Social commerce platforms like GlowRoad use their vast network of resellers to bring ecommerce to Tier 2 markets and beyond
Live commerce/video commerce is rapidly becoming an essential component of social commerce in India
Traditional ecommerce platforms should rework their strategy to become part of the social commerce growth story
Before the techade took off and digital technology touched almost every life, online shopping was mainly associated with the tech-savvy, smartphone-friendly urbanites. But with the rapid adoption of the internet in recent years, e-shopping is no longer accessed by a privileged few from Tier 1 cities. The new genre of online shoppers, accounting for 66% of all ecommerce sales, comes from every nook and cranny as Tier 2 cities, small towns and rural India are harnessing the power of the internet and creating a level playing field. With digital commerce growing in leaps and bounds, ecommerce marketplaces are ready to tap into its potential.
But this proved to be a tough row to hoe as limited digital literacy, price sensitivity and a lack of consumer trust made it difficult for traditional ecommerce platforms to foray into these markets. As consumers from Bharat (read suburban and rural India) sought peer recommendations and trusted channels to shop online, social commerce startups like GlowRoad and their ilk created a vast network of resellers from local communities for handholding new buyers.
People from Bharat, typically first-time internet and smartphone users, are also potential ecommerce users, given they have access to products within their spending capacity. However, most of them need assisted buying (through resellers), said Shekhar Sahu, cofounder of Bengaluru-based GlowRoad.
Going by industry data, social commerce has opened the floodgates for ecommerce in Tier 2 locations and beyond, as 157 Mn shoppers are now using these platforms, and the market is likely to hit $70 Bn by 2030. The massive uptick in e-shoppers also pushed mainstream marketplaces to venture beyond metros and embrace the new business model. In 2021, Flipkart announced its foray into social commerce with Shopsy, an app involving a community of more than 1 Lakh Flipkart resellers.
Seeing the rapid growth of ecommerce across Bharat, Sahu advised marketplaces to join the social commerce bandwagon. “A large ecommerce company can tap into thousands of undiscovered resellers with the help of social commerce platforms,” he added.
“Social commerce complements ecommerce and will be the biggest enabler of ecommerce growth in India. If an ecommerce platform wants to become a leader in this growth story, it has to encourage social commerce,” Sahu pointed out.
Since its launch in 2017, GlowRoad has created a strong presence in Tier 2 cities and beyond, accounting for 84% of its user base. It claims to have 7 Lakh+ SKUs from 28,000+ manufacturers/suppliers and boasts a network of 2 Mn+ resellers.
Inc42 recently caught up with Sahu who discussed the role of social commerce in driving ecommerce growth, the current state of the industry and the future of ecommerce beyond metros. Here are the edited excerpts:
Inc42: What is the biggest challenge in scaling up ecommerce in Tier 2 cities and beyond? How would you advise ecommerce platforms to stay ahead in the market?
Shekhar Sahu: The biggest challenge lies in quick customer acquisition and converting them to loyal and repeat buyers.
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Going by our experience, reselling is the most popular method of doing online business in these areas. It not only enables a greater reach for small scale businesses (as the resellers act as a bridging between them and the buyers) but also provides an earning opportunity to resellers and influencers. For ecommerce platforms like Flipkart, Myntra and Amazon, a reseller-led social commerce model promises massive potential. In that way, their products will easily reach Tier 2 markets and beyond.
Inc42: How does GlowRoad enable commerce on live streaming platforms?
Shekhar Sahu: Live commerce is the latest layer in video commerce. It is already very popular in China and is catching up like wildfire in the rest of the world. Back home, users from all over India are spending a lot of time watching videos on their smartphones. Keeping the massive potential of live commerce in mind, we have trained many of our resellers to sell their products on various platforms such as Instagram Live, Facebook Live and YouTube Live. A live commerce/video commerce feature called called GRTV is also present on the GlowRoad platform.
Inc42: How does the plug-and-play API integration work? How do your partner platforms such as short video platforms and ecommerce platforms, benefit from it?
Shekhar Sahu: Let us say a short-video app has partnered with us. Through our API integration, related products from GlowRoad will be automatically populated on their platform’s feed. When a shopper sees a short video of a saree, related products pop up at the bottom of the screen. If the person clicks on it, the product page will be automatically displayed on the app and the shopper can buy it without leaving the app. While the buyer puts their payment details on the video or ecommerce platform, the transaction takes place on GlowRoad and we fulfil the order. The company can put their profit margin on the products which are being shown on their platform using GlowRoad’s API. This enables companies to earn a profit margin, just like an individual reseller on GlowRoad.
We have done such integration for Shopify, and we aim to bring more platforms on board.
Inc42: Tell us more about GlowRoad’s reseller network.
Shekhar Sahu: More than 60% of social commerce users are women. Therefore, GlowRoad aims to empower women entrepreneurs at the grassroots by bringing in new women buyers and sellers in the community. We first get in touch with potential resellers via push notifications. Then our team explains the process through training videos and calls. Our objective is to ensure that resellers will have money coming to their bank accounts. So, we try to assist them at every step during their first few transactions. By the third month, each reseller can close at least 10-15 monthly transactions.
Inc42: Can traditional ecommerce platforms benefit from the GlowRoad model?
Shekhar Sahu: Around 20% of the suppliers leveraging social commerce also sell on ecommerce platforms. But they cannot grow there because most of the products they sell are not branded ones. Shoppers on ecommerce platforms generally go for branded products or buy things with very high ratings and reviews. In contrast, it takes a seller months to gain some traction on platforms like Flipkart or Amazon. At GlowRoad, we provide these suppliers the flexibility of pricing and free shipping. That is why pan-India suppliers partner with us. Traditional ecommerce platforms can also partner with GlowRoad to enhance the visibility of small-scale businesses and their products to a much larger Bharat audience.