Ever wondered why some brands have a strong set of brand advocates that remain loyal to the brand for years and are unaffected by the launch of new brands and competitor’s marketing strategies? These loyal consumers are an asset to the company since they reduce customer retention cost and provide word-of-mouth publicity to the brand. A great way to turn customers into brand loyalists is through customer engagement strategies.
Simply stated, customer engagement is an unceasing dialog between brand and its customers. Customer engagement strategies are means through which a brand will periodically communicate with its customers, share relevant information or offer them incentives in order to build a stronger relationship between the brand and its customers.
While discussing customer engagement strategies, CRM Expert Paul Greenberg defined customer engagement as “the ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer”. This is by far the most correct and “all-revealing” definition.
The first part of this definition accurately pins down the importance of nurturing the customer relationship from the point that customers discover your brand. The second half touches upon the wisdom of convenience by saying that that nurturing should be done in a way that is preferred by the customers and not forced by the companies. The definition is an acknowledgment of the reality that digitalization and omnichannelization have made it mandatory for a business to let customers choose which mode of interaction they prefer.
Clearly, this view is antithetical to the traditional mind-set towards customer engagement, which was more reactive and transaction-oriented. Marketers made efforts to engage only for those who have purchased something from the business. Apart from the rigidity to cling to the old ways, it also reflected the lack of understanding of what truly an engaged customer is and what scale of potential he carries in strengthening businesses in multiple ways. A high spender isn’t the only characteristic that defines an engaged customer. An engaged customer is one who is more responsive to your marketing communication. He is the one who is highly involved in interacting with your website and social media networks. That’s precisely why traditional customer engagement strategies are obsolete. And as far the potential of such engaged customers is concerned, the following graph shows how engaged customers, who have been moved by positive customer experience, help a business in many ways, including by becoming advocates for it.
Backgrounds, interests, and behaviors of your customers are incredibly diverse. It’s not possible that one single and static approach is going to woo all of your customers. Segmentation is the way that enables modern customer engagement strategies to address this too real and valuable issue of diversity.
The best way to begin with this is to create segments based on behaviors and interests that you deem to be important for using your app or site. There are plenty of good ways to segment customers, from purchase behaviors, to loyalty program intelligence, to social profile insights and more. This blog of ours discusses innovative ways to segment shoppers, while this one talks about valuable but underused consumer research tools that give you actionable data.
With around 2.51 billion social media users all across the globe, social media cannot be ousted from your customer engagement and customer retention strategies. Though there are various ways through which you can integrate social media into your strategy, the best way is to publicize your user generated content, like product reviews, Visual Commerce content, and questions and answers content.
User generated content has an authenticity that’s impossible to copy–audiences trust it 12x more than brand-created content. It then explains why adding reviews to Facebook boosts customers’ time on your site by 9.9%, while adding reviews to Twitter boosts time on site by 35%.
Setting up systems that will aid effective communication are the prerequisite of any engagement strategy. A listening center isn’t just an avenue where you listen to your customers, it’s equally an opportunity to pay attention to details.Cisco has understood the worth of such systems. It opened a Social Media Listening Center where interactive touchscreens offer visual data about the social media conversations Cisco “listens” to in real time. It will give a complete idea about the social conversations and engagement developing around various CiscoLive events. A global heat map shows geographic dispersal of tweets about Cisco in real time, tracking of tweets about Cisco by identified “social influencers,” social conversations about Cisco products and services, and a social media word cloud that shows how popular certain relevant topics are in social media at any given moment.
The most important benefit of such listening center is companies can know which questions to answer first and which topic should be used to knit the content around. That’s what customer engagement entails…and that’s what is at the heart of strengthening relationships with customers.
In the world of omnichannel, offline engagement cannot go off the radar when you are chalking out your customer engagement and customer engagement strategies. An experiential extravaganza is a way to achieve that as people can physically and not virtually interact with the brand.
Starbucks’ Roastery is an effort to engage meaningfully with customers through unique experiences. This Seattle-based outlet satisfies temptations of all the senses as customers can see freshly roasted beans arrive, get involved in delightful as well as informative conversations with baristas and coffee specialists, relish the unique beverage and food menu, and experience coffee brewed in multiple ways.
It’s a realization of what Howard Schultz, CEO of Starbucks, had in his mind when he had said, “What I wanted to try and do was create this multi-sensory experience with theater, romance, drama… and have the coffee moving around and create a real roasting manufacturing facility.”
Starbucks witnessed considerable customer engagement, as it has been able to establish Roastery as an ideal place for coffee lovers, the people who carry the fervent love for coffee culture and have the deep appreciation for rare beans, flavors, and experiences. Moreover, the customers who have been touched by such heart-warming experience are about to share that with their peers. It causes the amplification of the brand’s message and vision. Consequently, it brings more people to the outlet.
Efficient use of social media platforms, customized customer engagement strategies are a great way to boost customer engagement. However the key fundamental is to genuinely create a connection with your audience. The communication mustn’t always concentrate on selling products and services, it must focus on building an authentic relationship with the customer, which goes beyond a sales pitch and borders more around the idea of enhancing customer experience and creating a niche for the brand in the market.
Even though a lot of ink has been spilled on this topic, the aforementioned customer engagement strategies need to be viewed in a new light, and more importantly, with an open mind. Despite being a buzzword, I’m yet to find any brand, business that can boast of mastering customer engagement 100%. The reason for this is most of them have failed to understand that customer engagement isn’t a destination, but a journey. And more you drift away from this understanding, the more distant will be your retention and loyalty goals. Because, the longer that a customer goes without engaging with your brand, the less likely he is to be retained!