Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Social Shopping - Will it be big in India?

After having worked with one of India's largest retail chain clients are often techno-phobic. Especially when it comes to incorporating technology and social media within the marketing mix. Marketers in India always tread with caution when it comes to using social media, user generated content etc though there are exceptions. But that old mindset of open shop, advertise, announce sale and you'll be flooded with footfalls haven't changed at all. Neither have retailers haven't changed their marketing approach to attract the techno-savvy, more discerning, experience seeking, global Indian shoppers.

My counter argument to the client has often been - its New Media, unless you experiment with it, you'll never know what's working and what's not working. The debate continued with endless hours of meetings without any consensus. After much deliberation, finally they agreed to have their own Facebook fan page. I kid you not. After one year of debate, discussion, yay, we have a Facebook fan page with more than 170470 fans. The fastest growing Facebook fan page according to AllFacebook.

The client was so excited that we were invited to a champagne party. Lol. In the party I was blunt enough to ask the client, what about engagement and involvement with these fans. Are we generating enough Return of Involvement? Obviously it wasn't a pretty question to ask in between merry making. But hey, I'm what I am. (I just made this up, anyway. Parties have stopped long back.)

Anyways. The world has moved beyond. Social Shopping and Social Commerce is the next frontier of growth and driving business for all retailers across the world. Groupon is the new lover boy of Social Media. Thousands of other Social Shopping pages are cropping up every day all over the world. So how will Indian Retailers cope with this new phenomenon? And how can retailers like Shopper Stop provide unmatched Social Shopping experience to tech savvy consumers?

"Social shopping attempts use of technology to mimic the social interactions found in physical malls and stores." Well, I maybe way ahead of the curve given urban consumers in India have just started to experience shopping in malls and spending leisurely hours hanging around in malls. Social shopping/ online shopping/ m-commerce/ e-commerce is much ahead of its time for implementation at the moment by most marketers in India. It's true however that many marketing organizations have already started experimentation but the numbers are really small. Personally I think as a marketer, I should always remain knowledgeable and aware of the changing consumer environment and be in a position to anticipate those changes about to happen. I might sound very geeky when say things like this in meetings, getting reactions hard to describe in words. The responsibility lies on the planners to inform their clients about these change points. Implementation of Social Shopping in the marketing mix depends on several other factors beyond a marketers control. Advent of 3G, increasing usage of mobile internet, increasing numbers of smart phone users, VAS and Apps, security issues, banking policies and finally Govt. of India's policy towards m-commerce etc. will together help create a conducive platform that enables the usage of social technologies as an effective marketing tool . Young India jumped on the social media platform much much later compared to the rest of the world. Computer illiteracy and low penetration were two key factors. However, things have changed now. 3G will indeed make internet access more easy and addressable in India, a very good sign. Therefore, social shopping will take its own time, exactly how Orkut & Facebook started its journey in India - slow and steady in the beginning and sudden spike afterwards. So it's important to keep tab on things about to hit us soon. Especially true for retailers who can enable these technologies in their marketing mix. They will stay ahead, desirable, driving imagery while generating more footfalls and making healthy revenues.

Here's a great example from Levi's

This is a serious subject, needs a holistic understanding and a new approach to marketing. Watch out this space for more. I would love to hear your feedback and comments though. Especially given the whole shopping environment around us is changing. Kirana stores to hypermarkets to malls to online stores to discount coupons to online shopping to social shopping. Ha.

To be continued...

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