Social media marketing platform Socialbakers has merged with customer engagement platform Astute Solutions to form Emplifi. The new platform connects social media marketing, customer care, and social commerce to help companies address critical customer experience gaps. Emplifi CEO Mark Zablan (pictured centre) told MARKETING-INTERACTIVE that it is retaining all staff and Socialbakers CEO, Yuval Ben-Itzhak (pictured left), is now president and chief of strategy of Emplifi. Meanwhile, CEO of Astute, Alex George (pictured right), has been appointed president and chief product officer.
Emplifi is a unified customer experience platform that brings marketing, care and commerce together to empathise with customers and amplify the right experiences throughout the customer journey. The company said it combines AI-powered social media marketing with connected data across the customer journey. At the same time, Emplifi said its social marketing platform tracks social profiles across all major channels, while its CX cloud solutions seek to address customer self-service and agent desktop CRM, as well as voice of the customer analytics and insights. The new entity has more than 750 individuals from 40 different nationalities, with its Asia operations running out of Singapore. Emplifi enters the market with a customer base that includes McDonald's, Delta Air Lines and Ford Motor Company.
Socialbakers was acquired last September by Astute Solutions' parent company, Astute, marking an important step in the latter's mission to becoming the chief customer officer’s platform of choice. When asked about the synergies between both companies following this latest merger between Socialbakers and Astute Solutions, Zablan said the lines between customer care, customer experience, and marketing have become increasingly blurred, presenting real challenges for companies.
Combining the social media marketing capabilities of Socialbakers with Astute’s engagement suite puts Emplifi in a position to help its customers tackle the increasing customer experience gap more effectively, Zablan said. "This customer experience gap is the gap between the experience a brand intends to provide and the customers’ actual perception of that experience," he explained.
Zablan took on the role of CEO last August, bringing with him more than 25 years of experience in executive roles with SaaS cloud companies in the areas of digital marketing, content management, customer experience, and data platforms. He was previously chief revenue officer at Sitecore. His appointment came hot on the heels of Astute's acquisition of iperceptions in July 2020, a company that specialises in collecting and analysing voice of customer data.
He envisions a future where all companies will show genuine empathy toward their customers. "When you put empathy at the centre of your business, the customer experiences you create move beyond the transaction. Your goals transition to managing the entire customer journey and making sure customers know what you stand for as a brand," he explained. He added that to be genuinely and wholeheartedly empathetic to customers, brands must first extend that same empathy to each other.
According to Emplifi, the company was born out of the need to better connect brands and their customers. With constant shifts in consumer behaviours and rising customer expectations across channels, the company said that brands need a unified approach to customer experience management, as consumers now prefer instant convenience and speed. According to the brand, this is evidenced by a surge in interest in social shopping, social care, and digital self-service.
For Southeast Asia in particular, social commerce has exploded, accounting for 44% of the region's US$109 billion eCommerce revenue in 2020, Bain & Co. said previously in a Bloomberg report. Social media videos have also become a key channel for product discovery. According to Facebook Business, almost eight in 10 Southeast Asians watch videos on social media while 66% have created or interacted with videos on these platforms.
Read the rest of the interview here:
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What are some social commerce trends brands in Asia should take note of?
Zablan: Social commerce has been surging in Asia, with China’s eCommerce giants, Alibaba and Tencent, leading the way with live selling and its influence has been rapidly spreading across the continent. There are a few factors that have driven this: the pandemic, and the growing popularity of real-time videos and mobile payment services, especially amongst Asian Millennials.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What are some shifts in consumer behaviour that you have witnessed ever since the pandemic hit?
Zablan: The first shift has been the transition to a service economy. People want to access the latest products, not necessarily own them. Consumerism is overtaking materialism and this has led to a consumer culture of "as-a-service" and subscriptions. For brands, that means placing a higher focus on the digital care that drives loyalty and recurring revenue in a service economy – with customer experience as a powerful differentiator.
We’ve also seen a rise in new forms of commerce. Younger consumers are discovering new products while interacting with their social feeds and buying directly through social channels. This has led to the rise of conversational commerce and shoppable social media. Gen Z is overtaking Millennials in global spending power. For brands, that means finding a way to take control and give customers what they want – even when brands don’t own the channels where consumers discover, engage, purchase and expect to find support.
Lastly, we are seeing the next generation of digital transformation. Younger consumers don’t want to visit a website first, or maybe ever. They follow more instinctive, organic journeys and consume at their convenience. This has led to omnichannel models, including social and conversational commerce, becoming critical to success – as are recurring transaction models. For brands, that means transforming their commerce engines to meet this new reality.
The pandemic has led to many brands relying on digital to help raise awareness and maintain brand recall. Social media has been a key component of this but the surge in ads online can lead to fatigue among consumers. What can brands do to stand out in their social media marketing?
The pandemic has had an impact on the way consumers engage with brands, especially with the use of conversational messaging. Customer conversations have moved from traditional call centres and emails to social media and messaging apps. Customers are online and they expect brands to be there too, responding to their questions and providing feedback without delay.
Since today social media platforms provide the tools to manage everything from product discovery to post-purchase customer care and community management, businesses should be taking advantage of the reach and infrastructure that these platforms offer. In a time where more and more purchases happen online, by investing in the social commerce component of the customer journey smartly today, businesses will safeguard the revenue of tomorrow.
MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Aside from social commerce, how else has the pandemic impacted Emplifi and its clients' needs? What is the company doing to future-proof itself?
Zablan: The pandemic brought about many challenges, and it has changed the way in which consumers engage with brands. Brands don’t always own the channels where people discover, engage, purchase and expect to find support. In the era of digital-first, brands have to find new ways to keep up and innovate to get ahead. We believe they need next-generation tools to embrace emerging trends in social marketing, commerce and care, so they can acquire, engage and support every customer along an increasingly complex journey.