When it comes to social commerce or ‘shopper-tainment’, the valuations of this burgeoning space can fluctuate wildly. One report claimed that social experiences will directly influence US$42 billion of e-commerce sales in Southeast Asia by the end of 2022. On the other hand, another report claimed that this could be a US$1 trillion opportunity in APAC by 2025. Social commerce is defined as any form of e-commerce that is influenced heavily by real-time communications, authenticity, trust and
nd community. A refresher Social platforms such as TikTok, Line, WhatsApp, Facebook and Instagram are popular within the APAC region. These messaging apps can incorporate product listings, checkouts, payment features and live chat options. Furthermore, live video is becoming an integral part of the experience for buyers and sellers to digitally recreate a face-to-face purchase experience. Moreover, these digital platforms are leveraging the social dynamics of communities to drive commerce. The TikTok revolution TikTok is perhaps the best example of this archetype in Southeast Asia. It offers a full feature in-app e-commerce store, or virtual shop fronts for brands. While Meta also offers shops on Facebook and Instagram, TikTok now offers checkouts and payments within the app. “The rise of TikTok Shop in 2022 has been phenomenal. Despite being just over a year old in Indonesia, the channel has become a larger share of sales for some brands than Shopee or Tokopedia,” Simon Torring, co-founder of Cube Asia, told Inside Retail. Southeast Asia has one of the world’s highest rates of social media engagement, with 90 per cent internet users having signed up with platforms such as Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, WhatsApp, Line, and Zalo. An estimated 55 per cent of internet users in Indonesia and Thailand are making online purchases on these platforms, spending on average US$100 and US$180 per user per year, respectively for the two countries. Conversational commerce Line is a good example of the combined power of e-commerce and chat messaging. On this app, sellers and buyers can have real-time conversations that cover product evaluation, selection and also payment steps. The social aspect of this can digitally recreate the experience of buying a product in a physical store where customers can interact with the store staff. With automated messages that connect users to real staff members, a seamless and highly personalised purchase experience is on offer. Live shopping Indonesia is the largest live shopping market in the APAC region with around US$5 billion in estimated sales this year. “One thing that’s remarkable in 2022 is that experiences such as live shopping, which became hugely popular during the pandemic when consumers were locked down at home, have sustained interest and traffic even after consumers have returned to the offline world,” Torring said. He believes this demonstrates that the shift in e-commerce to be more social was not a temporary change during the pandemic. “It reflects a more fundamental consumer desire for all e-commerce experiences to be enriching and more personal,” he noted. For brands and retailers, this should give them confidence that investments they make in technology or capabilities for social commerce today will continue to pay back for a long time. Traditionally, Facebook has been the leading host platform for live shopping streams in Southeast Asia. But along with fellow Meta platform Instagram, it is now seeing increasing competition from TikTok, which is taking up a significant share of the market. Shopee Live and Lazada Live are also encroaching on these platforms, too. Independent sellers are the biggest segment in the live shopping space, as they get their products from wholesalers, like AliExpress. Many of these independent sellers have a presence on Shopee and Lazada. But the real breakout story of social commerce this year has been TikTok. Best practices from China TikTok, or Douyin as it is known in China, has taken a starkly different approach from Meta. Its integrated e-commerce engine makes TikTok Shop more engaging and conversion oriented. Cross-border commerce is supercharged, with many live sellers in China setting up dedicated streams for Southeast Asian markets and quoting prices in local currencies. The rise of community group buying initiatives in the Southeast Asia market is another China-derived trend. WeBuy is a good example of a community group buying platform in Southeast Asia. When a new deal is launched on the WeBuy website, group leaders broadcast the deal to their local communities via WhatsApp. Interested buyers can make a purchase, have it delivered to the group leader’s address and pick it up later. This trend is picking up in popularity in markets like Indonesia, where apps such as Kitabeli and Evermos are being used to accelerate e-commerce adoption. The future, according to Torring, will see the overlap between social and e-commerce continue to grow. Messaging, live video, and other forms of entertainment will become increasingly immersed in online purchase journeys. “Other social and messaging platforms will follow TikTok’s lead to integrate e-commerce functionality. It will be particularly interesting to follow how Facebook and Instagram follow the challenge from TikTok,” he concluded.