Interview: Varun Sharma, Vice President – Emplifi

Varun Sharma - Emplifi interview

In partnership with eTail Asia 2022, E-Commerce Nation had the pleasure to interview Varun Sharma, Vice President Asia Pacific & Japan at Emplifi. Together we discussed customer strategies and relationship.

Can you introduce yourself and your background?

I lead the Emplifi business for Asia Pacific & Japan and I am based in Singapore. In my role, I’m responsible for teams across Sales, Customer Success, Business Development & Solution Consulting focused on helping businesses across JAPAC to provide outstanding experiences to their customers online, across marketing, commerce and care touch points.

I have over 18 years experience in the CX, Digital and Hi-Tech industries across APAC and EMEA. My previous experiences include stints at Oracle, Adobe and high-growth start-ups/scale-up organisations. 

Outside of work, I enjoy family time with my wife and daughter, and the company of friends over a good barbecue. I am passionate about fitness (especially tennis!) and travel, and love watching cricket and Formula One.

Can you introduce Emplifi and its activity?

Emplifi, which was born from a merger between the social media marketing management platform, Socialbakers, and the customer engagement platform, Astute, and is the leading unified Customer Experience (CX) platform that brings social media marketing, customer care and live social commerce together to help businesses close the customer experience gap. More than 7,000 brands rely on Emplifi to provide their customers with outstanding experiences at every touchpoint. Some of our clients include Delta Air Lines, Ford Motor Company and McDonald’s and in Asia Pacific specifically, we work with fantastic brands like ASUS, Shopee, The Body Shop, and Toyota Astra Motor.

How important is the personalisation of content and message to consumers?

It’s critical for brands to stand out to consumers. Today’s consumers are more likely to engage and buy from brands that provide a holistic, personalised experience with 60% of people likely to become repeat buyers after a personalised purchasing experience, and 91% more likely to shop with brands that provide relevant offers and recommendations. Retailers should make the most of hyper-personalisation opportunities that harmonise cross-channel experiences – achieving the best of the digital and physical worlds.

What would you advise to an online seller who wants to start influencer marketing?

There are a few steps you need to take:

  • Determine your objectives/goals for influencer marketing.
  • Know the target audience you are trying to influence – understand their personas, what content resonates with them, which platforms they spend time on.
  • Compile a list of influencers – leverage AI to search for influencers who align with your brand, match your target audience personas, have high content performance and engagement, and high personal brand health.
  • Reach out to and partner with influencers – collaboration and authenticity is key. Influencers are content creators and they need to be given a level of autonomy to express their ideas and creativity. Influencers also need to feel comfortable that the content is consistent with their personal brand.
  • Measure campaign results – metrics such as likes are useful but you really need to dig into the ROI of social commerce.

How important do you think social media is to the customer experience and relationship?

It’s very important as consumers in APAC are hyper social, with many actively using more than one social media account. Emplifi research also shows that social media is the number one channel that customers prefer to use to engage with brands, especially among Gen Z customers.

Brands should invest in CX tools that can help to consolidate all interactions from various social media platforms while providing more personalised and relevant customer engagements.It also goes without saying that brands should hire community or social media managers who can use these tools to respond quickly and provide engaging content. On the care side, to ensure that brands are leveraging the full potential of social media for customer support they need to quickly adapt and learn best practices. This may include virtual agents who can instantly answer questions, share the latest offers, or recommend additional products with the consumer. At the end of the day, brands should aim at building a community of loyal customers, who act as ambassadors when required.

Social platforms nowadays integrate a lot of eCommerce functionalities, how important is it to apply an omnichannel strategy nowadays?

An omnichannel approach combines in-store experiences with data-driven customer insights and digital technologies such as live video. Live video experiences on Facebook and Instagram are giving brands a new and fresh way to reach mass audiences, new customers and connect with their primary target, while simultaneously providing hyper-personalised experiences based on individual preferences. The rewards are increased consumer spending and satisfaction through a seamless journey, but most importantly long-term loyalty.

Emplifi proposes a Live Commerce solution, as well as a solution called ShopStream, can you explain to us the difference ? What are the advantages of live shopping?

Live video shopping recreates the in-store experience, allowing brands’ experts to engage with and serve customers online in either one-to-one or one-to-many scenarios. This technology strengthens Emplifi’s omnichannel approach of meeting customers, wherever they are.

One-to-one shopping with Emplifi’s Live Advisor allows brands to recreate the in-store experience online. When customers are browsing online, they can be routed to a product-matched expert in-store with the click of a button. They can interact and seek advice from the expert in real time, all from the comfort of their own home – or wherever they are. The White Company has seen their order value increase by up to 48% when using Live Advisor.

One-to-many shopping with Emplifi’s ShopStream enables brands to stream live in a matter of minutes! Brands can use anything from a basic phone camera, to professional equipment to stream live on their site, or their social channels. They can scale their live feeds to engage an unlimited audience to launch new campaigns, products, amplify influencer events, or deliver immersive demo experiences.

The combination of ShopStream and Live Advisor helps brands improve engagement and personalisation through each step of an individual’s customer journey, resulting in faster consideration and purchase.

Do you have any examples of successful strategies among your clients?

A good example is Tune Talk, the Mobile Virtual Network Operator in Malaysia. Tune Talk recognised the importance of using data to relate to their audience on social media. Employing Emplifi’s Social Marketing Cloud solutions, they created content which resonated widely across the social sphere. Tune Talk also ensured that both negative and positive comments were responded to in a timely fashion. This helped the brand not only to drive conversations with their customers but also humanise its image and build a brand perception that is fun and interactive. This improved their engagement significantly, increasing comments (817%), content shares (703%) and love reactions (341%) while generating revenue and increasing brand loyalty.

tune talk emplifi
tune talk emplifi 2

What growth opportunities do you see in Asia?

Definitely social media and social commerce.

A report by Facebook and Bain & Co highlighted some interesting facts. It found that social media is the key channel for discovery (37%), influence (31%), and research (26%) for brand consideration in Southeast Asia. It noted that e-commerce marketplaces (32%) and social commerce sites (21%) would make up at least half of online purchases in 2021, and that by 2026, Southeast Asia’s digital consumer population is expected to reach around 380 million, which is 1.4 x bigger than it was in 2019. The average spending per digital consumer was expected to grow 60% at the end of last year, from US$238 per person at the end of 2020 to US$381 per person at the end of 2021. This figure is projected to reach US$671 per consumer by 2026.

  • Significant use of data analysis and insights to help retailers make better decisions on how to improve CX, what is most important to the customer and hyper-personalisation.
  • Investing in tech resources for a seamless customer journey, for example video retail or ‘cashier-less’ shopping.
  • Opening dark stores for optimised ‘phygital’ retail. These dark stores offer customers more control over how and when they buy their products, plus a VIP, in-store shopping experience from their living rooms.

You are participating for the first time in eTail Asia, what do you expect from this edition?

eTail Asia will be one of the first few large-scale in-person events that will be hosted in Singapore since the loosening of the Covid-19 travel rules and restrictions within the country. There’s certainly going to be a lot of anticipation around meeting people face-to-face again, I daresay a mixed bag of feelings from anxiety and awkwardness to pure happiness and excitement of being able to come together again as a retail community. 

I’ve heard good reviews about eTail Asia pre-pandemic and overall, I’m expecting this to be a fantastic reunion of the retail eCommerce and digital marketing community, and a great opportunity for everyone to learn and network with industry peers from all over Asia.

Why is eTail Asia a must not miss event and what can the audience look forward to?

If you’re excited to get back to in-person events (I know I am!), to meet and network with fellow industry peers, and learn about the latest trends and technology that can spur the growth of your business, then eTail Asia is absolutely the event not to be missed.


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Thibault Herpin
Hi, my name is Thibault Herpin. I'm in charge of strategic content for E-commerce Nation. I'm happy to share my experience in the fields of digital marketing and E-commerce through my content. Do not hesitate to contact me !