Socialise to Shop: A New Way of Shopping

The latest way of shopping that has taken China by storm

Liking, commenting, sharing…things we all mindlessly do every day on our social media platforms. Now imagine if all that networking can get you discounts on products you desire! Introducing “Social Commerce”. The new craze which is sweeping its way through the tech-savvy millennials who get discounts by sharing with friends and inviting them to buy products with them via the app Pinduoduo, which already has 114 million Chinese users.

It’s a strange concept to people who usually stick to the traditional methods of consumption, but it is becoming more obvious that millennials in particular constantly desire something new and crave different experiences. The Pinduoduo app contains thousands of reduced products ranging from clothing to toothbrushes, toilet paper to coconuts, all of which users can get further discounts on by referring the products to friends via social media platforms. Basically, the more people who buy, the cheaper it will be. Sounds great, doesn’t it?! I’m sure the owners of the app would definitely agree as last year the app sold $1.6 billion worth of goods.

Chinese consumers seem to be loving the bargain hunt. However, there is the ever-growing problem that arises with cheap products…the quality. Already there have been complaints regarding the quality and authenticity of the products. According to an article published by Forbes...

“Pinduoduo accounted for 13.2% of total consumer complaints filed against China’s top 25 online shopping platforms, with users reporting issues such as shoddy goods, rotten fruits and difficulties in getting refunds” (Wang, 2018).

Pair that with their competitors, such as e-commerce giant Alibaba, who are fighting back against the surge in popularity and it may hinder the growth of the Pinduoduo app. Regardless, Pinduoduo can enjoy its moment in the spotlight for now as customers aren’t going anywhere. Not with the further incentives of free products and cash back to its most loyal customers. It really is a win-win.

It’s not only the Chinese market that is tapping into the innovations in digital retail and profiting from social commerce. Luxury powerhouses such as Hermes and Burberry are engaging with its younger customers, who currently account for 30% of luxury buyers, through omnichannel methods. Hermes made a gaming app centred on its equestrian roots to engage its customers through their mobile phone. The aim is to unlock exclusive content to virtual Hermes worlds in order to provide their customers with a new shopping experience and a unique access to Hermes marketing. Likewise, Burberry was one of the first luxury brands to live stream fashion shows via social media with a “See now, Buy now” policy. By defying the norms of traditional fashion shows and using social media to reach a wider audience, Burberry was able to maximise sales by reaching a worldwide customer base within a matter of minutes. All thanks to social media!  

WeChat games from Guerlain, Hermès and Dior. Photo Credit: CuriosityChina

WeChat games from Guerlain, Hermès and Dior. Photo Credit: CuriosityChina

So why is the concept of consumption via social media becoming somewhat of a phenomenon in the Chinese Market? The answer is…newness. Chinese consumers want the newness and they want the quickest way of getting it, which in the 21st Century is most definitely through social media. In a study on Marketing Week in 2016, it was found that 56% of consumers follow brands on social media to see products and 41% say it is to see new ranges when they are launched. This shows that regardless of your income, you have access to newness via your social media platforms. Whether it be from a discount app or a luxury fashion show live stream, you can order an affordable new dress for a party next week or a Burberry tote bag for your work meeting simply by clicking “buy now” on your newsfeed. Convenience really is the key. 

Burberry shares their Fall 2016 collection in real-time on Instagram Stories. Photo Credit: trendalytics

Burberry shares their Fall 2016 collection in real-time on Instagram Stories. Photo Credit: trendalytics

With all the recent technological advancements, where is the future of fashion really heading? Well, I can’t see into the future, but I can say that I predict that our shopping experiences will be changing further within the next 20 years. Already, there have been significant developments with Augmented Reality (AR) in the fashion industry that have the potential to revolutionise the sector. AR allows customers to see themselves in a virtual world and then different items of clothing can be tried on their virtual self. It is interesting to see how it is being used in fashion already. Timberland had digital billboards where customers can place their face and body on a screen and try on different clothing and Burberry used AR to allow users to use their camera to redecorate their surroundings on their screen.


Now, imagine the potential of this complex technology in the future?! Maybe one day we’ll be able to transform our living room into a virtual store on our phones and we shop by walking around our rooms with the screen. Or maybe we’ll be able to find our friends in these virtual worlds and shop together without even being together! Imagine…shopping to socialise instead! We’ve got some exciting times ahead.