Before they can move on to prioritizing features like these, brands and platforms in Western markets, where social commerce is less mature, need to focus on getting the basics right.
In other more mature markets, notably in Asia, we’re already seeing social commerce features and shoppable moments being integrated much more seamlessly into consumers’ everyday lives. And it’s clear that in markets where this has already happened, social commerce really takes off.
Ahead of the curve in some markets…
What does this look like? Take China. There, social shopping can happen in many ways. A consumer might buy directly from an official WeChat account while chatting with friends, or in one of WeChat or Alipay’s “mini programs” for a brand that has advertised in a friend’s social circle. Entertainment and shopping are fully integrated too. A Chinese consumer watching a livestream on Taobao Live can directly add a product to their cart and check out. Or they might follow a friend’s recommendation to join a group to buy a product at a discount on Pinduoduo.
China’s social commerce experience is ahead of the curve. In other markets, where brands and platforms have yet to provide integrated experiences, we’re seeing consumers who are so eager for social commerce that they’re willing to jump through a number of hoops to engage and make it happen.
…informal workarounds in others…
An example of this type of informal workaround came from a shopper we spoke to in Brazil: she told us that she watches Instagram stories from a local clothing store, sends screenshots of the items she likes to the store via WhatsApp, then receives a link to pay the store via Pix.
While all these hacks qualify as social commerce, they’re a long way from the seamless shopping experiences we see elsewhere. Imagine the potential that truly seamless experiences could unlock.
…so no room for one-size-fits-all approaches
As social commerce evolves to reach its full potential, it won’t follow the same path everywhere. While our research shows that basics like the quality of checkout experience and security are critical for all consumers, preferences vary across markets. That means that what it takes to succeed will differ from region to region.
Many factors are at play, all of them influencing the styles of social commerce that will appeal most (see graphic below). These adoption factors include current familiarity with social commerce, of course, but also the extent to which a market is mobile-first, consumer attitudes towards shopping, the existence of messenger app ecosystems, socio-economic conditions and many others.