2015 has seen a flurry of announcements from Western social media giants regarding new ways to buy products on their platforms. Even messaging apps are moving into social commerce (s-commerce) to take advantage of what they believe is a perfect storm of strong global Internet penetration and consumer willingness to shop online. Unlike Chinese players that moved into s-commerce early, Western platforms have been cautious, fearful of scaring away users with aggressive marketing.
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Sufficiently strong mobile and fixed Internet penetration, high usage of social media, expansive adoption of online payment methods and a maturing e-commerce market globally are factors that underpin the lucrative potential of the emerging s-commerce landscape. Companies believe consumers are ready to buy goods from online social platforms.
Social media giants such as Twitter and Facebook are rolling out s-commerce solutions at the same time as mobile messaging apps including Line and WeChat. Success in the surging mobile retail market will depend on app ease of use, payment security and fruitful e-commerce partnerships.
With the rest of the world only now catching on, China has had a booming domestic s-commerce space for years. Its success has been underpinned by the integration (social platform>e-commerce site>payment tool) of the various channels into huge holding companies such as Tencent and Alibaba.
Engaging with the female consumer is vital. Females are strongly engaged with social media and are becoming decision-makers in purchases, especially in segments such as fashion and apparel.
Some of the biggest hurdles to s-commerce success include unlocking the elderly consumers, who are the weakest users of social media and apps, as well as gaining access to emerging markets with weak digital landscapes.