Some of the biggest social networks now offer options to browse collections, view products and make purchases from within their apps.
With the majority of digital users' eyeballs trained on social media, apps now offer users the option of shopping while they scroll. Earlier this year, Kantar IMRB released a report on digital adoption and user trends in India. The report mentioned an estimate - by the end of 2019, the number of internet users in the country will reach approximately 627 million. When the report was released in May this year, the figure stood at 433 million.
A Statista article states that by the end of 2018, India accounted for almost 300 million Facebook users - that's more users than from any other country in the world. With the introduction of Reliance Jio, data packs became cheaper and more accessible to a wider pool of Indians. A young digital population, especially in rural areas, adapted easily to YouTube. The article also mentions that smartphones are increasingly becoming the primary screen for Indian customers. This indicates that smartphones and applications that come with it become the principal source of news and information for roughly 35 per cent of the country's internet users - a majority of whom use one or more social networks.
The apps mentioned above - Facebook, YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat offer users an opportunity to shop using their platforms. The user now has the opportunity to browse different products, compare prices, and make purchases using the platform - hence giving the user a 'social' shopping experience.
Social shopping is in its nascent stages in India. Currently, there are shopping options available on Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and YouTube. Currently, on all of the above social mediums (except YouTube), the user can browse products on the social platform, but will be taken to the brand's page/app to complete the transaction. In the US, Instagram is testing a version of the app that will allow the user to complete the transaction, without leaving the app. Here's a detailed look at how each of them offers users a social shopping experience.
Facebook has had a marketplace offering in India since early 2018. The marketplace is a common virtual ground where users can upload photos of products they are looking to sell and other Facebook users can buy it from them, in a one-on-one transaction.
Over email, Siddharth Banerjee, director, global sales organisation, Facebook India, explained the shopping experience on Instagram in detail - “Instagram is the home for people’s passions and this enables brands to engage with this passionate set, to achieve their business objectives. Brands are particularly using influencers, Instagram’s interactivity tools like Polls and AR filters, and delivering impact in doing so," he says.
Over e-mail, he mentions that shopping is happening on Instagram today, as people click on organic shopping posts from brands on Instagram Feed or Stories. These posts are normally a photo on the brand's feed - through which the product is tagged in the post itself. "When people click on such product stickers, they are taken to a product page that has more details on the product, as well as links to the business website where users can purchase the product," he says.
Checkout for Instagram enables a user to buy a product without leaving the app, but is currently in closed beta for businesses and available only to people in the US.
Banerjee adds that people also discover products and services through Instagram Explore. "The discovery-based nature of shopping on Instagram Explore creates a medium for brands of all sizes to connect with their audiences. Explore’s Shopping channel makes it easy for people to discover products that they are interested in and also showcases posts from businesses that the person may not be following yet. Our teams work closely with businesses to share the latest and best practices of our platforms. This includes the various ways in which they can use our platforms to engage with their audiences, both organically and via advertising," he concludes. He also mentions that globally, more than 140 million businesses use their apps (Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp) every month and that 90 per cent of Instagram users follow a business page.
In 2018, Snapchat teamed up with Amazon to allow users to shop for products using the augmented reality enabled Snapchat Lens. Users could point their camera at a product and choose the scan option. The camera would then throw up a link to a similar product from Amazon, to allow the user to make the purchase without having to leave the app.
YouTube has offered shopping ads on its app since November 2019. In a blog post, the company mentioned that users coming to YouTube to browse and research products may see visual Shopping ads, based on their interest. This means if a consumer expresses an interest in running, they could see ads from retailers that offer running apparel, like PUMA, highlighting different products and prices. Additionally, YouTube has created video ads that are more interactive, giving viewers useful and actionable information like store location, interest forms and additional calls-to-action to help brands drive more conversions.