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People have been talking about social commerce for some time now. The idea that shopping behaviour can be directed and informed by social networks is intriguing to retailers, but its application has been clunky.
However developments by South Korean instant messenger app KakaoTalk point towards social becoming much more ‘shoppable’.
KakaoTalk is the dominant messaging app in Korea, used by more than 90% of smartphone owners. It is a near ubiquitous part of daily life for people who use it to make free calls and texts, share content and take part in group chats.
It is a hybrid app, half instant messenger, half social profile, whose development in some ways mirrors how Facebook has evolved to cover more bases.
Of particular interest to retailers is KakaoTalk’s capabilities for driving shoppers in-store. Its Plus Friend feature enables users to follow brands and receive communications and shopping vouchers via IM. Recipients can then redeem the voucher in a given store.
Shoppers can also use the feature to buy and virtually send gifts to their friends and families. They could for instance buy a t-shirt from Uniqlo via KakaoTalk and then ‘gift it’ to a friend who could then go in-store and pick up the t-shirt.
With today’s shoppers expecting a new level of convenience, this feature provides it in spades as recipients would be able to try on the item and swap the size or colour there and then.
As well as tying physical retailers back into mix of channels, it would also provide additional benefits in savings on postage. Imagine also the boon for last minute buying at times such as Christmas when even the most laggardly of us would have no excuse for making a purchase and sending it to the right person.
The emergence of instant messaging as a shoppable channel is another example of how retailers need to consider a wider array of channels for their marketing efforts.
In fact shoppers no longer care about channels, they just want to be able to move seamlessly between platforms, media, devices and environments to achieve their shopping mission.
Crucially this is affecting how marketing is perceived by shoppers. It is no longer enough for ads to create desire, they must also be able to satisfy it there and then.
Hence online retailer ASOS has introduced the hashtag #asseenonme as a way of encouraging users to share pictures of their outfits. Anybody searching the hashtag can buy what they see, because ASOS ensures every image is then linked to the relevant product pages.
US beauty website Joyus.com has developed shoppable content through its how-to videos. Any make-up products featured can be clicked on at any time and purchased. Meanwhile H&M customers with Samsung smart TVs were able to buy David Beckham’s underwear straight from its Superbowl ad spot.
It’s all part of the drive towards the everywhere, instant and personal shopping experience that smartphone wielding consumers expect. And with its IM capabilities, KakaoTalk demonstrates how retail can move shoppers out of the app and into the store.
For more on this topic, read our other posts about Korean brands using mobile to boost the in-store experience, and WeChat m-commerce in China.