Covid-19 changed the way we purchase products and services. We have found new ways to buy our favourite brand or our groceries, not only to fulfil our basic needs but often as an antidote to boredom. During periods of lockdown, social media emerged as a key form of communication, opening an opportunity for retailers to accelerate the development of social commerce in the APAC region. China continues to lead the world in social commerce. In 2021, it was projected to generate $363 billion in sales
les, up 36 per cent, year on year, accounting for 13 per cent of total e-commerce sales. This market-leading position can primarily be attributed to the sheer scale of China’s domestic market as well as the prevalent adoption of mobile payments among digital shoppers. Social commerce across Australia, India, and Southeast Asia mirrors China’s trajectory, with each market showing promising growth in social commerce adoption. According to eMarketer, China and Australia are within the top three countries by social buyers as a percentage of internet users. In Australia, new payment methods are making online shopping, especially transactions on social media, faster and easier. According to the PayPal Australia 2021 e-commerce Annual Index, a quarter of Australians made a purchase through a social media platform last year. In those under 40, this figure jumped to 1 in 3. These social shoppers are spending more than $100 a month, mostly on Facebook (70 per cent) or Instagram (47 per cent). This growth was largely driven by Covid-19. Facebook and Instagram’s dominance of the social commerce market share in Australia stems largely from their established user bases. Facebook’s market-leading position is in part due to the sheer volume of traffic it generates, accounting for 65 per cent of all social media traffic to Shopify. Facebook also had the earliest start in the commerce space, dating back to 2014 when it introduced its Buy Now button. Instagram has more recently emerged as an influential discovery engine for brands. It is gaining popularity with younger shoppers and is attracting the highest order value, averaging $65, much higher than the $25 Australian average. The ability to buy directly from the Shops tabs has yet to launch on Facebook or Instagram in Australia; currently users are linked to the seller’s website for checkout. The growth of social spending in Australia is reliant on partnerships like Shopify and tools such as Facebook Pay or Snapchats shoppable augmented reality experience, both available in Australia to offer brands new ways to reach customers on social channels and showcase their products on another level. The first-party data that can be created from in-app purchases is a highly attractive opportunity, enabling brands to create engagement-based audiences such as people who have viewed products, added items to cart, or completed purchases. These audiences will become invaluable as local regulatory changes enforcing data privacy prompt Australian businesses to rethink their targeting methods. In India, social commerce is now taking off, thanks to the growth in the number of Indian smartphone users. Although e-commerce adoption still trails social media usage by a significant margin, there is a real opportunity for local and global platform owners to bridge the gap and integrate e-commerce solutions on popular social platforms. India’s social commerce sector is projected to double the size of the current e-commerce market within 10 years, growing by as much as $70 billion in gross market value by 2030. Homegrown social resale platforms are among the fastest-growing social commerce platforms in India. A handful of free-to-use platforms, such as GlowRoad, Shop 101, Meesho, Bulbul, and SimSim target the growing number of mobile users, anointing them as resale agents. The platforms provide users with the infrastructure and tools necessary to make sales, including an inventory of wide-ranging products sourced from suppliers at wholesale prices; logistical services; and smooth integration with WhatsApp, Facebook, Instagram, and other social-media channels. Equipped with the tools, the resellers share selected products on their personal social media accounts. The platforms pass orders to suppliers who fulfil the orders through their logistics partners. These apps have proven to be a major game changer for the Indian market, enabling just about anyone to start a business. Live shopping emerges A regional trend that has emerged in 2021, specifically in China, with expected growth into 2022, is live shopping. Live-selling, or livestream shopping, is a logical convergence of several trends: video streaming, influencers, growth of social platforms, and e-commerce. The trend offers companies and their brands a new path to consumers’ hearts and wallets by allowing viewers to chat in real time with influencers and make purchases. Platforms will lean into this trend, building new tools that embed social commerce into the video experience. In China, live streaming is projected to reach $300 billion by the end of 2021, accounting for 13 per cent of total e-commerce sales.1 The frequency with which shoppers are purchasing from live sales will only continue to increase, with influencers leaning in and leveraging the interactive nature of live social events. Millennials and Gen Z are the driving force behind this rising trend. In Vietnam, the Philippines, and Thailand, live shopping is also being championed by prominent local e-commerce platforms. Lazada was first to market in late 2018, with LazLive, an in-app live-selling feature that allows shoppers, brands, and sellers to interact in real time while enabling product demonstrations and purchasing. Shopee, another major Southeast Asian e-commerce platform, has also adopted a ‘see now, buy now’ feature, offering a closed loop for in-app purchases. The opportunity in live shopping has been further evidenced this year by Singapore-based social commerce platform Mdada.live and the launch of its live-streaming hub, the largest fully equipped studio in Southeast Asia. The hub features 11 studio spaces, each catering to a specific product category, such as beauty and haircare demonstrations, and live cooking stations. The rise of social commerce in APAC is encouraging, and diversification will be key to its growth. In Australia, 35 per cent of online businesses were active on social media in 2021, presenting significant growth opportunities particularly within health and beauty, digital or virtual goods, and clothing and accessories verticals.2 Social commerce’s share of consumer spending will ultimately hinge on the ability of key platforms Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, Pinterest,and Twitch to provide shoppers with a seamless user experience. Although live shopping isn’t expected to see a significant uptake, shoppable video will become a growing trend in Australia. Platforms will need to establish trust with brands and show ROI effectiveness to increase adoption amongst brands. The number of Australian consumers purchasing through social media is expected to increase to 6.4 million by 2024.