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In this episode of the Customer Service Secrets Podcast, Gabe Larsen is joined by Pam O’Neal from Kustomer. As the Senior Director of Growth at Kustomer, Pam is experienced in social commerce and she spills the secrets on how to take advantage of this tool in your business. Learn more by listening to the podcast below.
What Is Social Commerce?
Social commerce is a kind of e-commerce that uses online social networks to help in the buying and selling of goods and services.The new world of commerce is being steered by social media, especially as consumer habits have turned more digital during. The power of social media is tremendous – everything is digitized, from friendships to commerce. When social platforms were blowing up, many businesses took to these platforms to relate to their customers on a deeper level and to advertise in a way that was more integrated and personalized. Social commerce changes the way brands create relationships with their customers.
If you spend any time on apps like Instagram or Facebook, more than likely you’ll see ads for products from your recent Google searches. This is no accident, many companies use these platforms for this purpose. So, how can CX get its turn on social media? For Pam, it’s a great opportunity for leaders to take advantage because it offers a seamless experience between customer and brand. Leaders inexperienced in this field often wonder how to get started when there are so many social platforms on the web. “How are we going to bring all of that together and have an informed, seamless, integrated experience that is managed by a platform built for this world?” Pam explains that leaders should be understanding their customers on every level in order for this new way of commerce to work for them.
Fully Understand Your Customer Demographic
For brands to fully understand their demographic, they need to know what platforms their customers most commonly use. From there they can create the typical customer profile as a way to characterize their typical consumer. “You’ve got to know who’s your ideal customer profile and then you’ve got to profile them and understand them deeply.” When creating customer profiles, leaders should look for specific traits that are common among their consumers – traits that embody the kind of person they serve. These include things like physical traits, behaviors, and patterns when interacting with the brand, and purchasing preference. Persona building helps brands to target the right audience and bring a fresh perspective to the drawing board. This method of creating personas gives brands the information they need for efficient advertising strategies and more importantly, it includes the customer in every business decision.
Meet Your Customers on Their Channels
Pam reiterates the old adage, “Location, location, location, is the first rule of business.” Meeting your customers on their preferred form of social media is a great way to make their interactions with your brand feel more personal and normal. It’s also a great way to make your brand more global by having a social media presence. Media platforms don’t take a break, they’re constantly being used at all hours of the day, across the globe. For a team of CX agents, social media is the perfect tool to casually check in with consumers since it keeps the buying process simple. They see an advertisement for a product, they click on the link and go directly to the website. “Finding that balance to be there when the customer wants you to be there is so important.” Because social media “never sleeps,” it’s something that should be added to every CX team’s tool box.
To learn more about how social commerce is booming in today’s world, check out the Customer Service Secrets podcast episode below, and be sure to subscribe for new episodes each Thursday.
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Full Episode Transcript:
Taking Advantage of Social Commerce with Pam O’Neal
Intro Voice: (00:04)
You’re listening to the Customer Service Secrets Podcast by Kustomer.
Gabe Larsen: (00:11)
Hi, I’m Gabe Larson, I’m the Vice President of Marketing here at Kustomer, the top rated CRM and customer service platform for businesses who want to connect with more customers across more channels. Now, we want this to be an active and fun conversation. Let’s have Pam O’Neal join us. She’s our Growth Marketing Director. Pam, thanks for joining. How are you?
Pam O’Neal: (00:31)
I’m great, thanks Gabe. So, yeah, as Gabe mentioned, I run Growth and Demand Marketing here at Kustomer, but you know, I also run a household and some community groups and I like to think I run the lives of two busy teenagers. They may argue with that, but our lives have just gotten out of control this year. So busy with all the change, all the chaos, all the confusion of 2020, and really social commerce, social shopping, and everything that goes with it has become a lifeline for me. It allows me to shop safely for my family, essential staples. I get to combine the advice of friends, families, influencers in the purchase process using social commerce. It saves time. It’s more streamlined. It also allows me to shop when I want to shop. I do insomnia shopping as my team knows.
Pam O’Neal: (01:26)
I had a little insomnia shopping episode last week at around 2:00 AM. Decided that I’d like to try to take up aerial yoga. And that would be a great time to purchase aerial yoga silks, but I had a couple of questions as one might expect. So, social commerce was really amazing for me to be able to read the reviews and the commentary of the community and understand what type of silks I should get as a beginner and make that purchase and get healthier in the process. So, a real lifeline, it also allows us to have a variety of life, right? As we’re locked down, we don’t get to travel as much anymore, but an ad popped up for flying in deep dish pizza from Chicago last week and I couldn’t resist.
Gabe Larsen: (02:15)
So you ordered it?
Pam O’Neal: (02:20)
I did! It was fantastic. And in fact, not only was it fantastic, but friends hit me up. They’re like, “Hey, can we come over and have some?” So we used the back patio and a little social distancing, deep dish pizza. And then I had another friend who sells rugs in Marrakesh. And so I had an Instagram chat with him yesterday and I’m like, “Ooh, I need rugs.” And so he hooked me up with some Moroccan rugs. So even though we can’t travel, even though we can’t do the things that we used to do, social media and our connections across the world are allowing us to do some really fun and exciting things to bring that spice of life back, to make more confident purchases because our friends have recommended and to get referrals. And then just the convenience of it all. Point and click, don’t even make me type, so fantastic.
Pam O’Neal: (03:10)
And I’m a big fan of Messenger to help answer those questions and make it easier for me. So while it has made my life and probably others much easier, it does bring with it complexity for businesses, right? The FedEx guy just showed up with my latest purchase by the way. And I’m glad he didn’t ring the doorbell, but it does bring a lot of complexity to businesses who have to manage that fluid environment of all these different channels that can be used to communicate with you and purchase. And it also makes that relationship 24/7 because social media doesn’t sleep. So today, Gabe and I are going to talk about social commerce. It’s really not new, but it’s really hot now. And the risks and realities of tackling it, how to make it work using a terrific omni-channel CX platform and being there throughout the buyer journey to advise and assist. And then some of the brands that are really doing it right, and doing it well, and really forward-thinking on that front. And then what’s coming up next.
Gabe Larsen: (04:16)
Awesome. Well, why don’t I lay a little bit of the foundation here about what social commerce looks like today? So it is, if you haven’t heard, it’s a big trend and it’s even bigger with the pandemic you guys. This is where buyers are seeking this effortless purchasing experience from, as Pam indicated. I didn’t think Chicago style pizza was part of that, but you can buy stuff like medication and fashion and tools and groceries, everything all to Pam’s point, just with the click of a button. Now, social commerce is not necessarily new. It’s been around for a while and it is a social experience. After all, we love to show off our purchases to friends. We like to seek their advice, their opinions, or share finds with some of the things that we find, discounts with others. We’ve been using social networks for years but lately, technology and techniques, truthfully, a little bit as Zack said, it’s just revolutionizing the experience. Messenger, WhatsApp, and even Kustomer’s chat or customer service platforms are becoming more important tools to create this convenient and valuable experience across not just one part of the buyer journey, but the entire journey from awareness to that post-sale support.
Gabe Larsen: (05:31)
So it really is the closest thing you can get to in-person buying to interacting with an expert in the moment to solve problems, or in some cases, you get a machine, but you get that AI guided self-service. It doesn’t matter if you’re big or small e-commerce startups, social network giants, everybody is recognizing this opportunity. And they’re really finding a way to get in on the trend. It does seem there’s almost an app for about anything these days, new ways are cropping up. The line between social media, mobile commerce, and e-commerce, it’s increasingly blurred. Pam and I have been debating this last week. E-commerce, social commerce, and commerce in general. Wow, it’s coming together across industries and it’s not just a retail. It’s not just a retail thing. Guys, you can use things like social shops. You can use Instagram shops where influencers can trade products and a lot of them are taking cuts of their profits.
Gabe Larsen: (06:28)
They’re selling directly. You got social marketplaces. Zack talked about Facebook Marketplaces where everyone can participate in selling and buying. Chat bot shopping like Messenger purchasing or WhatsApp carts. WeChat Facebook, Instagram messenger. I mean the list goes on and on. Pinterest. Pinterest is another one. So many different ways to get involved in this emerging trend. Couple of data points I wanted to mention, I thought were so powerful. We’ve been, Pam and I have been scrolling through the different resources and research reports, but these two jumped out a lot to me. It’s Stackla’s report, 92% of consumers said that their preferred platform for social commerce was Instagram. 77% opted for Facebook, 57% for Twitter, 47% for Pinterest. From a business perspective, you guys, 73% of businesses believe that their brand had already created an emotional bond with consumers on social media and that this would ultimately help them achieve greater success across social media. So again, this isn’t just about retail. This isn’t just about small businesses. These trends, Pam, healthcare, finance, university, big companies, small companies, all getting in on the game and social commerce is the name of that game. What is your business using?
Pam O’Neal: (08:03)
Well, I mean, I just think it underscores our point about just the fluid nature of social commerce. It’s all over the place. There’s so many infinite possibilities, but it also, as I said, creates this management, or as I like to call it orchestration challenge. That’s a lot of different ways that your customers are expecting to connect with you.
Gabe Larsen: (08:25)
Let’s talk about where customers are and why social commerce is so popular.
Pam O’Neal: (08:28)
Well, it was a great segue actually, because I think the first thing we need to think about when we talk about connecting with our customers and being there in the time of need and serving them and solving their problems is where are our customers? Well, of the eight billion people on the planet, more than five of them are on their phones, right? So they’re doing business on their phones. They’re connecting with people on their phones. They’re using those mobile phones. The lines are blurring. There’s four billion social media users. Wow. Talk about where your customers are and where they’re in that mode to purchase, four billion social media users. And then we’ve got messaging that has been a global phenomenon. It’s given people in the far reaches of the world the ability to connect with families and friends and businesses and partners at a low cost wherever they are.
Pam O’Neal: (09:24)
So that’s been really game-changing and the introduction of commerce to that world, another big opportunity that businesses need to be taking advantage of. So it’s, the first rule of business is location, location, location. The same applies online. You have to be there where your customers are. You have to be there serving their needs, answering their questions. I had a stat from a group called Statista that said 59% of American consumers interact with brands on social media, at least one to three times a day. That’s a lot of times a day that you’re interacting and the more time that they spend on social sites, the more purchases they make, the more relationships they build, the more vendors they discover, the more possibilities they discover. As I mentioned on the pizza, I mean, I didn’t know, I could, for the, about the same price as DoorDash delivery, I could have pizzas flown in from Chicago. So the possibilities are endless and we find out about them, they’re on social media. So –
Gabe Larsen: (10:31)
We just got a question that came in from a gentleman by the name of Peter and he asked, I wanted to throw this out if I can real quick, he said, “God, there’s so many of these different channels.” And even today, he mentioned, it sounds like even more than he thought. There was shops, Instagram, Pinterest, any advice on trying to figure out what channel, where your customers really are and then dedicating time to that? Because he’s like, “I don’t think I can be across all those channels.” Any thoughts from your side?
Pam O’Neal: (10:58)
No. Well, I mean, it starts with the persona, right? You’ve got to know who’s your ideal customer profile and then you’ve got to profile them and understand them deeply. And that’s how you work to prioritize things and it can also be associated with, and this is related to your ideal customer profile, where’s your network already. I mean, let’s look at Glossier. They really built a heck of a following on Instagram. So when you’ve got that community, you’ve got that engagement already sort of gathering, bring it to them, bring it into the realm or at least include that. So, it does start with the customer.
Gabe Larsen: (11:35)
I was just going to say, I’d add to that, Peter, so many people, I think Pam can attest to this, you find that right channel and you go deeper on that. Don’t feel like you have to be on every single channel. I think you saw Zack, the depth, you can go on some of these channels. If you find the right one where your customers are, don’t feel like you have to be everywhere.
Pam O’Neal: (11:54)
Yeah. And one thing you’re going to notice, we’ll talk about it a little bit later. That’s just how these things are merging, right? There’s these hybrids and mashups, if you will, of environments. And so it’s all kind of coming together, everything’s coming together. So it’ll be interesting to watch how that plays out. It’s not just also, it’s not just about what your customers need. It’s what, I’m sorry, what your customer, where your customers are, it’s about what your customers want. And in this case, it’s really a need, right? I’m not going to subject you to a tutorial on Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. But I did want to just use this to point out that customers, people value social connections highly. They also value things like self-actualization and esteem and all three of those needs play very heavily on social media. So that’s not going away. Those social connections aren’t going away.
Pam O’Neal: (12:49)
That platform, that experience is not going away. It’s just going to become a primary place for customers to meet those physiological needs. Those in need of safety need to get those goods and services. Those, build those partnerships, hire the consultants, engage with medical doctors, physicians, and counselors to accomplish what they need to accomplish without having to go into an office. It’s not just about safety these days with the coronavirus and not wanting to step into a brick and mortar facility or a hospital or a doctor’s office, but it’s also become a lot about convenience, right? We have become very, our expectations have skyrocketed this year with the knowledge that you can basically do everything remotely, right Gabe?
Gabe Larsen: (13:42)
It just feels like the pandemic has only pushed us further down that path, right? It’s like businesses, consumer expectations, they’re growing more and more. And we as businesses have got to keep up and it’s really happening obviously, on the digital side. Some of the stats we wanted to just put out there, the idea of using multiple channels, especially their channel of choice, expecting to solve problems the moment they bring it up through the channel that delivers instant gratification like chat, social media messenger, and more, you can read some of these. Let me just highlight them. 47%, potentially even more, Pam and I were arguing. We might think that the more we’ll be loyal to brands who are available and ready to engage on social media. We saw that when we served customers in one of our recent studies, 74% of people said they were likely to switch if they found the brand purchase was difficult. 88% want to connect with your business on the channel they want, not what you want, what they want. And according to Gardner, 96% said they would abandon a brand following, again, that high effort experience. So this is behind the omnichannel movement. This, I want it now, kind of the current generation, finding a way to meet customers where they are becomes more important than ever before.
Pam O’Neal: (15:06)
But so we just painted a beautiful picture of the possibilities, right? Everyone wants to jump into social commerce. It’s really one of the bigger levers that you can use to drive growth right now. So we’d all like to participate, but as one of the commenters mentioned, we can’t be everywhere. We need to pick our places for our best possible, ideal possible customers. Where are they? Let’s do it right. I would recommend picking that one outlet and doing it extraordinarily well across versus spreading yourself too thin. Because one of the things that we’re finding is a mistake that many companies make is that they’re missing an action where their buyers are thriving, right? So by deeply understanding the customer, focusing on solving customer problems and understanding where they are, you will know where you need to be spending your time and energy.
Pam O’Neal: (16:05)
And you can’t be missing an action. You got to show up to the party. It’s where things get done. It’s where you need to be, need to be seen, or someone else will step into that role for you and they will steal your customers. I know there’s a lot of thriving brands like Glossier that knows this really well. They know they need to be there for their Instagram users in their time of need. So you can’t be missing in action. You’ve got to make sure you’re there in the right places at the right time. Another important lesson is you can’t be flying blind and that’s particularly challenging in this space because it’s very fluid as we mentioned. There’s a lot of different ways that your customers are engaging with you. There’s a lot of different aspects of your customers you need to be aware of.
Pam O’Neal: (16:53)
It’s not just the world of social, it’s your internal systems and your data silos. Where there’s that customer’s order history. What do you know about that customer based on maybe an online assessment that they’ve filled out? Your agents need access to that full whole customer visibility so that they can respond or proactively reach out in an informed fashion. Understanding the whole customer, serving the whole customer’s needs. So it’s important that you’re not flying blind and you have that whole history kind of at your fingertips. You’re not swiveling from screen to screen, chair to chair, trying to piece together this view of the customer while the customer waits impatiently on the other end of the internet. And that basically leads into the concept of fragmented experiences. Having a consistent experience across all of your channels is extraordinarily important to your brand reputation.
Pam O’Neal: (17:51)
You can’t have ill-trained agents that don’t understand the full breadth of your products on a social channel while your experts are maybe on a chat channel. And then of course, as you can imagine with a fluid landscape, like what we’re dealing with right now, with all the change, with all the complexities of the customer history, we can’t overwhelm our agents. So keeping happy, what’s the adage? Happy agents, happy customers. We have to keep those agents well-informed in a very seamless, nice environment where they can tap into the types of details they need to sound smarter. Another thing, as if your support agents are considered advisors, high-level experts, much more valuable experience to them than being thought of as problem fixers. And so it sounds really easy, but there’s been historically a missing element when it comes to creating those experiences, to seeing the whole customer, to having that information at your fingertips.
Pam O’Neal: (18:58)
And that’s really this sort of intersection between selling products, influencing the purchase of products and then supporting those products and services, post-sale. All of that, as we’ve already established, is coming together in this world of commerce, 3.0. This new world where it’s unclear where the purchase process begins and the support experience ends. It’s all kind of coming together. And it’s coming together across a boatload of different channels. So this concept of having a connected customer experience across each of those steps orchestrated by a platform that allows you to manage that gives you the visibility that gives you the ability to interact with those buyers and influencers who are frankly, shaping the purchase experience inside the social networks themselves. And so that’s one of the important components that companies need to start with thinking, as they think about their social commerce strategy, is how are we going to bring all of that together and have an informed, seamless, integrated experience that is managed by a platform built for this world.
Gabe Larsen: (20:21)
Yeah. Yeah. I feel like this is a, and guys, this is where Kustomer with the K can really come into play because we think about CX differently. I’d love to have Pam’s side there. If you’re not trying to connect, do that, as I see that, Pam, that’s been such a disconnect in commerce. The sale experience, the marketing experience that the customer service experience, they’ve all been so separate and being able to support those, and having a single conversation, consistent experience across all channels across that buyer journey, it’s how you start to fill the gap and become these customer advisors across again, the journey and all the channels. So the idea that we push out there is to make customer experience as easy and streamlined as possible. That means consistent engagement, no matter where or how a customer reaches out. And these are some of the keys to really ensuring that your advisors are informed, they’re consistent.
Gabe Larsen: (21:27)
And they’re armed with that simple, effortless experience. So I wanted to touch on a couple of these key pillars that I think supply that advisory concept across the entire customer journey. So here’s a couple of the elements. Let me just go through real quick. Number one is orchestration. It’s a CRM built, we know that term – CRM. That concept’s a little bit built for the old world. We like to call it CRM – Kustomer Relationship Management with a K, but it’s built for D2C modern commerce advisory experiences. What it allows is for you to have that whole view of the customer. That falls then into unified visibility. That view of the customer it’s more important than ever before. You can see the customer across that entire journey. What we talked about during the sales experience, what we talked about when they bought something, they exchanged something, what they bought or of a time before with a problem they had, when we were servicing. All of those things allow you to interact seamlessly in this unified customer experience.
Gabe Larsen: (22:33)
That’s number two. Number three is omni-channel. Consistent, rapid response, informed experience across all those modern channels through omni-channels. You guys it’s customer experience that means collecting and harnessing data teams for every interaction across channels to drive stronger, more meaningful customer relationships. We increase revenue streams, et cetera. The problem with omni-channel is I think a lot of people still get that wrong. It’s one single conversation, regardless of the channels you have. If you offer ten different channels, but if your agent is still switching between tab and tab and tab, that comes off as a multiple channel experience. What we need is one consistent conversation where each channel drives into that one conversation. And then last but not least is this idea of availability. Pam said it, but social media, it just doesn’t sleep. We have to offer some self-service to be available at all times. A lot of customers are experiencing that self-service, but that allows us after hours to be cohesive, to be seamless. So finding that balance to be there when the customer wants you to be there is so important. And ultimately that brings it all together. It’s this unified, orchestrated, omni-channel, always-on experience that really can drive some of the numbers you’re seeing on there. Increase in sales, decrease in costs, which I think is what we’re all looking for Pam.
Pam O’Neal: (24:09)
Yeah. And there’s also the biggies, but there’s also a slew of others. You’re able to get better insights about your customer and their preferences. And how they’re interacting with you. You can influence the journey. You can expedite it. If you’re chatting with someone, answering a question and you Slack or not Slack, sorry, I guess if you message them a link to the product after you’ve answered their questions, it’s, you don’t even have to tie it. You just click purchase, select your address, and it’s on its way. So you can influence, you can accelerate that purchase cycle, boost the productivity of really everyone in your organization. And more importantly, reduce that wait time, that I think it’s, the wait time for a chat is just a couple minutes.
Pam O’Neal: (25:04)
But email is more like hours or days. And we need to get all of those experiences down to meet this instant gratification expectation of buyers today. And that will in turn, help you reduce churn and overall, it affords you this ability to have no compromises. You can increase customer satisfaction, increase revenue, and reduce costs and increase efficiency. So that usually comes as a trade off, but in this case, not necessarily. And then at the end of the day, of course, happier agents and happier customers, all benefits. But we’re running out of time. And I have to touch on some of the cool stuff that our customers are doing as really cutting edge brands when it comes to using social commerce. And one of those is Amaro. I wish I were in Brazil for many reasons, but one of the reasons is because Amaro is just such a cool fashion brand. They brand themselves as a digitally native fashion brand in Brazil, and they’re really pushing the envelope. In fact, I think they’re one of the beta users for the Instagram shopping experience.
Pam O’Neal: (26:15)
And as such, one of the early users of our Instagram integration. And so they’re able to not only promote their products and mood and brand and aesthetic using Instagram, but allow their followers to purchase and get customer support in the moment right there in the app. And so they’ve been great about that. They’re also one, and by the way, there’s a lot of, they share a lot of their lessons learned online. So if you just want to Google Amaro social media, or what have you, or just DM me after this and I’ll share with you some of the links, but fascinating, the lessons that they’ve learned and how to do it properly. Like for example, the need to educate your consumers and how to actually purchase in a social media environment. That is a little bit fuzzy for some since it’s early.
Pam O’Neal: (27:08)
So they’ve learned that they’ve had to educate them, but interesting thing about Amaro is they actually call their support organization social customer insights. They don’t think of their support organization as post-sale customer support. It’s more about providing insights and gathering insights. And they’ve been very forward thinking about that at Amaro. Another company that, I thought this was really funny with our comp our Kustomer slice, they actually enable other pizza delivery stores to do a better job of getting their pizzas to customers. And they echo the sentiment that it was basically, it wasn’t their decision. It was their customer’s decision to bring them there. So as I said earlier, knowing your customer, what they want and need is one step, but it’s also, the customers will bring you into the realm that they want to interact with you and slices learned that and integrates Twitter into their service and support experience with their customers.
Pam O’Neal: (28:18)
And then one of my favorite brands, Glossier, a beautiful, beautiful brand, and now a $1.5 billion business. So they’re really taking off and they’ve been masters of social media, just really using that effectively. And I think the coolest thing about Glossier is that they were one of the early companies to think of their team as advisors, right? So they call them the G Team and they’re responsible for really the end-to-end, listening to customers, advising them on their products and the combination of products that might be more effective for the customer, as well as post-support. I read an interview with, this is another thing I had mentioned earlier about this sort of hybrid, mashed together experience. And I read an interview with the new COO there. I think she was from Amazon, and she’s really talking about sort of the next generation of social commerce and e-commerce and how it’s all blending together. She’s not giving away any details in the story that I read on Wired anyway, but it talks, it sounds like Glossier is pushing the edge once again, when it comes to delivering this commerce experience for our next generation of consumers.
Gabe Larsen: (29:33)
I want to thank Pam for joining and talking about a little bit of the who, what, and why of social commerce. So Pam, thanks so much for joining.
Exit Voice: (29:47)
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