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Interview with Lowell Group on social commerce and its relevance for merchants

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Michael A. Renz, Lowell Group: ‘The customer experience counts the most – and it should drive all efforts in order to increase sales since social commerce provides a unique opportunity to do so.’

Today, when almost everyone has a social media account, it is not surprising to see that more and more brands are active on platforms such as Instagram or Facebook. What’s more, retailers no longer only use these platforms for increasing brand awareness and staying in touch with their customers, but also for promoting and selling products and services and for adding value to the shopping experience. That is how social commerce, which is not necessarily a new concept, emerged – and today it is booming already, providing many advantages for companies and customers alike. 

To learn more about this growing trend, we sat down with Michael A. Renz, Head of Sales DACH/KAM at Lowell Financial Services GmbH – Lowell Group, who tackled the most relevant factors driving the popularity of social commerce, its relevance for merchants, and the road ahead.

As ecommerce picked up steam, the concept of social commerce arose. What are some of the most relevant factors driving this trend?

Ever since the first ecommerce hype at the beginning of the 2000s, it was clear that a change in communication and consumer approach would take place. Today, we are right in the middle of it, with all the social media platforms that emerged and irreversibly changed the way we communicate. Gen Z grew up with them, and now the COVID-19 pandemic has persuaded the other generations as well to head towards the online space, for a number of different purposes.

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While Facebook used to be for the younger generation, it is now used by the older generation. Millennials are more likely to use Instagram, and TikTok seems to be the preferred choice of the youngsters of today. These preferences are also mirrored by the top 3 brands by the number of followers on each platform. Estimates suggest that Facebook has reached roughly 2.85 billion monthly users, and among the brands with the most followers on this platform we see Samsung, Coca-Cola, and YouTube. Instagram, the second-ranked social media platform according to this criterion, has around 1 billion monthly users, and Nike, Chanel, and Victoria’s Secret are among the most popular brands here. TikTok also has around 1 billion monthly active users, and some of the brands with the most followers are Guinness World Records, Red Bull, and Fortnite.

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If we look closely, we will also notice that all these new social networks are getting licenses, for example as a payment service provider, in order to be prepared for any form of trade.

Another factor driving this trend is the nearly borderless trade around the world. Even if it’s a bit blocked by COVID-19 for the moment, I think it will rise soon – and everyone will be connected again, being able to buy and sell goods around the world. In this context, the language barriers start to fall, as the automatic translation programmes are highly developed as well.

How important is social commerce for merchants when it comes to increasing their revenue?

Today, it’s no longer about displaying ads. The customer experience counts the most – and it should drive all efforts in order to increase sales since social commerce provides a unique opportunity to do so.

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One of the main benefits of social commerce for merchants is the fact that companies can reach a larger target group and acquire new customers, thus increasing sales via well-thought marketing campaigns. Moreover, thanks to social commerce, companies have the opportunity to enrich and personalise the shopping experience, which on the long-term has a positive effect on the customer-merchant relationship, increasing sales. And it’s not just about selling a product anymore, it’s becoming more and more a matter of connecting with the consumer by tackling aspects such as sustainability, lifestyle, healthy choices, and much more. 

Additionally, after expensive advertising times via radio or TV, the social media channels are a good substitute for brands, and the added bonus is that the customer can actually be reached around the clock, in almost any location.

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Can you share some best practices in keeping an overview of customer interactions across different (social media) channels?

For Lowell, this means, above all, addressing the customer where he prefers to stay. It does not matter if it is via Instagram or a different platform. Today, the approach via artificial intelligence (AI) and risk models ensures that the customer experience is optimally accompanied and supported – also for a successful debt collection. For example, we use a sophisticated persona concept in which we can address the customer individually and always in a targeted manner, in conjunction with scientific findings from behavioural research.

In your opinion, what lies ahead for social commerce?

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Shopping via the Internet has not only been popular since the COVID-19 crisis. However, social distancing helped to ensure that online shopping will continue to flourish in the future. Thanks to social commerce, there are new opportunities for companies to transform the shopping experience, making it more personal and interesting for customers. And companies like Lowell can benefit as well, as leading specialists in receivables management, coming up with new tools to make credit work better for everyone in the long term.

After this long period of COVID-19, not only the big trading companies and platforms increased their sales – the producing industry started to sell directly to consumers too. What was only experimental before is now more and more usual, and it will change our shopping behaviour sustainably. Social commerce will push us rapidly away from old producing and selling processes. So, it will be interesting to see which players will thrive in this new context.

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This interview was published following a collaboration between The Paypers and E-commerce Berlin Expo, the key media partner of the Cross-Border Payments and Ecommerce Report 2020-2021. Over 9,000 visitors and 200 exhibitors are expected every year, and visiting the trade fair is free of charge, requiring only prior registration on the website. Register for the 2022 conference now!

About Michael A. Renz

Michael A. Renz, Head of Sales DACH/KAM at Lowell Financial Services GmbH – Lowell Group, is an expert in the field of customer management and debt collection and brings more than 30 years of expertise. In his career he has advised numerous companies in mail order and ecommerce, as well as well-known companies in the payment sector in matters of risk management, billing, and dunning processes.

About Lowell

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Lowell is one of Europe’s largest credit management companies with a mission to make credit work better for all. It operates in the UK, Germany, Austria, Switzerland, Denmark, Norway, Finland, and Sweden. Lowell’s unparalleled combination of data analytics insight and robust risk management provides clients with expert solutions in debt purchasing, third-party collections, and business process outsourcing. With its ethical approach to debt management, the company always looks for the most appropriate, sustainable, and fair outcome for each customer’s specific circumstances. For more information on Lowell, please visit our website: www.lowellgroup.de

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Instagram Is Rolling Out Reels Replies, And Will Be Testing A New Feature Which Informs …

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Instagram has added a few more social features to the platform, with Reels Replies being rolled out. Along with the Replies, anew feature is being tested that shows when two users are active together in the same chat.

Reels has been performing much better than perhaps even Instagram ever anticipated. The TikTok-inspired new video format (which officially claims to have absolutely no relation to the former) had some trouble really finding its footing initially. However, Reels has grown massively and while it may not be a source of the most direct competition to TikTok, it is indeed a worthy alternative.

Reels has grown to the point that it has a massive creator program attached to it, and the video format has even been migrated to Facebook with the goal of generating further user interest there. Naturally, with such a successful virtual goldmine on its hands, Instagram has been hard at work developing new features and interface updates for Reels, integrating it more and more seamlessly into the rest of the social media platform. Features such as Reels Replies are a major part of such attempts at integration.

Reels Visual Replies are essentially just what they sound like: A Reel that is being used to reply to someone. It’s a feature that’s been seen frequently across TikTok as well. Reel Replies essentially take a user’s comments, and reply to them in video format. The comment will then show up within the Reel itself as a text-box, taking up some amount of space, and showing both the user who issued said comment along with the text. The text-box is apparently adjustable, with users having the ability to move it around and change its size depending on where it obstructs one’s Reel the least.

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Overall, it’s a fun addition to the Reels format, even if the credit should be going to TikTok first. At any rate, it’s an example of Instagram really utilizing Reels’ social media capabilities, outside of just serving it up as a form of entertainment.

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Speaking of social media capabilities, a new feature might help alleviate one of the most common frustrations encountered across all such platforms. Isn’t it annoying when you see that a friend’s online, but isn’t replying to your chat? Sure, they’ve probably just put their phone down to run a quick errand, but there’s no way for you to know, right? Well, there sort of is now! Instagram is beta testing a new feature via which if both users are active within a chat, the platform will display that accordingly. It’s a work-around, sure, and one that’s currently being tested for usefulness, but it’s still a very nice, and even fresh, addition to the social media game.

Now, the active status will only appear when you are both active at the same time.#Instagram #instgramnewfeature@MattNavarra @instagram @alex193a pic.twitter.com/2chGZP9hr4

— Yash Joshi  (@MeYashjoshi) December 10, 2021

Read next: Instagram Plans On Allowing Users To Return To Its Old Chronologically Sorted News Feed

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5 apps for scheduling Instagram posts on iPhone and Android

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Alright, we get it. You’re an Instagram Nostradamus.

You know exactly what you want to post and when you’re gonna want to post it. Maybe there’s a meme or comment you want to make that you know will be totally relevant for a future moment or event. Or it could be that you’re an influencer and you want to make sure you keep a steady stream of content coming, so you want to schedule posts for times when you know you won’t be active (or won’t have internet access).

You’ll be happy to know there are apps that are specialized for just such situations. So listen up, InstaNostradamuses…Instagrostra…Instadam…Insta…uh…you guys (we’ll workshop it. No we won’t. We’ll probably just abandon that effort completely. You’re welcome) — these are the Instagram-post-scheduling apps for you.

While all of the iPhone apps below are free to download, they all have some in-app purchases.

1. Planoly

PLANOLY

We’ll start with “official partner” of Instagram, itself, Planoly — an Instaplanner that uses a grid to let you plan, schedule, and publish posts (as well as Reels) on Instagram. The app also lets you see post metrics and analytics so you can make sure your post didn’t flop.

Planoly is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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2. Buffer

BufferCredit: buffer / app store

Buffer is another Instagram post scheduler that helps you plan your posts and analyze feedback once they’re published. Use a calendar view to drag and drop posts into days/time slots for easy scheduling.

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Buffer is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

3. Preview

PreviewCredit: preview / app store

Preview offers typical post-scheduling tools and analytics along with a few helpful extras. Get caption ideas, recommendations for hashtags, and more.

Preview is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

4. Content Office

Content OfficeCredit: content office / app store

An Instagram post scheduler with a visual boost, Content Office allows users to plan and schedule Instagram posts while learning “marketing and visual guides to grow your brand on Instagram.” Like aesthetics and using visuals to create cohesive themes? Maybe this is the Instaplanner for you.

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Content Office is available for iOS on the Apple App Store.

5. Plann

PlannCredit: plann / apple store

You’ll never guess what “Plann” lets you do…

Aside from scheduling posts, get content ideas and recommendations, as well as strategy tips to ensure you’re maximizing your Instagram engagement. Ever wonder when the best time to post something is? Plann can offer you some help with that.

Plann is available for iOS on the Apple App Store and the Google Play store for Android.

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Social networking websites launch features to encourage users to get boosters

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Facebook Instagram and TikTok are launching new features to encourage people to get their coronavirus booster jabs.

From Friday, users will be able to update their profiles with frames or stickers to show that they have had their top-up jab or aim to when they become eligible.

It follows on from people previously being able to show they have had their first and second jabs on certain social networking websites and apps.

TikTok also held a “grab a jab” event in London earlier this year.

I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones

More than 16 million booster vaccines have now been given across the UK.

People who are aged 40 and above and received their second dose of their vaccine at least six months ago are currently eligible to have their booster.

A new campaign advert is also being launched on Friday, which shows how Covid-19 can build up in enclosed spaces and how to prevent that from happening.

Vaccines minister Maggie Throup said:  “Getting your booster is one of the most important things you can do to protect yourself and your family this winter.

“It is fantastic to see some of the biggest household names further back the phenomenal vaccine rollout, allowing their users to proudly display that they have played their part in helping us build a wall of defence across the country.

“I urge everyone who is eligible – don’t delay, get your vaccine or top-up jab today to protect yourself and your loved ones.”

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