How Social Commerce Is Taking E-commerce To Bharat
Social commerce is also growing through the most traditional form of advertising-word of mouth and this is primarily enabled by the growing social media interactions
Social commerce is about making entrepreneurship accessible and easy for anyone to get on board. Social media inherently removes all barriers to entry for anyone to make a name. This is the entire basis to the huge growth we have been witnessing with influencer platforms where unknown faces become celebrities who are able to drive conversations; and even influencer buyer behavior.
When I started Shop101 in 2015, it was this vision and it has only amplified as the years have gone by—we wanted to democratize entrepreneurship, with social media at its core.
Interestingly, social commerce is also growing through the most traditional form of advertising—word of mouth and this is primarily enabled by the growing social media interactions. In this way, social commerce sellers or resellers as we like to call them are helping small- or medium-scale sellers build a digital marketplace for their products, including non-branded apparel, home items and local handicrafts. If you ask me, social commerce is also the way to go towards being an Atmanirbhar Bharat!
Social commerce is also about sharing and selling things which are relatable and something that provides consumers with the one thing that is often missing—trust. The end goal for anyone involved in social commerce is to eventually gain something we Indians yearn for—financial Independence and earn social standing and respect.
After the pandemic struck, social commerce on the whole has seen a huge spurt because we have also seen an uptick in the average monthly earnings. Individuals have found running a business online to be far more profitable than any other online job; with monthly earnings estimated in the range of INR 25,000-30,000 per month.
Most of the resellers hail from tier II and tier III cities and this has been the pattern, both before and after the pandemic. They've kept going and making their sales, irrespective of the lack of movement across cities.
It is estimated that by 2022, approximately 840 million people are going to have access to the internet. Based on this, we can say that around 60 per cent of the population is likely to own smartphones, making it easier to enter social commerce for their business.
In the longer run however, by giving social commerce sellers or resellers the option to go beyond the app to start creating their own brand will be the next stage in the evolution. This merging of one's social store and a digital presence they can call their own in the form of a website will add value to one's business and their identity in the long run.
Influence of social media
We are already aware of the power that social media has had in all of our lives. We also know how highly dynamic it is with technological changes, feature advancements, upgrades, that take place so regularly. These changes are made to deliver a resourceful and one of a kind customer experience.
That being said, consumer experiences and demands have been changing over the years and they have only become more challenging. This has made it difficult for companies and businesses to cope with the changing face of the market. Now, consumers mainly demand a one-stop shop where all their needs can be met. This is where social commerce comes in and has a huge part to play. It forms a connection between regular browsing on social media with the demand of online shopping and that connection is in essence the reseller. So the reseller becomes the one stop shop. Which is why social commerce platforms are also evolving their own CRM's which resellers can use to be in regular touch with customers.
In fact over 90 per cent of small and medium businesses are run on WhatsApp which is more than the activity on bigger reselling platforms. A platform like WhatsApp even encourages forwarding and reading messages at a faster rate than other social networking sites. That is more than 10 times the number who sell on major ecommerce sites.
How can Bharat impact the e-commerce industry?
With an expanding customer base social commerce is a viable channel to take the e-commerce industry from metros to the hinterlands. We're tapping into India's vast unorganized market of suppliers and manufacturers in tier II, III and IV cities. There are an estimated 50-60 million sellers across the country as per our research; and one needs to keep sellers in the mix to make sense of social commerce. The insights from these geographies will help startups to understand consumer behaviour better and deploy newer strategies in "Bharat', where most e-commerce players still find it tough to gain a loyal audience base.
Logistics and payments as a key enabler
While there is a lot of talk of social commerce—logistics and payments are key enablers to this ecosystem. Since pickups and drops happen from tier II and tier III cities; it is imperative to have a strong logistics network with multiple partners for the maximum reach.
This can be solved by building intelligent systems which can track return to origin parcels, artificial intelligence/machine learning algorithms to trace incorrect addresses, a more seller friendly cash on delivery process and more proactive ways to track shipments. A good technology enabled social commerce platform should be able to seamlessly work with multiple shipping companies to offer choice and the lowest costs for pickups and shipments to far off places. That is an opportunity technologists like us are working towards.
Addressing logistics and payments first could hold the key in deeper penetration since India is still largely driven by cash for online purchases.