To let shoppers discover and try out new products, payment companies are helping merchants launch augmented reality (AR) experiences within social media platforms. Pan-African payments firm Cellulant, for instance, created an AR experience in Facebook Messenger. The firm chose a Kenyan brand, Huddah Cosmetics, as the first social commerce merchant on Mula — the firm’s payments platform powering a digital payments experience across Africa. With the experience, customers use their cell phone cameras to “try” on different shades of lipsticks and make purchases through Mula.
According to Cellulant, Huddah Cosmetics was an interesting brand to launch for the platform. For starters, founder Alhuda Njoroge (who is popularly known as Huddah Monroe) has a strong Instagram following of more than a million users. In addition, the company said that her brand is well-known and capable of generating buzz. At the same time, Faizal Mirza, chief product officer at Cellulant, said her products appeal to millennials who spend a lot of time on social media. In fact, the brand’s target market is millennial women between the ages of 20 and 37 with disposable income who live in an urban area.
Of course, eCommerce has its challenges, and shoppers can’t always touch, feel or otherwise try out a product before they make their purchases online. David Waithaka, chief strategy officer at Cellulant, told PYMNTS.com in an interview, “One of the things that Huddah struggled with in trying to move her products online [was that] most female shoppers [informed] her they were not sure of how certain colors would look on them. This created a challenge as she didn’t have her own shop where [her] customers would go to try her different shades of lipstick before [making a] purchase.”
Huddah and merchants that offer similar products, however, are not alone: “This need to try out before purchase is not only applicable to the cosmetics industry but also to real estate and even household retail for items such as furniture,” according to Waithaka. Yet, the company noted that AR technology is still somewhat expensive in regions such as Africa. With its efforts to build this technology into social media platforms, however, Cellulant is “enabling up-and-coming merchants leverage this to scale their businesses without them having to figure out the nuts and bolts of how it works.”
Social networking sites are seeing a rise in informal commerce: A survey last year found that 32 percent of online shoppers buy items through Facebook groups amid a landscape where merchants and payment firms are eyeing AR technology. According to Waithaka, Facebook has over 170 million users in Africa, and, with one out of 10 digitally enabled Africans paying on Cellulant’s platform, social commerce presents a great opportunity to enhance the payments experience for African consumers.