Can social commerce catch on outside of China?

It might sound like a small deal. But some social commerce companies are empowering local businesses in big ways.

September 8, 2020

Photo Credit: Carlina Teteris

Look around the world, and Instagram Shopping — which lets you buy a pair of fish flops without leaving the platform — looks like child’s play.

In China, ecommerce giants like Pinduoduo sell to 683m people through livestreams and messaging apps. But so-called social commerce (the meeting of social networks and ecommerce) hasn’t caught fire elsewhere.

Next stop: India? 

Last year, the India-based social commerce platform, Meesho, raised $125m to get small businesses in India selling on WhatsApp and Instagram. 

WhatsApp now has 400m+ users in India — and experts say the platform could soon be the next frontier for the hybridization of messaging and payment systems.

Does social commerce actually matter? 

It sounds bland: Instead of clicking between Amazon and Instagram, now they’re in one place. But the potential of social commerce is way bigger.

Take Shihuituan, a Chinese e-grocer that uses WeChat to organize buyers into groups. The company recruits “community leaders” in rural areas who buy on behalf of ~100 customers each.

Use cases like this can help regular people get bulk discounts on shipments — and help level the playing field for small businesses.

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