With socially-distanced shopping — or you know, good old online shopping — being ever more an option this year, apps and brands have been constantly trying to improve upon the experience, making our new-age habit of tapping on our smartphones more seamless and intuitive, whether you’re a digital native or not. Early in December, messaging app WhatsApp also rolled out a new ‘Carts’ feature, making shopping directly on the app far more enticing.
For WhatsApp users, this means we can now add products we want to a shopping cart while browsing through catalogs hosted by brands who own a Business Account — these merchants are usually small business owners, and even local businesses, who use the platform to reach out to customers. The new feature also allows you to chat directly with the brand for enquiries or special requests.
The best part here, clearly, is that you won’t need to download a separate app. Simply chat with the brands through WhatsApp Messenger, which most of us are already using. It’s also good to know that some of these merchants include local brands which I was keen to support during this festive shopping period. And believe it or not, as tech-savvy as I would consider myself and as a too-frequent online shopper, it’s also this millennial’s first time shopping directly via WhatsApp. Here’s my experience.
Overall impression: easier than I thought. Even though we’ve seen the debut of e-concierge services this year, with beauty brands leading the charge, I’ve never actually considered directly chatting with the brands, much less ordering directly via messaging apps. Perhaps I still prefer to do my own research rather than talk to a salesperson, or still have my doubts about the reliability of ‘casual’ chats. And yet, at the same time, I’ve bought homeware, jewellery, and baked goods directly via Instagram DMs as well, and those turned out fine.
What makes the WhatsApp Carts experience different from “sliding into DMs” is that it’s a more elevated and integrated way of shopping, that still supports small local businesses who may not have robust, full-fledged websites. You can browse through their catalogs, chat with the business, and add to cart, without having to toggle across several apps or tabs.
First things first, you start by loading a chat with your brand of choice. From there, tap on the top right corner, the ‘Catalog’ icon, to access a catalog of the brand’s featured items without even exiting the app. You’ll then be able to add the item you want directly to cart, by tapping the ‘Add To Cart’ shopping cart icon on the top right. Once you’ve filled your cart, send it to the business to place your order and await their confirmation.
I found the catalog to be the most useful and convenient feature — you get all the key information you’d possibly need, including the item name, price, product images, a brief production description, all there at a quick glance. There’s also a URL you can click through, which will open on your web browser, should you require more information.
What I surprisingly enjoyed was the extra personalised service. I was chatting with brand founder Lyn from Studio MU / YU, and it felt like I was chatting with a friend, as she recommended their Christmas Gift Sets, and even allowed me to choose my favourite wooden earrings from the festive series — I ended up liking the Christmas socks-inspired ones she picked out anyway.
From FrankSkincare, brand founder Cissy also offered some skincare recommendations based on my skin type and concerns / skincare goals. Since I told her I had combination skin and was looking towards an anti-ageing routine, she picked the Magic Wipe Cleansing Oil, Rosy Mist, and Juicier Luxury Face Oil, which are all 100% organic-certified and formulated for our tropical weather and urban lifestyle.
After confirming my order with the brands, I just had to let them know my delivery details — a name and address — while they arranged the item drop-off. I liked that I could ask about the estimated date and time of delivery as well, to make sure that I would be at home to receive my parcel. Some brands also later updated me on the day my package was sent out. That was pretty much it — I received all my parcels in good condition, most of them within 5 days of confirmation!
Here are 4 of the brands I shopped from, available on WhatsApp:
1. STUDIO MU / YU
Item: Stay Present Kit — with Holly Jolly 05 Earrings, $48 + Christmas Tree, $75.
Studio MU / YU is an artisanal woodcraft brand, where you’ll find handcrafted jewellery, bags, and lifestyle products — including workshop kits where you can create your own D-I-Y coasters, for instance. In fact, we first came across the brand when they debuted a MASAK-MASAK collection for National Day, which featured kopitiam breakfast earrings and a wooden jewellery stand modelled after our iconic HDB flats. Their most popular items though have to be statement-worthy wooden earrings, where each piece is unique, and often show off the subtly beautiful wood grains and textures of the organic material. These are also the upcycled products of discarded wood materials from various carpentry and designer studios in Singapore — for a sustainable twist we can get behind.
ITEM: The Shore Sling Fanny Bag, $88.
Another conscious fashion label that ought to be on your radar, SUI, which means ‘needle’ in Hindi, is based in both India and Singapore, where founder Mahima Gujral makes it her personal mission to weave together nature and fashion. They do this by putting forth sustainable apparel that respects both the makers and our environment, whether it’s via organic cotton or eco-friendly Tencel, herbal-dyed fabric that utilise natural ingredients, or working together with artisan partners, such as Bagru Textiles, for their recent poppy print series. The multi-functional fanny pouch I ordered is crafted using leftover scrap fabrics, but paired so beautifully with wooden buttons and buckles, that I wouldn’t have known anyway.
Item: Clean Rejuvenate Nourish Set, $148
The homegrown clean beauty brand boasts organic skincare products that are produced, formulated, and packaged in Singapore, with 100% organic-certified, top-grade ingredients sourced from different parts of the world for the best benefits, sans harmful chemicals. If you have sensitive skin, or are wary of the ingredients that go into your skincare formulas, their small-batch skincare items are a good place to start. Key items include the Juicier Luxury Face Oil, which comes packed with 11 luxurious ingredients such as sunflower seed oil from the USA and argan oil from Morocco, for radiant and healthy skin; or, the Rosy Mist, which includes rose otto from Bulgaria.
Item: Up and at ’em Longline Bra (Moss), $62
With the growing trend of keeping healthy, and flaunting our fitness journeys on social media, we’ve also noticed a rise in homegrown athletic wear brands, probably due to their suitable fits and materials. Here, Concrete offers comfortable exercise bras, tops, and leggings with cuts that are more tailored for Singaporean females, and with carefully selected breathable, moisture-wicking fabric that supports and empowers us through every yoga, barre, or HIIT session. This Up and at ’em Longline Bra, in a pleasant Moss shade, is a medium support bra with structured sides, made with a comfortable material that offers a 4-way stretch.