Social commerce is big business in Asia and it’s set to change the way we buy and sell

  • 80% of merchants in the region are already selling on social media platforms or messengers.
  • 92% of merchants said social commerce is playing a critical role in their business growth.
  • 93% of merchants noted that social commerce has allowed them to reach bigger markets.
  • Millennials aged between 21 and 40 are leading the way.

The number of social media users in Asia are expected to surpass the one billion mark by next year, and they are looking at platforms like Facebook, Instagram and WhatsApp as more than just places to network.

These platforms have since become lucrative marketplaces not just for merchants but individuals looking to make some extra cash with their good or services.

And it’s millennials who appear to be charging forward in the form of commerce called social commerce or s-commerce.

A recent study by payment portal PayPal called “Beyond Networking: Social Commerce as a Driver of Digital Payments” surveyed 4,000 consumers and 1,400 merchants across seven markets.

They comprised China, Hong Kong, India, Singapore, Thailand, Philippines and Indonesia.

Of the merchants surveyed, 80% said they are already selling through social media platforms or messengers with 72% currently accepting digital payments, with e- or mobile wallets being the most popular form.

PayPal (71%) emerged the most used payment platform by merchants on social media in the region, followed by Alipay (36%) and Google Checkout (25%).

Some 92% of them said that social commerce is playing a critical role in the growth of their business and 93% noted that it has allowed them to reach bigger markets.

Essentially, social commerce has provided opportunities to individuals to become entrepreneurs without the risk of traditional retail models.

“Social commerce comprises an expansive list of options including group buying, social shopping, mobile apps, retailers adding social features, and shopping integrated into social media,” said Dr Rohan Mahadevan, PayPal Pte Ltd CEO and senior vice-president for Asia-Pacific.

“Unlike shopping offline, social commerce allows peer recommendations and reviews to take centre stage in purchasing decisions.”

In Singapore, merchants largely use Facebook for social commerce.

The study highlighted that across Asia, social commerce is largely driven by those aged between 21 and 40.

It found that respondents in these age groups are the most active across all aspects of social commerce: using social media to sell unwanted goods and services, and supplementing their income as well as buying goods and services via these platforms.