The customer experience today is no longer just limited to face to face interactions. In fact, it has gone online and into the social media scene, with consumers interacting with their favourite brands on platforms such as Facebook and Instagram.
At the same time, brands have also doubled down on functions such as social commerce, live commerce, and even chatbots to keep consumers engaged. That said, improving the customer experience is certainly easier said than done and CMOs have had to pivot during these challenging times to come up with out of the box initiatives.
In this latest episode of In Conversation With, Varun Sharma (pictured), Emplifi’s VP, Asia Pacific and Japan, shares his thoughts on the customer experience and engagement scene in Asia Pacific, as well as how brands can drive an exceptional customer experience.
Emplifi was created last June through the merger of Socialbakers and Astute Solutions. The company touts itself to be a unified customer experience platform that brings together marketing, care, and commerce to empathise with customers, and amplify the right experiences throughout the customer journey.
Its Asia operations are run out of Singapore and some of its clients include McDonald’s, Delta Air Lines, and Ford Motor Company.
Sharma took on his role last September. He was previously with Oracle as director and head of sales, CX applications and solutions, Southeast Asia. He also worked at Adobe as sales leader for strategic industries, digital experience, Southeast Asia.
Listen to the podcast here. This conversation is powered by Emplifi.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: CMOs are now starting to take charge of the customer experience as well as customer engagement and care, but this hasn’t always been the case. Can you share why this shift has happened?
Sharma: If I may say so, it’s all about the brand. CMOs are directly impacted by how their customers are thinking about the brand. Now, what’s happening in our industry is the brand is being measured by consumers across the spectrum, especially in the digital world we live in. What I mean is the website, chatbot, virtual assistant, commerce platform, and the overall omni-channel experience and presence of that brand. Hence, what organisations are doing is hearing the voice of the customer as a result, which is evolving the role of the CMO.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How can we break down the organisational silos to ensure the best customer experience happens? As you know, this is usually easier said than done.
Sharma: I definitely agree, it’s easier said than done. And if I’m candid here, I think it needs to start right at the top of the organisation. The CEO or the C-suite needs to have a single unified vision as an organisation or a brand, which as a result trickles down to the rest of the organisation, which leads to shared accountability across different teams, and different stakeholders in the organisation.
The organisation also needs to put together a governance structure, which helps manage those goals, visions, and holds everyone accountable.
And most importantly – map the customer journeys. Customer journey mapping involves different touch-points in our present-day work, and different stakeholders. If there is a single unified vision within an organisation or a brand, I think that’s where we will be able to pull this together.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Social media has been playing an increasingly important role in the overall customer experience. Could you tell us more about how you see this unfolding this year?
Sharma: If you look at certain reports, which have been published recently, including one which was published by Emplifi regarding APAC social media marketing predictions, I think you’ll realise that more brands are going live on social channels such as Facebook and Instagram.
But what’s happening is there are a lot more emerging social channels such as Snapchat and TikTok. With those channels coming into play and brands adopting them, what we will see is the social marketing element will eventually drive a lot of brands to rethink the strategy and move towards the social commerce element.
That’s how the whole social media scene will continue to evolve. If we have to agree on one aspect, it would be that consumers these days are fairly demanding. With consumers being demanding, they like to engage with the brand on their preferred channel.
So right now, they might be engaging for content on these channels. But when it comes to engagement in terms of complaints or feedback, they want to be engaging via their preferred channel.
Hence, I believe, what will complete the loop would be a social care element of things where the care element being customers can engage with a brand on social media through their preferred social media channels.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: We have been talking about the importance of the customer experience for a long time. What do you think will be the next frontier in 2022?
Sharma: Let me break this question into three key areas, which I believe will be the key elements in 2022. First, let’s start off with social commerce. The reason I say social commerce is because our social media channels such as Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok are investing heavily when it comes to the whole shopping experience on those platforms.
They’re doing that purely because there is data, which proves that a lot of the organisations are moving and creating that experience on those social channels.
The second would be live commerce which is going to be huge. If we look at markets such as China, all the trends are already coming out from there. The reason why live commerce will continue to drive growth for businesses is primarily because eCommerce has become a bit stagnating. And the second aspect of live commerce is that it’s real-time and conversational, which appeals to consumers.
More importantly, based on all the research and data, it shows that live commerce drives eight times higher conversion rates compared with eCommerce. So brands are bound to be attracted by those numbers.
Lastly, is a connected social customer experience. The customer experience journey is no longer linear as most touch-points are digital. And the majority of those touch-points are on social media.
Brands are now more focused on understanding the experience gap and they’re trying to close that to ensure the journey is seamless across social marketing, social commerce, and the social care element to ensure that consumers are constantly engaged with the brand.
Socialbakers and Astute merge to form CX platform Emplifi