The rise of social commerce has been inevitable, and according to Chargeback, it was only a matter of time before e-commerce and social media, which have both boomed with popularity,  came together to create an irresistible shopping experience for customers. Social commerce is now reshaping how brands approach, engage, market and sell to their customers who are increasingly spending most of their time on social networking sites than anywhere else on the internet.

What is Social Commerce?

According to Wikipedia, social commerce is a subset of electronic commerce (e-commerce) that involves social media that supports social interaction, and direct online buying and selling of products.

From E-commerce to Social Commerce

In Africa, social commerce is not a term you hear thrown around often unlike e-commerce which has taken off. Advancements in this sub-set of e-commerce where the experience is fully within social media channels have taken off in Europe, the US, and Asia where the basic infrastructure such as payment options and national addressing systems exists to support and accelerate online commerce. In the US alone, e-commerce sales are projected to reach $491.5 billion in 2018.

In Africa, e-commerce is still a nascent industry that continues to grapple a myriad of challenges such as trust among online shoppers, lack of a national addressing system, an unbanked population limited payment options low credit card uptake. These are the key drivers of  growth in e-commerce any market and unfortunately, some of the major players in this space globally have found Africa a hard nut to crack.

Early this year, a GeoPoll survey found that 32% of online shoppers buy through social media with Facebook proving to be a formidable albeit odd player in the e-commerce space heralding the rise of social commerce in Africa. The vanguards are informal entrepreneurs who utilize social media channels primarily Facebook and Instagram to market and sell their products through Facebook groups, similar interest groups or their followers.

Mark Zuckerberg on Social-Commerce-

Social Media use & the online gig economy

Africa is experiencing a social media boom due to the rise of smartphone uptake and usage coupled with a young demographic. Africa is by far the youngest continent in the world with 51% of the 1.2 Billion population aged below 19 years. According to the latest statistics from WeSocial, as of January 2017, there were 170 million active social media users with Facebook and Whatsapp having the highest usage. African Facebook users now stand at 17 million with one in every 10 internet users active on the platform.

Amidst this stratospheric adoption of mobile telephony and use social media among a youthful population, Africa has one of the highest global unemployment rates. According to the World Bank, youths account for 60% of all of Africa’s jobless.

It is due to these 3 factors: a young population, largely unemployed, with access to smartphones and active on social media that have created the breeding ground for an online gig economy and from it, a new breed of African entrepreneurs – the Hustle-preneurs.

Social media has become a must-have tool for any business as consumers continue to turn away from advertising and rely more on word-of-mount recommendations from friends. With the popularity and growth of social networking, consumers often rely on the advice and recommendations from online friends when making purchase decisions.

In recent years, there has also been a rise in the number of micro-merchants / hustle-preneurs who are taking advantage of the above fact to transact business from right within Facebook and Instagram. The process is quite manual and starts with these online hustle-preneurs uploading product pictures on their social media platforms with pricing information and a mobile number (often liked to WhatsApp) that consumers can reach them on if they are interested in making a purchase. The conversation then moves to WhatsApp for further negotiations, and if they’re in agreement payment in done via Mobile money and logistics agreed upon.

This is a disjointed experience that is time-consuming for the merchant and limits scalability. For the consumer, it does not inspire a lot of trust which in turn reduces the potential consumer base.

The first merchant Huddah Cosmetics founder with Cellulant’s Head of R&D Kenn Lisudza trying out the Augmented Reality experience at the Mula social commerce launch

Revolutionizing the Social Commerce Experience

Cellulant recently extended its product offerings on its Mula payment platform to include Mula for Social Commerce- a simple and convenient online shopping experience for the rising number of micro-merchants (or Hustle-preneurs) on social networking sites. Mula for social commerce integrates Augmented Reality into the Facebook Messenger where customers are able to discover and try products before they purchase. Brands that leverage social media as platforms for e-commerce can now give their customers a world-class one-stop-shop service from trial, to payment and delivery, all within Facebook and Instagram. This is a departure from the current disjointed social commerce experience.

The uniqueness of the digital experience using Augmented Reality is exciting. Trying out a product on social commerce before purchase has previously been impossible. Augmented Reality presents an opportunity for African brands and companies to build trust with consumers where “touch and feel” is often a pre-requisite before purchase

If you are a hustle-preneur and would like to partner with us as a Mula merchant for a simple and efficient way to serve your customers, get in touch with us today and we will help you scale your online hustle.