Social media usage is high among young, urban Indians. It has become popular in a short span due to its reach, frequency, opinion sharing, and ease of use. Frost & Sullivan's recent study "Impact of Social Media on Online Shopping Behavior in India" studies the effect of social media on online shopping among Indians, and covers the benefits of social media, how it can be applied by enterprises to their advantage and presents an overview of future online retailing trends in the country.
The study found that more than 60 percent of internet users in urban India spend four hours and more a day browsing for various purposes such as entertainment, networking, business, academics, shopping, etc. Over 130 million Indians are connected to the Web via fixed and mobile broadband, over 60 million are registered on Facebook and 20 million on LinkedIn. Frost & Sullivan finds that nearly 50 percent of young urban Indians spend more than two hours on social media sites daily.
In parallel, online shopping in India has also witnessed fast paced growth. There are hundreds of portals offering a range of products in single or multiple categories for customers. Good indexing and search tools, easy payment options, streamlined logistical infrastructure for shipping and, needless to say, a variety of products at a variety of prices makes online retailing an attractive alternative for traditional shopping in the kirana stores, retail outlets as well as supermarkets.
Frost & Sullivan finds that interestingly, consumers are increasingly relying on social media to make their purchases - either as informed choices, or through peer conditioning. Empowered by social media, consumers are becoming forthright and fearless with their opinions and share views on news, politics, products, movies, and food, among others. Analysis finds that over 67 percent of urban Indians are influenced by social media in their purchasing decisions.
As per a customer survey conducted by Frost & Sullivan to assess the impact of social media on online purchasing trends among Indians (in the age group of 18 to 35), 60 percent of the respondents indicated that they shopped online once a month. It also highlighted that over 40 percent of the respondents expected to increase their online shopping budgets over the next 12-15 months.
The survey further revealed that for over 30 percent of the survey respondents, friends or peer-reference influenced their online shopping; 17 percent were influenced by social media sites that included ads, product reviews, recommendations, product launch announcements, etc., and over 40 percent of the respondents indicated that they purchased one or more items after seeing it on a social networking site and many of these purchases were routed through ads on these sites.
"For improved results and generating increased revenues online, companies need to find means to integrate online portals with social media," says Vidya Nath, Research Director, ICT Practice, Frost & Sullivan. "They will also have to watch customer behavior closely to chart their marketing strategies for the still evolving online shopping medium in India."
"While the benefits of social media in terms of investment and returns appear visibly higher than incumbent methods of marketing and advertising, these cannot be taken for granted", says Nath. "What works for one company, may not work for the other, hence social media marketing has to be carefully and strategically implemented to see tangible results."