For consumer electronics retailers, there might be a monetary price to pay, but every penny will be worth it, as the brand is able to engage minute by minute and initiate a conversation with a prospective or repeat buyer
Facebook, at its annual conference held a few days back at San Jose (California, USA), revealed that it would allow businesses to add product catalogues within WhatsApp chats. In other words, the F8 conference gave rise to whole new possibilities of social shopping worldwide.
In its efforts to integrate Facebook and WhatsApp for Business, the former told developers that business groups on Facebook will have an additional option to engage with their audiences in real-time to ensure increased customer loyalty and engagement. Interestingly, Whatsapp has been a Facebook company since 2014.
Testing the waters with Marketplace
Facebook users in India are not new to Facebook groups and more recently, a new ‘Marketplace’ option where users around your idea can post listings on stuff they want to sell. hardly surprising that apparel, shoes, and consumer electronics goods are the most listed commodities.
But a closer look will reveal that a lot of retailers and small-time businesses are leveraging this service to sell without the hassle of Amazon-level formalities. Also, a lot of listings are that of used but working appliances.
One, they have taken the business away from refurbished goods sites such as Greendust, and are challenging some of the bigger e-commerce sites that offer refurbished mobiles and accessories. Two, they have set the ground for WhatsApp to sweep consumer behaviour in the direction of social shopping, or in other words, real-time shopping on social media.
E-commerce versus social shopping
So how is social shopping different from e-commerce shopping? Simple. At an e-commerce site such as Zara, you see a catalogue of apparel, you pick the one you want, select the size and place an order. If Zara were to embark on social shopping, you would have a conversation with either a person or a self-learning bot, that will engage with you to help you decipher what you need and display results accordingly.
Needless to say, the shopping details and courier status will be updated in real-time as a WhatsApp message. The most obvious integration here is with AI and robotics in the back-end.
Opportnities for consumer electronics brands
Now, let’s look at how the Facebook-WhatsApp move will impact consumer electronics brands. The most obvious adoption change will be from the users’ end. Instead on shopping through an app or a website, the platform of choice is likely to become a messaging app, in this case, WhatsApp. Secondly, ad consumption behaviour will change. Today, you interact with a Facebook or Instagram ad based on your recent surfing behaviour.
In most cases, the ads you see come with a buy button that you are likely to click. Going forward, Facebook will become capable of engaging with you on WhatsApp based on your surfing behaviour. As scary as this might sound, Facebook will be able to push messages to you with a buy button. For retailers, there might be a monetary price to pay, but every penny will be worth it since the brand is able to engage minute by minute and initiate a conversation with a prospective or repeat buyer. Alternatively, a brand that has a catalogue of customers, either from offline stores or online sites, can engage in an extremely targeted manner and ensure rapid closure or sale.
The biggest beneficiaries of WhatsApp Shopping will be consumer electronics brands. Some of the reasons in favour include the need for comparative convincing, that can be done more intimately over WhatsApp, along with the fact that trust can be built (also broken!) instantly. Finally, a casual look at Facebook Marketplace (which was a recce of sorts) will reveal that electronics are selling like hot cakes! Be prepared to be blown away by social shopping.
This story has been submitted by Vishnu Anand. He is working as a technology and business journalist under the guidance of veteran journalist Anand Parthasarathy (Ex-The Hindu).