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Providing Customer Support in the Era of Social Commerce and the TikTok Retail Model

February 2, 2023

Social commerce is the gateway to younger consumers. Gen Z and Millennials are already discovering new brands via Instagram and TikTok, and are buying products right now, directly through social media platforms. This lucrative market is worth almost $40 billion in the U.S. alone, and if China’s wild success with social selling is any sign of where North America is headed, this could be the future of eCommerce. Yet, if brands adopt this new TikTok Retail Model, how will that change the customer experience (CX). Will social media become the primary channel for customer support?  

Is Social Commerce Really That Popular? 

There’s no denying the popularity of social media. Typical internet users spend 15% of their waking life on social platforms and Instagram users log in an average of six times per day. Younger generations are even more addicted to social apps. Gen Zs and Millennials spend an average of 3 hours a day on social media, compared to one hour for Boomers. So, social commerce, which uses social media platforms like Facebook and TikTok to sell products and services, holds much promise, because that’s where consumers are spending most of their time.  

Salesforce research has found that nearly 9 out of 10 Millennials and 7 out of 10 Gen Zs already interact with brands via social media. They explore products, engage with fun content, watch demos and tutorials. They even interact with popular influencers selling everything from makeup to cookware. More than interact, they also buy. A McKinsey report in 2021 showed that $37 billion in goods and services were bought directly through social channels. That number is expected to double to nearly $80 billion, or 5% of all U.S. commerce by 2025, and globally, the market is expected to reach $2 trillion. 

When the metaverse really takes off, it will usher in a whole new era of social commerce. Social media communities will blend with virtual storefronts, where consumers can peruse and shop in brand-designed virtual reality environments. Though the technology is still developing, the demand is there. In a recent survey, 40% of Millennials and Gen Z say they are interested in shopping for real and virtual products in metaverse environments.  

The Benefits of Social Selling 

Let’s face it, online ads are not gaining the traction they once did – almost 40% of internet users are already using ad blocking technology, while Gen Z would do almost anything to avoid ads (99% of them would press ‘skip’ if there’s an option). On the other hand, influencer ads are still mostly watched. Some top influencers have massive followings and exert considerable influence on younger consumers. Especially when it comes to teens, who trust influencers more than celebrities, and over two thirds of young American women turn to influencer advice before making a purchase. This is why, according to LinkedIn, 75% of sellers who use social media channels outsell their peers.  

Social commerce also offers customers a more immersive, interactive, and seamless buyer’s journey. Everything is self-contained in one social app, from product research and discovery to sale transaction and post-sale support. It eliminates unnecessary steps, like having to visit an external website. This makes abandoning purchases less likely.  

Social selling can generate more consumer interest and can help you reach a wider global audience. It allows you to build deeper relationships with consumers because social media is naturally more engaging. Think of online ads as a one-way conversation, whereas social media, which allows you to comment on, like and share content, is more of a two-way interaction between customer and brand. Complimentary reviews, likes, and shares also give your product that all-important social proof that over 65% of shoppers look for before making a purchase.  

To see the possibilities of social commerce we only have to look to China. Partnerships with highly popular influencers and the adoption of live stream shopping have taken social selling to a whole different level. Audiences can watch in real-time and participate through chat or reaction buttons, and according to McKinsey’s 2021 report, it’s helped China achieve over $132 billion in social media sales, with conversion rates of almost 30%, ten times the rate of traditional eCommerce! 

While it might not evolve in quite the same way in North America or Europe, there’s no denying that social commerce will become the norm as our lives become more intertwined with technology and we spend more time on social networks. 

What Could CX Look Like in a TikTok Retail Model?  

So, if the future of online commerce is on social media, what does that mean for customer support?  

For one, speedy response times will be crucial. From 2020 to 2021, there was a 110% jump in social messaging for customer service. Whether this was a result of the pandemic or part of a larger trend remains to be seen. But more people are reaching out to brands via social media, and according to recent surveys by Sprout Social, 76% expect a reply within 24 hours. They also expect speedy resolutions, and if they don’t get it, almost half of consumers may unfollow your brand.  

On social, it’s all too easy for customers to compare service experiences and a brand’s support practices. All it takes is a simple click to see what competitors are offering and 30% of consumers say that, often, they would choose a competitor. It doesn’t help that social media users are far more likely to share negative experiences online. Social media’s public nature means that any customer service missteps could be publicized to a much wider audience.  

This means your social media support better be on point. You must have enough capable agents to handle increasing messaging/chat volumes. They will need to be multiskilled, to field product inquiries, sales, order inquiries and returns. If using various social channels and platforms, there also must be consistency from one to the next. The customer experience should be the same whether someone contacts you on Twitter, TikTok or Facebook. Because consistent service builds trust. In fact, 69% of Facebook users say that communicating with brands on social media helps to build confidence in businesses.  

At itel, We’re Ready 

The aim of social commerce and selling is convenience, to meet customers where they are and to keep the customer experience as frictionless as possible, which means engaging consumers within the social media platform. Whether through direct messaging, in-platform messaging apps, or even if you need additional Email or Live Chat support through your eCommerce websites, we can supplement your existing customer service teams by becoming an extension of your brand.  

Our itel agents are trained in skillsets that support digital sales, after sales support, and social media customer service. They know how to relate to younger audiences and can become the most passionate ambassadors for your brand. They're also trained in the latest selling techniques and can overcome objections, cross-sell and upsell, and troubleshoot issues quickly. While our operational teams have the industry expertise and experience to ensure smooth, reliable CX delivery that is flexible enough to grow with your company and your social media following.  

Ready to deliver that exceptional on-brand experience that your followers crave? We are. Learn more about our Customer Experience Management Services.

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