Thriving in the brave new world of retail

Community commerce is reshaping how people buy and sell
Thriving in the brave new world of retail
Aref Yehia, Head of Retail & E-Commerce Business Partnerships, TikTok MENA

As online shopping continues to gain significant traction globally and regionally – community commerce has emerged as one of the core trends underpinning this development. During cult shopping seasons such as Black Friday, community commerce can help millions of customers cut through the noise to discover the right products, aided by reviews and recommendations from trusted individuals.

However, community commerce – which we define as the digitalization of word-of-mouth marketing – isn’t just about making a quick sale. In an age when customers want simplicity, personalization, and authenticity, it’s all about delivering experiences that combine an accelerated, seamless shopping experience with a community’s ‘intimacy’ at scale. Community commerce is therefore reshaping how people buy and sell, providing marketers with new revenue streams through compelling content that just so happens to feature brands.

As consumers continue to evolve past attention-based ad solutions designed to purely sell and interrupt, the real potential of community commerce remains largely untapped. In the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region alone, the retail market is currently estimated to be worth $1 trillion – with digital platforms serving up to 40 percent of the total retail spend, according to MENA e-commerce platform Zbooni. While leading brands understand the critical importance of community commerce as part of their marketing mix, they may not yet fully realize the lucrative opportunity offered by this online revolution.

Reimagining the commerce experience


Indeed, the only constant in commerce is change, and businesses have dealt with more change in the last two years than in the previous two decades. The most impacted facet has been experience: there is no commerce without experience because, in essence, commerce is an exchange. It is the experience of that exchange that has fundamentally changed throughout the years.

We are embarking upon a new era of marketing, with a paradigm shift that has changed the way brands and consumers connect. The days of brands interrupting a user’s content experience with irrelevant messaging are almost behind us – consumers now need an experience that is interactional and collaborative.

The experience is truly being reimagined, evolving from buying and selling goods between businesses and consumers, into an exchange of knowledge, advice, and support. This encourages collaboration amongst communities for more authentic shopping experiences, subsequently resulting in higher rates of customer delight, which encourages users to joyfully share their discoveries and perpetuate word of mouth.

Liberated from the shackles of traditional sales pitches, commerce is now gaining ground as an experience that entertains, enables, and connects, and allows for product discovery at rapid speed.

Back to basics


In a cookie-less, Web 3.0 trust-deficit world, commerce will need to re-focus on bridging the gap of trust and connection using its core building block: interactions.

What does this look like in practice? For starters, the moment of conversion should be built with joyful discovery in mind, underpinned by a wide gamut of creative communities. This approach stems from the knowledge that positive mindsets enhance shopping behaviors, helping to explain how users are regularly leading brands to sell out overnight.

An example of a regional brand that is tapping into community commerce is Ounass. By leveraging a combination of creator-led content and ad solutions on TikTok, the luxury online retailer successfully managed to own the luxury fashion marketing moment during Ramadan and achieved more than 52% audience penetration in Saudi Arabia.

A brave new world


Although there have never been as many opportunities in the commerce space as there are today, there also has never been as much competition. Navigating this ultra-competitive and almost saturated environment requires a profound understanding of the wants and needs of shoppers and the opportunities that will shape the future of commerce.

Businesses today have the opportunity to reinvigorate their digital shopping journey by bringing back the intimate and shared experience of commerce. Community commerce is the space where brands can shape this future – making every transaction joyful, trustworthy, and personal, and taking commerce back to its interactional roots.

Disclaimer: Opinions conveyed in this article are solely those of the author. The information presented in this article is intended for informational purposes only. It does not constitute advice on tax and legal matters; neither are they financial or investment recommendations. Refer to our full disclaimer policy here.