By Vineet Rao
India is now home to over 40,000 start-ups, and hundreds of start-ups are springing up every day, many of which are aimed at mass India or Bharat. Most of these emerging start-ups are betting on the rise of digital and smartphone penetration across the country, data access and comfort level with mobile apps, thanks to social media and entertainment apps. , to launch digital products and services for Bharat.
A key theme that has emerged among start-ups and direct-to-consumer (D2C) brands is social commerce – effectively using social media channels and virality-based models to grow the business. According to reports, India has over 160 million social shoppers, accounting for over 53% of the overall online shopping pie. The social commerce market in India is currently valued at over $800 million and is expected to grow to $16-20 billion by 2025 and $60-70 billion by 2030.
Unfortunately, many brands make the mistake of copying Western or Chinese solutions, or just extending solutions that have worked in Indian metros. This approach is doomed to failure. However, several social commerce companies have made online shopping easy, reliable and fun for new users of Bharat on the Internet.
As the masses have become comfortable with WhatsApp and Instagram, these have become effective channels for online shopping. Customers love to recommend products and offers to family members and friends on WhatsApp. The conversations that happen later, related to “what to buy” or “it’s so cheap,” help brands drive word-of-mouth advertising and viral marketing. Brands are taking advantage of this by launching several “share and earn” rewards and incentives. A new customer is also more likely to buy if the recommendation comes from a trusted source in their network.
Since consumers are so familiar with social media, designing the app as a simple “vertical scroll” feature of a social media newsfeed works wonders. Additionally, the inclusion of vernaculars, bold iconography, and vibrant colors further heighten the experience of the app.
Delivery and prices
Logistics, especially last mile delivery, is a challenge in small towns. Brands can partner with local entrepreneurs, community leaders, and small logistics providers to enable low-cost, on-time delivery. The hub-and-spoke approach and local product sourcing from regional vendors helps to alleviate this problem. It will also help brands run lean and capital-efficient operations.
It is crucial to be very aware of customers’ needs and to build a sharp assortment that meets their shopping needs, both from a category and brand perspective. Businesses should partner with high-quality regional and local brands as well as national brands to offer the most relevant assortment. Observing customers’ shopping habits by visiting local stores and conducting group discussions goes a long way in gathering in-depth consumer insights. Additionally, brands will need to focus on price and aim to offer their assortment at or below local store prices – a key factor in attracting customers.
Enabling cash-on-delivery or QR code payment systems at the time of delivery helps alleviate consumer fears related to online transactions and purchases. Even in small towns, people are comfortable with Google Pay, Paytm or PhonePe, making it an easy solution to increase conversions.
Although these are proven models, they do not guarantee success. Building social commerce for Bharat requires thorough research, empathy for the masses, a customer-focused approach, and a relentless pursuit of customer satisfaction at every step. If brands and organizations can make this their top priority, then the opportunities for creating and growing social commerce in Bharat are truly limitless.
The author is Founder and CEO, DealShare
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