After e-commerce, now social commerce!

Mumbai: The fast increasing social media population hooked onto Facebook, Twitter, etc is set to give a big boost to the already burgeoning domestic e-commerce market that has touched the Rs 50,000 crore-mark last year, says an industry study.

According to latest Internet & Mobile Association of India numbers, with 150 online population, the country is the third largest in terms of internet users after China and the US. Out of this, 50 million are on Facebook and 13 million on Twitter, taking the size of social media universe to 63 million.

This also makes the country the second largest Facebook market after the US, while the sixth largest for Twitter, says ICICI Merchant Services and First Data general manager Amrish Rau, adding most of these social media members are also actively taking up e-commerce transactions.

"Going by the current growth rates, social e-commerce is the next step in evolution, combining the comfort and ease of use of social media and e-tailing," says Rau.

Social commerce continues to gain popularity around the globe, especially in the US, with the rising popularity of e-gifting, under which users send tangible gifts to their loved ones from retailers through Facebook and email, he adds.

Explaining the plus points of e-gifting, he says since social networking sites are accessible on mobile phones, it is easy for both individuals as well as organisations to expand their e-commerce strategy into the social commerce realm.

According to a recent report, 82 percent of online buyers consider others` opinions. A Forrester study shows that when online retailers suggest relevant products, they increase the average basket by 47 percent and the number of products sold by 27 percent.

Rau further said social e-commerce improves online shopping by offering product suggestions from people personally known by the users.

For example, when a user shops for a mobile phone or any other electronic gadget on a traditional e-commerce site like eBay, Flipkart and others, the user gets to see ratings and reviews by previous buyers.

But social e-commerce takes such recommendations to the next level by informing the user that his/her close friend has bought the same mobile phone or electronic gadget as well and would be able to see the recommendations from people the user knows personally, he pointed out.

For retailers, social e-commerce enables them to engage with their buyers on a personal level, thereby obtaining perception and views in an easier manner.

Rau listed low awareness among both among e-tailers as well as consumers as the biggest challenge for social e-commerce here.

ICICI Merchant Services and First Data is a joint venture between the country`s largest private sector bank the US corporation, which is a global leader in electronic commerce and payment services.