rich ice cream to desserts and groceries, all have seen a nice uptick in sales, driven largely by social commerce. Now, post-pandemic, almost all are still seeing a steady influx of orders, through both organic and inorganic methods on social media. And the game has only just begun!
Whereas in the good old days it was limited to social media ads or simple promotional posts in your content timeline that directed users to purchase products through the brand’s website, tomorrow it will be quite advanced.
Other than ads, the most common method used for social commerce is selling through your email inbox or DMs. The personalization possible through DMs (or chatbots in other social commerce apps) is definitely a way to nurture your potential buyers and provide a great customer experience in the otherwise mundane online shopping journey through websites. based on models. Brands are slowly understanding this and as a result, the number of brands using Facebook Messenger chatbots to introduce new products to their fans/followers is also increasing.
We should see more businesses operating entirely through Whatsapp Business. Yes! Whatsapp Business lets you list your products and services, send your store URL to your contacts, and receive inquiries about specific products via chat. Now they also allow your customers to pay for these orders through WhatsApp UPI. Add Instagram/Facebook Shop to that, and you can specifically show your products as a real use case (in a shoppable post) and have users interact with them, learn about them. Going forward, we will definitely see huge additional traction as in-app payments are enabled by social platforms.
Today, you and I follow specific brands that we link to on our social media. We don’t mind seeing their products organically on our feeds, we don’t think that’s an advertisement! This is the kind of power of engagement that social commerce brings to the table. Customer engagement is essential and will drive commerce in the future. All of our favorite social media tools are evolving for exactly that purpose, can you feel it?
The news about Google’s investment in Meesho is sure to give a boost to social commerce in India. WeChat & Little Red Book are already making a lot of noise in China. We will definitely see such trends in India. Livestreaming and selling through influencers is upon us with platforms like Trell. We will also see augmented reality jump on the social commerce bandwagon very soon too. Imagine your favorite influencer styling her favorite scarf on a video, and you can try the same product via AR and purchase directly from the app. It is definitely going to be BIG in the future.
The certain and inevitable growth of social commerce due to the benefit of the customer engagement driven philosophy has only accelerated because of the pandemic. The e-commerce space is changing very rapidly and there is an exciting game to witness ahead of us.
-The author is co-founder, Digichefs. The opinions expressed are personal.