Social commerce, which is simply buying and selling goods on social media, is one of the trends that has changed the dynamics of commerce in recent years. Platforms like Facebook, Instagram and Twitter have become go-to marketplaces for business owners and their customers.
According to data from Statista, sales through social media channels around the world are expected to almost triple by 2025.
In Africa, one of the fastest-growing e-commerce markets in the world, social commerce has huge potential. According to a Q1 2022 Social Commerce Survey, the social commerce industry in Africa and the Middle East is expected to grow by 70.3% annually to reach US$8 Billion in 2022.
Is social media enough to scale commerce?
At the 2022 edition of the #FutureofCommerce conference organised by tech-media organisation, TechCabal, in Lagos, last week, one of the leading conversations was centred on social media and the future of commerce in Africa.
There was a panel session focused on “How is social media shaping commerce?”. Speakers on the panel included Joshua Chibueze, co-founder/CMO of Piggyvest; Brian Mogeni, co-founder and CEO of Wowzi and Kelvin Umechukwu, co-founder and CEO of Bumpa.
Judging by the deep penetration of social commerce in Africa, the future looks promising. According to Kelvin, social commerce has the potential to triple the e-commerce market in the coming years, more than traditional commerce.
Speaking on the scalability of social commerce in Africa, Brian said that the existing market is massive and offers a lot of opportunities for small businesses on the continent to grow.
However, Joshua said though social media was a major part of Piggvest’s growth since its creation in 2016, it is not enough to scale social commerce, adding that there are other factors that come to play such as payments, access to market, fulfilment and strategic partnerships with other players in the ecosystem.
Driving up the adoption of social commerce
The footprint of social commerce in Africa is unmissable, as many African business owners currently rely on social media platforms to sell and promote their products and services to reach their customers.
Unlike online marketplaces like Jumia and Konga, social commerce allows business owners to manage and process transactions and creates opportunities for direct business-to-consumer interaction.
And, the panellists agree that there is still a need to do more to drive up adoption among more entrepreneurs on the continent.
For instance, Joshua opined that trust is one of the major barriers to social commerce in Africa, saying certain structures should be designed to build trust among consumers. For him, Nigeria, for one, also has a logistics nightmare, which is generally affecting the adoption of social commerce.
For Brian, influencer marketing platforms like Wowzi have a major role to play in getting more people to embrace social commerce. On his part, Kelvin thinks that more solutions still need to be created to empower small businesses to position the train.
Social commerce is not everything
Social commerce is here to stay in Africa. That is one point all the three panellists agreed on. But again, Joshua reiterated his earlier argument that social media cannot do everything.
“We mostly use social media for lead generation. How then do you convert the generated lead into customers? That’s what all of these platforms [we are building] exist to solve. Everyone cannot build their own tech platforms. So someone needs to build that structure to create ease in social commerce,” the Piggvest co-founder stated.
For Kelvin, there is a growing trend of small businesses building their own communities which means adoption of social commerce is sure to increase, adding that more social commerce-focused platforms will spring up in the coming years.
On his part, Brian believes that TikTok should be harnessed for social commerce in Africa, citing the growing popularity of the platform among Africans, across all age groups. Going forward, he said: “We see a future of social commerce that is offline, where communities of friends and families can collaborate to scale products”.
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