Wondering what the future of commerce looks like? Look no further. China's e-commerce sphere offers us a glimpse of what commerce will look like in the future. It will be a convergence of mobile commerce, social commerce, and entertainmerce.
In China, e-commerce is predominantly mobile commerce. At last year's Singles Day shopping festival - the largest shopping day hosted by Alibaba (NYSE:BABA), 82% of Chinese shoppers shopped on their mobile phones.
In comparison, only 36% of Americans made purchases on a mobile phone on Black Friday last year. Mobile commerce in the U.S. has been lagging behind, partially due to slow adoption of mobile payments and the legacy of PC-based e-commerce.
Mobile commerce is the future. According to Statisia, smartphone users will reach 2.1 billion worldwide by 2021. More and more people will shop on their phones.
In this arena, China is leading the way. Its mobile commerce is far more advanced and sophisticated, including mobile money transfers, ticketing, vouchers, coupons, loyalty cards, content purchasing and delivery, and more.
In China, e-commerce is integrated with social media, such as WeChat. As I wrote here and here, WeChat has over 800 million active users, and companies can sell to consumers directly using its built-in payment system.
WeChat as a social commerce platform has evolved quickly, becoming a central hub that facilitates customer engagement, commerce, customer relationship management (CRM), online-to-offline (O2O), and more. Brands can "socialize" with consumers, have one-on-one interactive communications with customers, close sales, and follow through on the entire commerce process.
In the West, social media and e-commerce are separate. For example, people use Facebook to stay in touch with friends and family, and use Amazon (NASDAQ:AMZN) for e-commerce purchases.
However, social commerce is the new trend. Facebook (NASDAQ:FB) is playing catch-up. Last year, the social media giant announced new tools to enable online purchase through both Facebook and Messenger, hoping to transform them to social commerce platforms.
Yet, most of its social commerce initiatives are focused on Southeast Asia and Latin America markets. In the U.S., people still use social media and e-commerce sites separately.
In China, e-commerce is also merged with entertainment, creating a new form of e-commerce called "entertainmerce."
At last year's Singles Day shopping festival, Alibaba live-streamed an eight-hour "see now, buy now" fashion show on Tmall, where consumers could buy in real time the latest designer clothes before the runway show even finished.
Since then, live-streaming has gone mainstream. China now has more than 300 live-stream platforms with 300 million users. Many internet celebrities and key opinion leaders, or KOLs (bloggers who have large followers on social media), have jumped on the bandwagon to host shows for hefty financial rewards.
Many brands, particularly beauty brands, have tapped into this new channel to reach consumers. For example, Maybelline, the L'Oréal-owned beauty brand, used a live-stream platform to announce Angelababy as its newest ambassadress. Within two hours, it sold over 100,000 lipsticks.
In the West, live streaming is not linked to commerce. Companies or individuals may live stream video shows, advertisements, or announcements. But there's no capacity for consumers to make purchases on live streaming. In this game, China is way ahead.
The most amazing part is that mobile commerce, social commerce, and entertainmerce are all merged into one. China's mobile commerce is, at the same time, social commerce. Its social commerce is unmistakably entertainmerce. This convergence is driven by millennial consumers who are mobile savvy, and want to socialize and be entertained while they shop. If this is the future of commerce, companies must up their games and fast.