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2018 was a banner year for social commerce with the public listing of major players in the industry. In fact, social commerce has indeed assumed a crucial role in digital retailing as latest research from Mintel reveals that a whopping 87 % of urban Chinese consumers* have bought, sold or shared information on products or services through social commerce platforms.

Currently, preference for shopping via social commerce channels equals that of traditional ecommerce platforms (39 % vs 41 % respectively). Mintel research indicates an even more optimistic outlook for social commerce in the days ahead – as 45 % of Chinese consumers would like to use social commerce platforms more in the future, as compared to the 32 % who say the same of traditional ecommerce channels. In addition, over half (51 %) of China’s post-90s generation intend to use social commerce platforms more in the future; while just under a third (31 %) intend to shop on traditional ecommerce platforms.

Cici Wu, Research Analyst, Mintel China reports, said:
“Social commerce is playing a crucial role in the digital retailing industry, especially with the public listing of major players in the market in recent months. Essentially everyone in China is jumping on the social commerce bandwagon and showing great enthusiasm for the platforms by engaging in a variety of social commerce activities. Although more consumers today still prefer traditional ecommerce than social commerce channels, their expectations for the latter are more optimistic. Our research shows that consumers who are the future of China’s economy, specifically the post-90s generation, favour social commerce over traditional ecommerce platforms.”

Seizing the ‘He’ economy

Men appear particularly engaged in social commerce, a growing trend that brands in the space could play into. Indeed, Mintel research reveals that over half (52 %) of consumers who engage in selling activities on social media platforms are male, compared with 48 % of females.

Men demonstrate stronger purchase power in the categories of personal electronics (eg smartphones, gaming devices) (41 % male vs 25 % female), household appliances (eg rice cooker, vacuum machines) (34 % vs 28 %), health supplements (30 % vs 28 %) and virtual services (eg online course, financial services) (21 % vs 18 %).

Further showcasing the potential in tapping into the ‘He’ economy, Mintel research reveals that a sizable proportion of men are purchasing in categories that are traditionally female-led in terms of consumption; as many as three in five (61 %) male consumers purchase clothing, shoes and accessories from social commerce platforms, as compared to 68 % of female consumers. Meanwhile, 46 % of male consumers purchase household cleaning products, in comparison to 48 % of female consumers. When it comes to beauty items, over a third (35 %) of male consumers say that they buy beauty and personal care products, while 62 % of females say the same.

“Making profits from the pockets of women and kids is a business practice that many have left behind in recent years. A more free and fluid market has helped unlock the spending potential and consumption desires of male consumers. Men’s shopping carts are no longer filled with just electronics, sports or game gadgets, but also include beauty products, groceries and cleaning products—categories that have been traditionally consumed by women. To tap into the ‘He’ economy, brands need to understand the change in men’s consumption habits for further growth. They also need to show an unbiased attitude towards this change and, at the same time, bear in mind their concerns and desires as individuals as well as other roles they assume like a father or husband.” Cici continued.

Fashion and beauty embrace social commerce

According to Mintel research, clothing, shoes and accessories is the most consumed category via social commerce platforms with two-thirds (64 %) of social commerce consumers having purchased these products in the past year*. This is followed by beauty and personal care products (48 %), food and drink products (48 %), and household cleaning products (47 %).

“As two of the most dynamic categories in the social commerce world, the development of the fashion and beauty industries are being driven by fashion and beauty influencers, or KOLs (key opinion leaders). Some of these KOLs have teams who produce high quality content as well as facilitate collaborations between the KOL and the brand. However, as it is becoming expensive to collaborate with top-tier influencers, micro influencers who engage in social commerce activities to communicate with like-minded people may be the way to go.

“Collaborating with micro influencers could open up more possibilities for fashion and beauty brands to increase brand awareness and preference, particularly as their interests go beyond financial returns, and instead, are driven by their own passion. That said, rather than solely revolving around the use of KOLs, marketing strategies that are theme driven or carried out in coordination with other marketing approaches, will work to a brand’s advantage in the long run.” Cici concluded.

*3,000 internet users aged 20-49, October 2018