China’s Obsession With Content to Commerce

— Jessica Ozdemir, Sr Marketing Manager, EMEA & APAC 

When it comes to the future of ecommerce, we need look no further than China. As the world’s leading ecommerce market and global leader in mobile adoption, it’s no wonder mobile commerce is far more advanced and sophisticated than the West. In 2017, Alibaba hosted the largest shopping day in China – Single’s Day festival – which saw 82% of Chinese shoppers making purchases on their mobiles. In contrast, countries such as the United States saw only 36% of Americans shopping on their mobiles on equally big shopping days such as Black Friday.

Much of this phenomenon is thanks to social media platform WeChat, which has more than 1 billion users a month. Using WeChat allows a multi-purpose customer experience; customers can browse the internet, shop, play games and network all on one platform. In the west, social and ecommerce are yet to adjoin. People use Instagram to connect with friends and family, and use sites such as Amazon and eBay for ecommerce purchases.

As communicators, we pride ourselves on building great content and give ourselves a pat on the back when branded content infiltrates through the entire media ecosystem (paid, earned, owned, experiential and search). We’re measured on how many people like, share and repost our content. But in countries such as China where platforms are far more advanced, this is no longer enough. As platforms become more sophisticated, communicators will be expected to place a commercial value on a brand’s social activity. That means a brand’s content has to work much harder. It has to not only engage and build communities, but drive to commerce.

The West isn’t too far behind, either, with Facebook Messenger (a very similar app to WeChat). In 2016, Facebook Messenger launched “messenger bots” allowing companies to easily create purchasing opportunities within the platform. Whole Foods was quick to jump on this and in the same year, announced its very own Facebook Messenger bot, which allowed users to search for recipes and products. If you were looking for inspiration, you could simply send a food emoji for instant recommendations found at Whole Food stores. The content produced for this bot was multifunctional, worked in real-time, spoke specifically to the needs of the consumer and helped to push to them along the sales funnel to purchase.

I, for one, am eagerly waiting for the West to evolve and fully adopt a super-app such as WeChat. Maybe it’ll be Facebook Messenger, although in light of the recent Cambridge Analytica scandal, it seems its hands are pretty full, leaving the door wide open for others to take advantage. There is a big opportunity for brands to generate sales from the social communities they’ve built up over the years. Communicators will not only need to master great content which travels through the entire media ecosystem, but also help take their clients beyond engagement to driving sales from social.