“Commerce is everywhere. The purchase journey is non-linear. It can happen from seeing an ad on Instagram, an influencer on TikTok, a drop on Twitter. You might be window shopping in person, or a friend might send you a link.” – Arpan Podduturi, Director of Product Retail and Messaging, Shopify

The pandemic accelerated the shift, but momentum shows no signs of slowing.

Just a few months into 2020, pandemic lockdowns led to a 77 percent increase in online shopping year over year (Forbes), accelerating the adoption of e-commerce by five years practically overnight. Shopping, working, and socializing online became the new normal, and e-commerce quickly began evolving. Now even with the pandemic waning and life returning to normal around the world, there hasn’t been a “shift back” to previous offline behaviors.

By 2025, global social commerce is expected to account for 41 percent of total e-commerce and over $2.2 trillion in sales worldwide (Statista). In 2023, more than half of US users are expected to buy something on a social platform, largely driven by the growth of TikTok. The number of buyers on the platform is expected to rise by 72 percent to 23.7 million, compared to 9 percent growth on Instagram (41 million) and 12 percent on Facebook (63.5 million) (eMarketer).

Nearly every social platform is evolving to capture demand.

Meta is narrowing focus.

Even though Facebook and Instagram account for most social buying this year, many of their e-commerce initiatives did not pan out. They are now sunsetting features like Live Shopping on Facebook and the Shop Tab on Instagram. The company will instead focus on shopping-related advertising in 2023 and its continued expansion into the Metaverse.

Pinterest looks to expand. 

In the last year, Pinterest has invested in a shopping API to allow merchants to sync their product catalogs, personalization enhancements to reach users with more relevant results, a hosted checkout feature, and an augmented reality (AR) try-on tool for furniture and décor. In the next year, they are planning to embed shopping into every aspect of the platform by making every pin shoppable and streamlining the path to purchase. However, they are facing sluggish user growth which will hamper their ability to increase advertising share.

Amazon tries to mimic TikTok’s success.

In December 2022, Amazon launched “Inspire”, a new short-form video and photo platform that allows consumers to explore products and shop from content created by influencers, brands, and other customers. The goal is to lure users away from TikTok directly onto their website to interact with content and drive sales. For now, Inspire is only available to select customers in the US.  

Amazon has made past attempts at a social media offering, rolling out a Pinterest-like feature called Interesting Finds, as well as Amazon Stream, Amazon Spark, and Amazon live. It has not yet found success as the content has existed only to push products, a challenge it will still face with the launch of Inspire.

TikTok’s meteoric rise continues.

TikTok has become the ultimate destination for influencer content, reviews, and product recommendations – the #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt phenomenon has over 8 billion views alone. It’s continuing to transform from a discovery vehicle to a shopping platform through new ad formats, a Shop feature for US merchants, and a partnership with TalkShopLive for livestream commerce. They are also planning to open fulfillment centers in a bid to become an end-to-end commerce platform.

The key to their success has been a user-first approach, building on the organic behaviors that exist on the platform rather than trying to force a linear purchase journey. Advertisers on TikTok should follow suit, ensuring that they are authentic, creative, and providing value in order to genuinely connect with their consumers.

What’s next? Metaverse madness.

The Metaverse in its current iteration is a collection of three-dimensional virtual worlds that are focused on social connection. Advertisers have already taken advantage of branded opportunities, even selling digital goods and apparel. In 2021, Coca-Cola auctioned off collectible NFTs in Decentraland, including a collectible bubble jacket, and Gucci opened their “Gucci Garden” in Roblox to celebrate their 100th anniversary. Louis Vuitton created their own Metaverse called Louis the Game, taking users on a journey to collect birthday candles over a while telling the story of Louis Vuitton’s founding. These are just a few examples as brands race to cross the new frontier – market revenue in the Metaverse is projected to explode from 47 billion today to $678 billion by 2030 (Grandview Research).

The Net-Net: How to Succeed on Social

Social media is an ideal environment for commerce, playing the role of “word of mouth” on steroids. It accelerates the customer journey from awareness to purchase almost instantly, streamlining the purchase process in-app for a completely native experience. Furthermore, Paid Social Media acts as the perfect conduit to accelerate this buying behavior, because it’s powered by the customer data that underpins these scalable recommendations to virtually any audience.

To succeed on social, brands must ensure that their strategies reflect their advertising data models with the right amount of authenticity, humanity, and creativity. Without creating a fundamentally “social” experience, brands will struggle to build favorable brand perception, loyal followers, and collaborative partnerships that move the needle. And as more brands experiment with branded opportunities within virtual worlds based on social connection, maintaining a connected brand experience across all channels will be key to success.

The coronavirus crisis not only creates losers, but also some winners: online retailers and delivery services in particular, as well as online platforms for tutoring, fitness or cooking are all currently experiencing a massive sales boost. Social distancing is shifting both shopping and communication even more towards digital, which offers great opportunities for providers of such online services. However, even German SMEs that have found themselves in crisis, should perceive this as a digitalization push and initiate the necessary, in some cases long overdue transformation processes.

What does that mean in concrete terms? What steps should companies now take to digitalize their product portfolio and compensate for lost sales? Both B2C and B2B companies have a range of e-commerce measures available to them that make sense in the current situation.

In the B2C sector, action must now be taken quickly.

1. Discounts as an effective means.

Massive discount battles can currently be observed in the B2C sector. In the fashion industry especially, suppliers are currently trying to get rid of their seasonal goods. In addition, price reductions are also ensuring the liquidity that is urgently needed at the moment. The highest possible surcharge can be achieved with the right support through special newsletters and an increased and effective use of social media.

2. Through interactive features directly at the customer.

Keyword: Social Media. If a certain type of customer communication has been given a major boost as a sales channel during the crisis, then it is interactive features such as live chats and sales via live streaming that are most effective. These should definitely be integrated into the e-commerce strategy. The case of the Chinese cosmetics brand Forest Cabin, whose sales had slumped by 90 percent, shows what a great opportunity this offers. After a radical change of strategy with live streaming as the central sales channel, not only were all previous losses made up for, but just two weeks after the initiative was launched, the daily sales of the previous year were exceeded.

3. Digitalising loyalty systems.

Another tool that can be easily digitized are the well-known loyalty systems. For example, a well-known German perfumery chain has over 44 million loyalty cards on the market. These are well suited for contacting and retaining customers during the crisis. This applies in particular to older customers, whose willingness to use digital loyalty programs is significantly higher due to the crisis.

4 Exploiting the online marketplaces boom.

It’s well-publicized that Amazon, Alibaba and Co. are the big winners of the crisis in terms of increased market share. And others can also profit from this. These marketplaces should now be used as (additional) sales channels to take advantage of the current boom in digital marketplaces for their own business.

The Crisis as Digitalization Excellorator

Typically, transformations in B2B business are somewhat slower and are not implemented as quickly as in B2C. However, due to the massive impact that the Coronavirus crisis is also having on B2B companies, rapid action is now also required. The following four points are particularly important and effective.

1. Move Customer Services personnel to Home Office.

Customer services such as call centers and sales services must be made fit for the home office in order to continue to offer all necessary customer services and to be able to generate new business digitally. The fastest possible implementation is crucial here, since such services are needed at all times and this transformation is complex and extensive.

2.Digitalization of the Customer Journey,

The entire customer journey is currently shifting to online business, also in the B2B sector. As a result, all companies whose business model was primarily or even exclusively offline now have to invest more than ever in building their own service platform. This is the only way they can absorb the losses in offline business through online trading.

3.Agile working methods are more efficient than ever.

The crisis requires faster action, and budgets are now only planned in the short term and screened several times. To meet these requirements, agile working methods are a very good tool. A joint sprint every 14 days to redefine what is important facilitates an effective response to all eventualities and developments.

4.Sufficient server capacity is the A&O.

However, implementing all these measures is of little use if the website or even the web shop collapses during a run on your own sales platform. It is therefore extremely important to ensure sufficient server capacity and performance, either in-house or with an external service provider.

Companies that have already implemented some of these measures before the crisis are currently finding it easier to master them. However, the crisis mode in which our economy is currently operating should be seen as an opportunity to make up for lost time or to build on the digitalization steps taken so far. It is now more important than ever to implement the above-mentioned measures and to perceive this crisis as a catalyst and accelerator, because those who take the right steps now can emerge stronger from it.

Digital is where consumers are watching brands.

Digital India is the big buzzword on everybody’s lips these days but the scale at which digital penetration is about to explode will ring a bell in your mind.

The key to success for any business in India, is to have a strong digital presence these days. Relevant content on mobile which entertains, informs and engages the consumer is definitely a winner for the 4-screen Indian viewer. Indian internet users who are living in metro cities spend about 24 hours on the internet every week. [Daily the Germans spend at least 2:08 hours online. Users who also go online with mobile devices spend 2:43 hours a day (Source: That’s half an hour less than the Indian users.] Women internet users are rising but the average time spend by women is less than men. However, there is a huge demand on content online. Indians are spending 9.9 hours per week watching traditional broadcast TV, parallelly they also browse smartphones, stream video and watch TV on their laptops or smartphones.

Video Content Consumption

Indians are mostly engaging for downloading video. 82% India’s video streaming audience access video content every week. India’s massive smartphone user base an average video streaming time of 7.4 hours per week. This creates a great opportunity for content creators and distributors so there is an enormous potential for content distribution on digital devices.
[Europe is way behind:]

What are Indians watching?

3Music Shows / Music Videos77%
4News/current affairs from local TV networks77%
5News/ current affairs from overseas TV networks70%
6Local drama series69%
8Local sport, available on local TV66%
9Overseas drama series65%
11Overseas sport not easily accessible on TV59%
12Children’s programs32%

Source: Nielsen (2015 VOD)

Research Online – Purchase Offline

Consumers in India are researching for online information on any product they have to purchase. They are reading recommendations, people’s experiences, seeking digital opinions before they make a final purchase on goods/services. Recommendation from social networks or friends is something, which is highly in trend these days; a lot of brands are looking for testimonial based ads with real consumers.

The Smartphone Consumers

The number of smartphone users growing everyday, at a very fast rate. There are 170 million internet enabled smartphones currently in India with about 3 million added month on month for the next one year. There is also a boom in “app” business to woo consumers.


Globally Indian ecommerce market is to grow fastest. Today ecommerce is an indispensable part of every Indian’s life today, with homegrown brands like Flipkart, Snapdeal, Myntra, urbanclap wooing the consumers with different tactics every few weeks while Amazon still going strong to provide the bigger platform amongst all. Today ecommerce is offering all kinds of goods and services at the door step of the consumer. Convenience is the key here across all categories of groceries, beauty salon, taxi, solutions, FMCG etc.
The ecommerce sector has seen unprecedented growth since 2014, almost by 34% compound Annual Growth (CAGR) from US $ 3.8 billion in 2009 to US $ 16.4 billion with a projected growth to hit US $ 100 billion by 2019.
Increase in the online shoppers in India from 20 million in 2013 is to 40 million in 2016.

Factors that foster growth in the current Indian landscape are:

  1. Increasing disposable income across households
  2. Expanding Urban scenario
  3. Small families
  4. Evolving preferences
  5. Ecommerce


We are looking forward to dive deeper into this discussion with the “Serviceplan International Roadshow: INDIA INSIGHTS” on Tuesday, November 22nd 2016 at the House of Communication Munich. Are you interested in participating in the event? Please contact the dedicated event team via email. The number of participants is limited.

Download invitation.