There is no shortage of statistics about how connected consumers are today.
As Internet access shifts from stationary locations like home, work or school environments to on-the-go, anytime connectivity, this opens the door to brands engaging with consumers in new ways along the path to purchase and leveraging emerging tools like social media networks as they do so. As a result, social media platforms are becoming more confident in monetizing their reach in the commerce experience, especially as the world’s social media base passes the 2.0 billion user milestone. Increasingly, commerce is being inserted into the normal course of the conversation on platforms all around the world.
Although this convergence of social and payments first gained traction in Asia Pacific and only in recent years has been duplicated in other parts of the world, social commerce continues to manifest itself in different ways depending upon the individual market. There is the potential for social media platforms to be leveraged for potential marketing benefits, as well as a lucrative sales channel.
Consumers are slowly migrating purchases to this new channel with 25 percent of online global survey respondents in Euromonitor International’s Hyperconnectivity Survey reporting have made a purchase through a social media website. It is important to note that these results reflect the broader global population as there are two main outliers: Those under the age of 30 and emerging market consumers. Both population subsets are more likely to engage with brands and make purchases via social networks. In fact, three to four times as many consumers in markets like China and India reported having made a purchase on a social media network as compared with consumers in markets like the U.K. or U.S. Part of the reason for these geographic differences is due to where the market is in its s social commerce maturation cycle, but another factor would be the players involved.
One of the first places where social networks converged with commerce occurred in Asia Pacific.
These Chinese social media landscape have witnessed a surging expansion in recent years. Increasingly, more users are beginning to take a pragmatic and practical approach to time spent online. Companies like Alibaba have driven the convergence of commerce and social in this emerging market. The Asian tech giant possesses a diverse portfolio of online businesses and have been initiating aggressive marketing and pricing strategies. For fashion-driven, middle-class Chinese consumers, social media has become a gateway to discount-focused online retailers, especially in segments, such as luxury clothing, accessories and electronics. In another example, WeChat, a popular chat application in China, can be used to hail a taxi, order food delivery, buy movie tickets, pay utility bills and even book a doctor’s appoint all in a single, integrated app. This go-to social media platform for Chinese consumers illustrates the more advanced functioning that exists in social platforms across Asia Pacific as compared with other parts of the world.
Given that the demand for social media shopping is high among Chinese consumers and local companies own the entire social commerce cycle, implementing social commerce has been an easier process than it has been for others like those in the West.
In general, Western social media players have been less confident about the introduction of purchasing tools, as well as have less of an understanding of the potential to leverage social media in the customer engagement process to build genuine relationships with end-consumers. Only in recent years have Western players, such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, begun to make strides with regard to social commerce. The first step for many of these social media platforms has been the embracing of buy-now buttons as a way to turn their social media networks into shopping malls. These efforts from Western social media players will likely be a major driver in propelling social commerce further in 2016 and add to the social commerce success in Asia Pacific.