Personalized Social Selling Unifies Channels, Drives Higher Conversions

Omnichannel works well — until someone tries to cross channels. That invisible digital border is where sales and loyalty are being won or lost, and customer experience (CX) tends to be the deciding factor.

As social commerce maneuvers into a more dominant position driven by millennials and Gen Zs increasingly drawn to connected forms of retail engagement, it’s a gap that must be addressed.

Fixing the cross-channel handoff is one thing that Emplifi CEO Mark Zablan spends his time working on. He’s focused on connected economy experiences that aren’t all that connected.

Defining the basic components of customer journey as researching content, transaction and post-sale care, he told PYMNTS, “What’s happening is the systems that empower those three touchpoints — marketing, commerce and care — are not all the same system.”

Multiple disparate systems aren’t known for unified experiences, and these CX issues are dangerous for brands at a time when choice is overwhelming and commerce is shifting.

“What we’re seeing as far as the breakdown is it more or less happens when a consumer is moving from channel to channel,” he said. “That happens a little bit more on the service and care side. When you go into service and care, most of the brands are still in omnichannel, but it’s not necessarily the social channel.”

The fix isn’t hard to grasp, although it will be a change of strategy for many companies.

“We now believe that businesses have to run on social for the entire customer experience,” he said. “That’s how you solve it.

“You stay within the channel that the consumers entered, that they prefer to engage in, and you provide them ways to continue the conversation so it’s now helping you close a transaction, helping you solve an issue, but more importantly, helping you build loyal long-term customers by delivering a seamless flow.”

See also: The Most Successful Brands Treat Social Commerce Like a Focus Group

The New Influencers

There’s no question that demographics are driving the shift to social commerce. Brands have to harmonize channels for digital-first and digital native shoppers to lock in their loyalty.

Zablan noted that, “If you’re a brand, you want to be now marketing to millennials.” Adding that “Gen Zs are probably the fastest growth in purchasing power,” he said brands need to reposition and retool to be where these consumers are.

“Facebook, Instagram and TikTok [are] just the ones that are important today,” he said. “There are a number of channels that haven’t even made it to the market yet, especially in social, that are probably going to change the complexity moving forward.”

Unifying social commerce with web and physical so consumers can start and end buying journeys in numerous channel combinations is the experiential high hurdle. That’s being accomplished with platforms, naturally, and a more personal touch to touchpoints.

Pointing to estimates that social commerce is a $500 billion market and poised to double in size in the near term, Zablan said brands doing it right today offer “a little bit more connectivity, a little bit more experience, a little bit more live shopping, a little bit more one-to-one as far as making a transaction online or on social sites, but still having the experience and feeling good about the person who’s providing counsel and advice on the product.”

In a word: influencers. After getting some bad press a few years ago, influencer marketing is a core element of social commerce, just as presenters warm up The Home Shopping Network.

“The brands that are using live shopping influencers in the one-to-many use cases are seeing conversions move into 40 percentile rates,” Zablan said. “If you think about live shopping conversion being at 40% compared to the average web conversion, it’s astronomical. That’s why the boom is happening so quickly.”

Read more: Twitter to Beta Test Social Commerce Features

Social Isn’t a Fad Anymore

Social commerce using influencers taps into impulse purchase behavior, which — when well deployed — not only moves merchandise, but creates loyal customers craving more of the experiences a given brand might offer.

“Let’s say it’s [Sean Combs] selling Bose headsets while on a holiday [at a Four Seasons in the Caribbean], and 2 million people are following that VoyaJet experience and have decided that they want to engage in a live transaction for those Bose headsets or book a holiday at the Four Seasons,” Zablan said to illustrate. “It’s that type of experience where you’re seeing things happen live and using influencers to really generate revenue for the brand.”

Even physical stores are part of the mix of signals informing social commerce.

“The digital channel is a lead generator for physical and vice versa,” he said. “People will go into physical stores and then go online to find the best deal. One of the trends we’re seeing as far as physical is some of it is going away for those … standing up with dark stores. I don’t need a physical shop. I’m going to put a live agent in a dark store, and I’m going to start selling on social sites.”

Fashion and luxury are easy to put across via social commerce and video selling. Equally interesting is how financial brands are testing the waters of connected commerce.

Conceding that financial services aren’t a feel-good purchase like a watch or shoes, Zablan said, “If you watched the Super Bowl or any of the NFL coverage, you probably saw Turbo Tax with the launch of live video. Those industries are getting into it, not necessarily through social channel or live shopping, but through providing service and care and live video — or let’s call it chatbots or digital self-service — that has a call to action that can move into a live experience.”

Citing Emplifi data that 87% of brands think they’re providing a unified experience while only about 11% of consumers agree, brands clearly have work to do in bringing it together.

“Where social used to be the fad channel, it is the growth engine going forward for the populations and segments that have potentially the highest revenue growth,” Zablan said. “If you think about long term relationships, these are the relationships you want to be developing now and turning into loyal customers. The advice we give is stay very connected with the social space.”

Related: Multichannel Support Gives Third-Party Sellers New Marketplace Avenues