AiThority Interview with Kyle Wong, Chief Strategy Officer at Emplifi
Please tell us a bit about your current role at Emplifi and how you arrived here.
In 2012, I founded the influencer marketing and UGC platform, Pixlee out of my Stanford dorm room. This was in the early days of user-generated content, with Instagram being just a two-year-old platform. The industry has grown so much since then, giving brands even more avenues to explore. Fast forward to 2021, Pixlee merged with ratings & reviews platform TurnTo which allowed our customers to buy social UGC, influencer marketing, and ratings and reviews capabilities from the same partner.
But the evolution didn’t stop there, just a year later Pixlee TurnTo was acquired by Customer Engagement platform, Emplifi, which has been very popular thus far among our customers because as the combined solutions strengthened our social listening, social care, social reporting, and social community management capabilities.
Today I serve as the Chief of Strategy at Emplifi, which entails evangelizing about the power of customer advocacy, speaking at events, meeting with customers, learning about their needs, and working internally to help solve those challenges. There are so many unique opportunities for new products at the intersection of social and commerce, and I am lucky to be working in such an exciting space, where everything is constantly evolving. It’s my job to anticipate these changes so we can work to find solutions that will enable our clients to get the most out of the authentic content their customer advocates are creating.
A lot has changed in the Customer Experience management landscape in the last 3 years. Could you highlight some of the best CX moments that you have witnessed from brands and organizations?
Over the past 3 years, we’ve seen brands really step up to the plate to meet the demands of the modern customer, transforming their entire approach to digital marketing and experiences. A common theme is a focus on authentic content.
Puma is a great example of a brand that is taking online shopping experiences a step further by implementing UGC as a part of its web experience. Brands can look to Puma for inspiration on how best to leverage content from customers. Their brand website seamlessly integrates a feed of UGC content that corresponds with the product pages.
UK electronics retailer Curry’s is another great example of a brand that is leveraging live streaming technology to improve the customer experience. When it comes to live streaming, commerce usually comes to mind, however, Curry’s has taken a completely different approach. Through their RepairLive service, Currys allows customers to connect to an in-hub engineer via two-way video in order to support a customer’s needs. The program has been a hit with customers with a 4.7/5 customer satisfaction score captured after the calls.
These brands have truly embraced the needs of their customers and have leveraged technology to deliver outstanding CX that will in turn build loyalty that can’t be beaten.
AI-generated content and metaverse are buzzwords every marketer wants to explore. What are the most enticing facets of working with these technologies?
Content has become a core part of the commerce experience. Without great content, a brand’s commerce strategy won’t stand a chance. In my opinion, AI generated content and the metaverse offer two different types of content. We’re already seeing a huge uptick in people gravitating towards augmented reality to enhance their shopping experience, and naturally, the next step will be a demand for immersive experiences. And that’s exactly where the Metaverse will fit in.
AI generated content on the other hand, has an enormous potential to evolutionize the way marketers work. Tools like ChatGPT are just the beginning, helping marketers work smarter, not harder. In fact, at Emplifi we’ve already tapped into the potential of AI solutions in order to empower our clients to increase content velocity and efficiency. The launch of AI Composer leverages GP-3 technology to generate ready-to-publish social media content for businesses. A marketing profession is a high-stress job with a variety of different tasks and challenges that vary day-to-day. Through AI tools, marketers can streamline their workflow and invest more time in strategizing and long-term planning.
How are new emerging technologies influencing buyer’s behavior and attitudes? Is website-based shopping still meaningful in the modern mobile app-first market?
Connecting with the modern consumer means being where they are, and that’s on social media.
Product discovery is increasingly happening on social media platforms, whether it’s through hashtags such as #TikTokMadeMeBuyIt, user-generated content, or targeted advertising. In fact, Social Media Today found that an incredible 80% of Gen Z consumers will conduct their holiday shopping via TikTok, Instagram, and Facebook.
But that doesn’t mean that social content can only live on social. To successfully scale campaign reach and increase ROI online retailers need to implement an omnichannel approach with social media being the center of that strategy. Today’s consumers are expecting commerce to be more social which means incorporating more visual content, two-way dialogues, and immediate support access.
On the other hand, social has grown significantly in terms of impacting the middle of the funnel. Social traffic via desktop and other devices shouldn’t be ignored even though mobile traffic has taken a front-row seat. For example, product research could be conducted heavily via social while the actual transaction could be done in a store. If you’re looking to book a vacation, chances are you’re going to social to understand what the hotel experience looks like. For these reasons, it’s important to have a solid web and social media presence and user experience.
What prevents brands from taking full advantage of user-generated content? What is the most challenging aspect about branding with UGC?
Most brands I speak with believe in the concept of using your happy customers to help tell your brand story so they believe in the strategy behind UGC. While the concept has been around for a while, companies are now catching on as they understand how cost-effective, scalable, and authentic a UGC strategy can be.
Most brands believe in the why, but the ‘how’ is very challenging without software to automate the process. For example, requesting permission rights, help with curating the content, collecting from various channels, and making it shoppable on their web and other digital channels.
Could you highlight the key findings from your recent report on the role of UGC on purchasing behavior? Which industries / brands are more likely to benefit from UGC?
With rising consumer costs paired with inflation, customers are becoming more selective when it comes to making purchases. We’ve long known that customers trust other customers more than they trust brand marketing, so brands need to ensure they have the right strategy in place putting authenticity front and center. An easy way to do that is to shine the spotlight on your customers through UGC and through customer ratings and reviews.
According to a recent Emplifi analysis, 74% of consumers said online user ratings and reviews are very important when making a purchase decision. And the time consumers dedicate to researching a product before a transaction increases alongside the price of the item. In the same analysis, more than half of consumers visit 3-9 websites to research products priced at $20-100.
Brands can use this information to ensure that shoppers have the information they need directly on their website to enhance the customer experience, and even take it a step further by featuring social posts from their customers next to a product, much as Puma is doing. With 87% of online shoppers stating that reviews/ratings by real-life customers have a greater impact on purchasing decisions, brands can’t ignore the importance of UGC. Luckily, it’s a scalable approach that offers a plethora of rewards.
Your take on the future of AI-driven product recommendations and how brands should leverage social marketing for greater CX results:
AI-driven product recommendations are an amazing development that gets customers closer to the products they are looking for without the endless search. Through the consolidation of user data and behavior, AI can be used to predict what a customer likes. It’s almost like having a personal shopper that can predict your needs, even before you’ve realized what those needs are.
When it comes to social media, content recommendations, and product recommendations are synonymous. To do content recommendations well you need a large volume of content and strong feedback loops, two things that Instagram Reels, TikTok, and YouTube Shorts all have in common.
Brands need to be mindful that they should also be using social media as a means to offer customer care, helping turn a negative experience into a positive one. The modern consumer is on social and digital channels, asking questions, looking for help, and sometimes even complaining. Brands need to be there too, offering them service center-esque support via the social channels, at the speed of digital, if they want to provide outstanding CX.
Thank you, Kyle! That was fun and we hope to see you back on AiThority.com soon.
Kyle Wong is the Chief Strategy Officer of Emplifi, a leading unified customer engagement platform that helps brands bridge the gap between marketing, commerce, and customer care strategies. Wong was formerly the founder and CEO of Pixlee TurnTo, a social user generated content and influencer marketing platform acquired by Emplifi in 2022. He has been featured in Forbes‘ 30 Under 30 List and is a regular speaker and domain expert on influencer marketing and driving consumer engagement through social media.
Emplifi is the leading unified CX platform that brings marketing, commerce and care together to help businesses close the customer experience gap. Thousands of global brands, including Delta Air Lines, Ford Motor Company, and McDonald’s, rely on Emplifi to provide their customers with outstanding experiences at every touchpoint.
For more information, visit www.emplifi.io.
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