Retail in Asia

In Trends

What is social shopping like from Facebook to WeChat

Social media platforms are well on their way to becoming established channels for ecommerce.

SEE ALSO: Into the minds of Hong Kong’s online shoppers

This is especially true in Asia, where integrated social, retail and communication sites are well ahead of the global trend when it comes to blurring the lines between socialising and shopping.

What Alibaba has accomplished is a prime example for social shopping. Once a simple online marketplace, Alibaba is now bringing social entertainment to the online retail experience via special interest chat groups where users can share product information and recommendations, plus live-streamed videos featuring interactive product testing and tips. The business reports that thanks to innovations like these, users are now launching Alibaba’s Taobao app an average of seven times per day.

Indeed, the rise of social shopping is intrinsically tied to the explosive growth of mobile devices. Consumers today, especially the younger generation, increasingly connect to people and information via mobile apps rather than through the traditional web browser; opting to read the news, talk with friends and shop on an app.

Data from Worldpay has found that 71 percent of shoppers globally use mobile apps to make purchases, and the leading reason for this is speed and simplicity.

With consumers increasingly interacting with the online world via mobile phones and social apps, it’s now becoming an imperative for retailers to leverage the power of social platforms. Merchants today need a powerful strategy to drive real purchase opportunities via social – or they will be left behind.

Social shopping is most effective when it’s tailored to the platform in question. Here’s a quick glance at what social shopping looks like across five of the most popular social networking sites in Asia Pacific:


Instagram recently launched long-form video capabilities, yet another sign that Instagram is well on its way to becoming an established ecommerce channel.

By supporting its users with the ability to create and watch full-length videos optimized for mobile viewing, the social networking service is opening up new ways to showcase merchandise consumers want.

For retailers, this is an important opportunity to engage with potential customers via a social platform.

Instagrammers are already used to the idea of purchasing goods online and the potential of delivering video adverts that link directly to products can only increase their inclination to buy.

SEE ALSO: Instagram stories, new shopping windows


A pioneer in social shopping, Facebook has always pointed the way forward in how to integrate ads, retail opportunities and social moments in one place. One key example is the Facebook Store app, which merchants can set up with just a few click and enable users to purchase products without ever leaving the Facebook app.

This kind of integrated social, shopping and payment experience is key, because APAC consumers are some of the most likely in the world to abandon their online shopping carts. With frictionless browsing, buying and payments on a social platform like Facebook which consumers know and love, retailers will have a better chance of conversion.

SEE ALSO: Koreans ditch Facebook for Instagram


After introducing a series of augmented reality tools in late 2017, Snapchat is again making a big bet on the future of AR and mobile with a new shoppable AR experience.

There are three basic features for social shopping – a ‘website’ feature that takes consumers directly to a promotional or sign-up page with the touch of a button; a ‘video’ feature so users can watch a quick trailer or how-to video; and an ‘install’ feature which helps users quickly install a brand’s app.

As Snapchat continues to explore the possibility of an AR dressing room experience, retailers will no doubt be watching closely to see what the social network will offer next.

SEE ALSO: Retailers: Should your business be on Snapchat?


In China, nearly one in three WeChat users are already using the messaging app to make purchases.

Retailers can create shoppable ads, while consumers themselves are accustomed to sharing purchase links and QR codes within social chat groups.

Of course, a major facilitator of social shopping on WeChat is the presence of the app’s own payment service, WeChat Pay – giving shoppers a seamless, secure, one-click payment experience.

Merchants on WeChat are also adept at continuing the shopping journey even after payment, by sending users custom discounts and links to social games they might enjoy based on their purchase.

SEE ALSO: Luxury on WeChat : The keys to succeed in 2018

Facebook Messenger

While technically a subset of Facebook, retailers have much to gain by looking at Facebook Messenger as its own social channel with its own unique opportunities for social commerce.

Facebook Messenger helps brands use bots to communicate with customers and get sales via the ‘buy’ button integrated into the app. Brands can even pay to deliver sponsored ads to users – so long as they’ve engaged with the brand in the past.

Removing the friction between communicating and shopping, Facebook Messenger is well on its way to driving a new wave of ‘conversational commerce’.

SEE ALSO: 70% of online Japanese fashion sales through mobile phones

As the future of online retail evolves, social networks will no doubt continue to play an important role in how we shop online.

Merchants wishing to capitalize on the possibilities of social shopping must remember two key values – fun, and convenience. When browsing and buying feel like an enjoyable, natural extension of social media, consumers will be more likely to complete their purchase and come back for more.