The future of s-commerce

china, ecommerce“Smartphones and social media expand our universe. We can connect with others or collect information easier and faster than ever.” – Daniel Goleman

While it has taken several years for buy buttons to be integrated within social platforms, the birth of social media has introduced consumers to products and brands that they may not have seen before through traditional advertising or marketing.

The launch and rapid growth of social media in society has been significant to the retail sector in highlighting the incredible power of peer recommendations and opinions on purchase behaviour, product discovery and inspiration.

62.5 per cent of the total Australian population now have an active Facebook account (15 million active Australian users) and last year a report by Ninth Decimal saw a 110 per cent increase over 12 months in the number of consumers who used smartphones for product research.

Social commerce has consequently continued to evolve over the past few years as consumer’s desire and expectations for products and services ‘on demand’ has grown.

Over the past few weeks we have been bringing you a weekly case study showcasing the latest innovative retail from around the world thanks to our partners at Ebeltoft Group. This week, as we reach the final case study from our top ten global innovators, we head to China and explore an interesting case of how an s-commerce platform is making waves in a saturated e-commerce market. And it’s not the stuff of fantasy, in fact far from it, let’s look at Weidian.

Weidian (launched in 2011) is a perfect blend of e-commerce platform and social network tool creating a great e-marketplace with a broad market (ages 20 to 50). Weidian provides a free marketplace hosting platform with a simple and user-friendly mobile application available on IOS and Android.

The Weidian application enables any user to open a store in less than one minute by uploading his or her ID and bank account information. The e-shop owner is then incentivised to engage numerous agents to maximise sales against a reasonable commission. Agents post the product page link on their social network account and drive traffic and conversion to the store. There are no legal or other qualification requirements to become an agent. The scheme is attractive for agents, as they are not responsible for any logistics or after-sales services.

Innovation is one way of building a strong competitive advantage. The traditional Chinese e-commerce model relies on third parties, who are in charge of traffic generation and promotion and get a commission on sales. Weidian proposes a disruptive model by using multiple third parties to promote products. Micro-shops now attract a new segment, which is not adequately addressed by the traditional big e-commerce players (brands and/or manufacturers that own a complete distribution model).

Weidian is seizing a huge market opportunity, as Chinese consumers like to rely on referrals in making their online purchases. Additionally, Weidian enables individual shop owners to use trusted free communication channels, such as Weibo and Wechat, which represent free sources of information for Chinese people.

The function, called “self-marketing,” enables sharing the store’s and products’ links via social networking, primarily on Wechat (equivalent to WhatsApp), which already has 600 million registered users in China. The success of this model can be seen in the statistics. The site covers more than 12 million micro e-shops, hosts 83 million visitors per month and made a revenue of 15 billion RMB in 2014.

Weidian has created a successful, innovative business model by integrating e-commerce and social networking. This system offers new business opportunities to anybody who wishes to become an agent and sell products online. The development of Weidian shows how the e-commerce model in China is being constantly reinvented. By providing users with an excellent user experience, Weidian has succeeded in reducing the influence of traditional big e-commerce players, demonstrating the strength of social media in China and its essential role in any digital marketing strategy in the country.

With digital purchases on the rise in 2016 and the customer journey to purchase increasingly beginning at a digital device, never underestimate the power of social media in your omnichannel strategy.

Brian Walker is founder and CEO of Retail Doctor Group and can be contacted at [email protected]

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