YouTube closes Indian social commerce app Simsim

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YouTube is shutting down its live social commerce app Simsim less than two years after acquiring the Indian startup, but insists it’s committed to building “a seamless shopping experience for viewers and supporting creators’ businesses.”

Simsim sought to help small businesses in India transition to e-commerce by leveraging the rising popularity of video and creators. The startup’s eponymous app acted as a platform to connect local businesses, influencers, and customers.

YouTube acquired Simsim in mid-2021 in a deal that valued the Indian company at more than $70 million, AapkaDost first reported. At the time, YouTube said the acquisition will enable the video streaming giant to help small businesses and retailers in India reach new customers in even more powerful ways.

With more than 450 million users, the South Asian market is YouTube’s largest. Google’s video platform also sees India as a testbed for experimentation (YouTube Go and Shorts are two examples). The acquisition of Simsim came at a time when YouTube was beginning to explore ways to expand its video platform into an e-commerce engine.

The proposition in India, according to Good Capital’s Rohan Malhotra, who has supported both Meesho and Simsim, was “micro-influencers are more effective at building targeted audiences (growth), creating entertaining experiences (retention), building of trust (higher value) and personalizing messages (conversion).”

“Consumer social platforms (Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, etc.) cannot generate meaningful revenue in India through ad-funded models; this unlocks the potential for more deeply integrated transaction platforms. New Internet users in India need an interactive merchant-led experience to replicate the offline e-commerce experience this market is used to,” he previously told AapkaDost.

The time for the dissertation may not have come yet. Facebook shut down its live shopping feature last year as it shifted its focus to Reels. But not everyone gives up. Amazon, which acquired Indian social commerce startup GlowRoad last year, has introduced QVC-style livestream shopping in the country.

The retail group’s service, called Amazon Live, brings together an army of more than 150 creators to host live streams and put products into the videos. The idea is that influencers, with a large following already, will lead their fans to the shopping app and influence them to buy products. They get a share every time they can make a sale.

YouTube also does not deviate from the category. A spokesperson said Thursday that the company “will work with creators to introduce more monetization opportunities for creators in 2023 through an affiliate program and more shopping features for long videos, shorts and live streams on YouTube.”

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