Welcome to the first blog in Sorted’s China’s superpowered CX series. This little content quartet is brought to you with the hope of reinvigorating your digital strategy by taking inspiration from the East. We’ll cover video, the role of the physical store and delivery over the course of the series. But first, social ecommerce!
Think the West does social ecommerce well? Think again. Chinese social commerce platform Pinduoduo’s ‘team purchase’ model represents the ultimate community-led ecommerce experience. Team purchase means two things for an individual buyer:
1) The more people buy, the cheaper the price (people like saving money)
2) It plays to a very human instinct towards peer approval (people like being liked)
Described by Jing Daily as a ‘marriage of Facebook and Groupon’, Pinduoduo allows friends and family members to make recommendations across several major product categories, from fashion to furniture to food. There is a Pinduoduo app and a WeChat Mini Program. And, for any given product, would-be buyers can either buy individually or kick-off a ‘team purchase’.
And, of course, no Chinese ecommerce piece would be complete without a mention of influencers - or Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). The influencer market is so huge in China that ‘influencer incubators’ exist to nurture new talent.
Western platforms are more siloed. You’ve got your WhatsApp, your H&M app and your First Direct account nicely segregated into different folders. However, Western social media companies are driving towards different models. The more of the experience they can control, the better the monetisation. It’s all about bringing the point of inspiration closer to the point of transaction: something that online retail brands also see as a key priority.
Instagram made brand posts shoppable a while ago but, as of April, they’ve allowed influencers to make their posts shoppable too. Yes, you can finally buy that slimming tea Kim Kardashian recommends in about two touches and a fingerprint. Thank God for that.
Cynicism about American reality stars aside, merging inspiration and transaction is exactly what the consumer wants. The consumer gets the product they covet without searching, the retailer gets the - hopefully significant - boost to sales, and Instagram takes a cut. Everyone’s a winner.
Western consumers are willing to turn to Amazon for convenience and commodity, but we’re also looking for luxe, or ‘inspiration and discovery led retail’ as Trouva co-founder Alex Loizou calls it.
In our ‘Reimagining Retail’ whitepaper, Trouva was cited as a sort of antidote to Amazon. Those little shops you find wandering the back allies of quaint holiday towns. Curated collections meant for those with money for treats. The nostalgic feel of a lazy, rambling day and a souvenir to take home. Well, those idyllic boutiques and sexy showrooms have been rounded-up and presented online so you can shop them all at once. How convenient.
To quote Loizou...“Inspiration and discovery led retail is moving online quite quickly. While the first phase of online retail was around building the infrastructure and getting to the point where you could take orders online, we’re moving into the second phase where it’s very much around experiential and discovery, and how to find products that are actually relevant to you.”
As inspiration and discovery-led retail goes digital, and retailers move the point of inspiration closer to the point of transaction, the next step is to use the social channels where the inspiration lies to be… a bit more social. This is where we should look East to brands like Pinduoduo to understand what the future might look like. We’re tribal creatures by nature. We seek to move with the pack so that we don’t get picked off by bears.
For fashion retailers, this means putting your media budget where your mouth is. It means investing in platform integration and influencer marketing and experiential engagement. It means finding ways to interrupt consumer scrolling, help them source the seller, and press ‘buy’. All in one touch, please.
For now, at least. Until Zuckerberg migrates us all to his mind meld, Black Mirror-style, all-in-one, ‘think it, buy it’ platform.
And what of the influencers? Influencer marketing is growing quickly in the West. And with it, the world of micro influencers. Civilians, rather than celebrities, who have follower bases of anywhere between 1,000 and 100,000 (depending on who you ask).
As the follower base narrows, generally speaking, engagement levels increase. As ‘normal people’, the content they create to market your brand feels authentic. It’s trusted. And they’re trusted by the followers that have sought them out for their relatively niche appeal. If the influencer fits your brand, you can be pretty sure their audience will too.
Interestingly, as the numbers of these content creators have grown, there has been a shift from content creation to curation. This is particularly relevant for fashion retailers, where styles and preferences change so quickly. If you can get a key piece into a key influencer’s weekly top ten… you can feel fairly confident it will get results.
Customer expectations are rising. Successful retailers will rise to meet them. They’re looking for convenience and control, from the point of inspiration to the point at which the package is placed in their hands. Building this convenience into every part of the buyer journey is key. A great, tech-empowered CX, all the way to delivery, will ensure you manage and meet the expectations you set at the point of the Instagram influencer.
Talking of whom! They may be riding high now, but are their days numbered? Find out whether video will kill the Instagram star, in the next blog in China's ecommerce superpowers series.
Tight for time? We understand. You can read an overview of 'China's CX superpowers and how they could save your digital strategy' here.