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Market Research | Decision Lab

Embracing social commerce: A consumer journey perspective

By  Thach Huynh    

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The consumer journey on social commerce platforms is diverse and complex. Yet, one thing is clear: Vietnamese consumers make use of social connections to empower their shopping experience on social media.

Shopping on social media is convenient and cheap. That said, navigating the complex social media landscape can be overwhelming. In Vietnam, the Internet can be a seedy place–from fraud to low-quality products, Vietnamese consumers must be on high alert to stay clear of social commerce pitfalls. 

Indeed, Vietnamese consumers are sensitive to the risks of social commerce. 60% of consumers in Vietnam reported having received products that do not match with advertised images. Late delivery and inability to return goods are other common negative experiences that consumers often encounter. 

So, why is social commerce still popular? Besides consumer protection efforts by social media platforms, the consumers themselves rely on the social nature of these platforms to reduce potential risks. Specifically, consumers make use of online communities, conversational commerce, and familiarity to navigate online shopping via social media.

Putting the “social” in “social commerce”

The importance of social connections begins early in the consumer journey. Online communities, such as Facebook & Zalo groups, are the main drivers of product discovery for at least 67% of consumers.

In these online communities, consumers “consult” each other on different products, and they tend to have high trust in one another. “For high-value products (like electronics), I would go on groups on Facebook to learn from other people’s experiences and consultations,” a focus group interviewee (Male, 34 years old) shared. 

The power of community remains the same across generations (at 67%). Yet, casual product discovery, another common pathway to social commerce, is more popular among Gen Z consumers. Gen Z’s are also more sensitive to ads from sellers.

Trust is the keyword

Ms. Thuy, a social commerce business owner who partook in our interviews with merchants, shared: “Selling through social media has two main challenges. The first is maintaining a core customer base. The second is gaining customer trust.” Gaining the trust of consumers is an important milestone in business. Consumers also tend to build up trust in sellers through social activities.

 

One such activity is chatting up the sellers before buying, which half of the consumers do. An interviewee said, “On Facebook, consumers can view who the seller is, which makes me feel more secure when buying. […] After learning more about the product and pricing, I like to check on the seller and see how they’d treat me.” (Female, 30 years old)

Consumers also utilize their real-life networks, such as friends and family, to learn more about products and sellers. On a broader scale, reviews on shop pages, which are essentially asynchronous communication among customers, are the most popular way for building trust.

The power of familiarity

When asked which sellers people often purchase from on social media, 75% of consumers said familiar shops–or, shops that they have purchased from previously. Only one third of the consumers are willing to explore unfamiliar stores. 

Importantly, a driver for repurchasing intent is a positive initial experience with the shop. As such, social merchants should aim to lock in a positive impression with customers from the get-go to ensure repeat purchases.

 

Social elements permeate every activity on social media, and social commerce is no exception. Vietnamese consumers know how to make use of social connections to reduce risks when buying goods through social media. Merchants and brands should embrace the social aspects of social commerce to build lasting relationships with their customers.

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