If a good word travels far, a good marketing campaign is already making its second orbit around the Earth.
At its core, marketing practices aimed at customers focus on bringing a more strategic, laser-precise loyalty method, both online and offline. This influence is best defined through customer engagement.
The concept of customer engagement is as old as the world’s first brand. While the methods of achieving it have changed over the years, the broad definition has stayed the same – the ability of a business to build a relationship with its customers.
With the boom of the internet and social media, the competition has grown from local to worldwide in just two decades. This understandably has made many business owners excited about the prospect of creating brand interactions on a mass scale. Unfortunately, it’s not as simple as placing a business into the internet void and hoping at least 2% of the global population will be interested in it.
This is where adopting quality customer engagement comes into the picture. It’s a marketing practice that can turn a potential customer into a customer advocate. In essence, this guide will tackle just that – the strategic focus and understanding of the base concept and how it can benefit (and propel) the brand in question.
Let’s dive in!
What is Customer Engagement?
The great thing about customer engagement is that there’s no definition of the ‘what’, but rather of the ‘how’. Simply put, it’s all the ways in which a business interacts with its customers both offline and online.
There are no defined methods or concepts, no precise strategies, nor is there a quick and easy way to get things rolling. It’s purely a business-to-customer campaign, built entirely by the brand for its consumers.
To explain this on a more practical level, suppose a fizzy drinks company sends out a newsletter about their latest summer drink, and a customer interacts with the e-mail. Say a person decides to call up customer service to complain that their kitchen appliance isn’t working correctly. Or a fashion brand releases a behind-the-scenes video of the ‘making of’ a certain satin piece.
All of these are examples of customer engagement, because as it says on the proverbial can – it’s about the consumer engaging with the business. It boils down to the brick-and-mortar motto that has been tried, tested, and practiced since the early days of capitalism – the customer is king.
Many businesses tend to steer left when they base all of their customer engagement tactics on boosting sales rather than keeping up with the needs, wants, and wishes of their consumers.
The focus should be on long-lasting relationships instead since this promotes a two-way benefit for both the consumer, who feels listened to and catered to; and the brand, which receives exposure and revenue in turn.
What are the Benefits of Customer Engagement?
Marketers have an uncanny ability to turn everyday human interactions into a possibility for engagement – and achieving brand goals. Understandably, however, it’s difficult to place any potential benefits of customer engagement onto a scale, since it’s just one part of a nervous system designed to cater to one category – consumers.
Still, there are ways to reap all the benefits from an effective strategy.
Loyalty is the Name and Aim
While customers can be attracted by almost any campaign, keeping them hooked is an entirely different kettle of fish, which requires a unique set of fishing equipment.
Enter: customer engagement!
As with most real-world, non-corporate things in life, the art of building a sustainable relationship comes in the form of continuous communication. It’s pivotal in connecting consumers to the brand, while also making sure they stay loyal to the business.
Once a business turns its attention away from pure profit and looks to servicing customers instead, that’s where the cut-off point begins. This can be done in a myriad of ways, but it all boils down to letting the customer know they’re more than just a number on a board run by executives.
Obviously, businesses are made to last, so planning an entire marketing campaign for the sole purpose of keeping customers happy isn’t exactly preferable or advisable. However, building a community of highly engaged people, prepared to advocate for the brand, and willing to make continuous purchases is where the goal meets the method.
Attention Breeds Retention
On a business level, nurturing customers is more important than finding new ones.
It’s not just corporate talk or a marketing tactic either. Research has shown that businesses that manage a 5% increase in customer retention end up seeing a 25% increase in profits – retention, meaning having customers using a product or service for an extended period of time.
It all ties back to the brand’s capability to keep its customers. And this is where customer engagement can do wonders.
Given that it’s not all talk but data too, the focus is ultimately on the ‘how to’ of achieving retention and keeping the revenue going. Actively engaging with customers and nurturing the brand ambassadors is the primary tactic for any business.
This is down to the brand, but keeping a list of constant customers on hand to send them special offers, new products, or testers is one way to successfully track the loyalty base. Moreover, organizing a gathering to showcase the newest features of a product is another way to cater to customers. Alternatively, you can employ a tactic where the most loyal of consumers are allowed a sneak-peek and maybe a say in how a certain service or product should be presented.
While giving attention is vital, making sure to stick to one strategy is a necessity. Having your fingers in too many pies can spoil them all in the long run.
Long-Term Brand Ambassadors
If there’s one major benefit to focus on when employing customer engagement marketing, it’s the long-term brand ambassadors. This is a section of the consumer pool that will always, without question, remain loyal to the brand.
A loyal customer can be turned into a long-term brand ambassador. This doesn’t have to be an official title either, just an appreciation for a set of consumers with a long-lasting connection with the brand. These should always be the target of attention and appreciation since they are the most likely candidates to introduce new (and loyal) customers to the business.
Evidently, you should never abandon any other set of customers, seeing as it can be a fast track to losing the ‘average’ person from piquing interest in your products or services. However, having brand ambassadors is both a product and benefit of customer engagement marketing, it can produce a stream of fruitful relationships with more consumers on a more personal basis.
A Good Service Equals Good Customer Satisfaction
Last but not least, customer engagement benefits ultimately lead to customer satisfaction, which ultimately leads to promotion, which ultimately leads to more revenue.
However, this is one benefit that may look negative when taken at face value. After all, it is the type of engagement that is often less satisfactory to listen to – taking the form of complaints, recommendations, or requests for changes. It’s also known as customer service and how it can be utilized as a powerful tool for customer engagement marketing.
By thoroughly engaging with customers on channels (both offline and online), where they are most active, or by allowing for multiple channels of communication, businesses can and will see all the ways in which their image, products, and service are rated. Furthermore, it’s an excellent way to peek into what consumers are really thinking and ensure how those remarks can be transformed into a business opportunity for more revenue and engagement.
How to Calculate Customer Engagement
There is no tried-and-true formula to properly measure customer engagement, considering it concerns more than just numbers. However, thanks to the internet and various online tools that make it easy to track engagement, at least on a base level, there are ways to check for how long and in what ways potential customers engage with a brand.
- On-site metrics. This is usually seen through the average time a person stays on a website and the most obvious way to track how powerful or interesting a website is. Online tools help measure whether a person has enough vested interest to not only stick around the home page, but scour through the provided links and access other pages on the website.
- Open and click-through rates. Whether it’s through newsletters, special promotional offers, or customer-specific e-mails, measuring the click-through rates is essential in measuring customer engagement. These are metrics that measure how many times someone has opened or clicked a link that a business has provided.
- Social media. This might be evident in the era of social media, but the more engagement a brand receives in the form of likes, upvotes, favorites, and ratings, the likelier it is to secure a loyal following, which can translate into an increase in revenue.
- Forms and user scores. At some point in the customer’s experience, most businesses will give them a form – whether that be a first purchase, customer service, or ‘satisfaction’ form – which lets a brand know just how interesting, good, or bad their tactics are with either a particular product or the service as a whole. User scores can be bundled up into this category and the classic system of ‘ratings’, which customers leave on the business after trying a product.
- Repeat renewals, subscriptions, purchases. The most obvious way to measure customer engagement is to assess the percentage of people who are re-purchasing a product or service and at what rate.
Why is Customer Engagement Marketing Vital?
If a business is to thrive, it’s going to do so with the help of customer engagement marketing.
On a personal level, customers supporting a reliable, friendly, and trustworthy business means they will put more care, time, and resources into it. This ultimately translates to good revenue for a company, which is a win-win for each party.
On a more scientific level, data shows that companies that have managed to retain and engage customers not only drive sales revenue from 13% to a whopping 51% – but also increase their order sizes from 5% to 85%. Up to two-thirds of a brand’s profit comes from and relies on an effective customer engagement ratio.
With numbers like those, it’s easy to see why a company would be interested in investing in engagement marketing and easing up on product offers and cheap marketing schemes.
7 Customer Engagement Trends That Will Continue in 2021
1. Customers care if a business does too
The 2010s have brought with them some major changes in the way that businesses market themselves, as well as the ways they engage with their customers. Moreover, most people are knowledgeable enough on marketing tactics to easily see through cheap tricks that seek to produce nothing but revenue under the veil of false transparency.
However, with the spread of online marketing comes the awareness of online safety and privacy. One trend that most businesses should closely follow is paying attention to the consumers who are cautious about the brands they support. 85% of all consumers will stop supporting a business when they feel that their stored data and personal information are at risk.
2. AI is a brand’s best friend
AIs do more than just give customers pop-up boxes to interact with. They are the quintessential customer support service that is available at any given time, all the time. While AIs differ in their functionality depending on the type of service a brand wants, having a trusty bot that can help users do quick-searching, navigate across a site, create a customizable Q&A for an inquiring potential buyer, or anything in between, is the difference between a disinterested customer and one that is engaged.
A great example of this is Sephora. The cosmetics leader was an early mover using AI chatbots and has seen impressive results by helping traffic find the right product.
IMAGE: Sephora AI chatbot asks customer to complete a quiz that will help narrow down product search
Relevant data shows that seeing customers as individuals rather than a collective of dollar bills is what’s been increasing revenue in the roaring 20s. 76% of all customers demand that companies understand their needs and expectations – otherwise, they won’t pay them any attention.
3. Omnichannel marketing
Omnichannel marketing is the ability to deliver the brand, message, as well as products onto multiple access channels. This means a company has its products simultaneously available on Facebook, e-mail, text messages, live events, and in-store. What this does in turn, is help create a positive all-around experience for both the company and consumer.
If a customer is interested in a certain product, giving them the ability to pre-buy or pre-order it will make for a seamless experience, as opposed to them having to go on-site and waiting in line. That is the power of omnichannel marketing, and it’s also what 76% of all customers say positively impacts their opinion of a company.
4. The ‘Try Before You Buy’ AR technique
Humans are naturally inclined to be wary of the unknown, which is why most consumers prefer to see a product before buying it. This is where augmented reality comes in. In 2021, it’s important that businesses consider consumer needs when trying to sell a product. In fact, it’s so important that 75% of all consumers want to try first and buy later.
It comes down to the given brand to choose which method they would rather pick. However, having the ability to try a product virtually, list through a catalog in real-time through AR, or use a virtual fitting room, will significantly impact customer engagement.
Many industry giants are already utilizing this technique—IKEA allows shoppers to see what furniture settings will look like in their home, and Nintendo cleverly implemented AR into their instant-hit mobile game Pokemon GO.
IMAGE: In-play image of a person playing Pokemon GO in their city.
5. It’s all about the visuals
Whether by fault or adaptation, young people seem to react differently to marketing campaigns – and with an ever-shortening attention span on a global level, visuals are key for a successful brand. Close to 85% of all millennial buyers have purchased a product based on a marketing video rather than a marketing claim.
In that respect, COVID-19 has rapidly intensified the video frenzy of the marketing world, as that was the only way products could be showcased and bought while on-site interactions were either halted or driven to a minimum. It has also demonstrated that buyers react more to visuals than they do to text.
These visuals include explanation videos, demonstration and promotional videos, customer testimonial videos, and review videos.
6. Advocacy and values matter
Social issues have become a driving force in the world of customer engagement and a sure-fire way to make or break companies in 2021. Whether it’s issues relating to social justice, environmental justice, or ethics, customers do in fact pay attention – 87% of them to be exact.
Over three-quarters of all consumers would actively boycott a company if the brand’s views do not align with their own. These include but are not limited to views on the environment, political issues, general safety, and welfare policies – causes that a brand has financially supported, as well as hiring practices.
IMAGE: Danish toy company LEGO, showing their support of the LGBTQ community with limited-edition Pride figures.
7. Data drives campaigns, personalization brings profit
Last but not least is the ability to integrate data into a business to reach both competitiveness and profitability. Brands that rely on data-driven marketing rather than marketing stunts or classic campaigns are more likely to succeed on the market – and thus retain customers for the long run.
Moreover, this also ties into the increasing need for the personalization of products, where customers feel they want to have an individualized experience with a certain product. Nearly 80% of all customers will only engage with an offer if it caters to them specifically.
What Customer Engagement Practices Impact Success?
Any engagement practices a company employs can spell failure if they’re not done correctly. This assumes that a business will do ample research on the current market trends and apply them appropriately to the marketing strategy to ensure success.
However, there are some practices in the realm of customer engagement that can significantly impact that strategy. Simply put, it’s down to evoking an emotional response. Data shows that people are more likely to invest in a business if they retain a positive experience from interacting with it. This indicates a personalized experience is necessary to guide customers into a loyalty program, a subscription service, or rewards that will significantly impact the way they engage with a brand.
Tips to Draft a Winning Customer Engagement Strategy
The first step to drafting a winning customer engagement strategy is to not make it all about the business. It’s unfortunately very common for brands to focus solely on why their business is the end-all, be-all solution, product, and service that customers must pay attention to.
In reality, the focus should always be on the consumer – both in terms of increasing the product’s accessibility as well as its usefulness.
Brands that are relatable are brands that succeed. Following the current trends on social media means accepting and actively pursuing efficient ways to place a brand on the market and be relatable at the same time. Evidently, whatever ‘relatable’ message is out there, it should be backed up by the brand’s authenticity – and close to 86% of all consumers will react positively to it.
These can be sent through e-mail, text messages, on-site chatbots, or a customer service AI. The goal is to make sure that the customer knows they have support at any time during their experience with a brand. In turn, this also means it’s easier to send out new offers, deals, and promotions. There is a downside to this – pushing far too many offers will result in a major decrease in interest – by as much as 32% of the entire customer pool.
It’s a no-brainer that social media is the ultimate tool for businesses to succeed – and eventually, fail as well. It’s a double-edged sword where too much attention can result in some terrible campaigns, but the right kind of engagement, support, and swift marketing can lead to serious customer retention, revenue boost, and brand awareness.
Best Examples of Customer Engagement Campaigns
As with most things in life, the best examples of customer engagement are rooted in simplicity and authenticity. There’s no measurement to accurately assess which campaign gathered more attention, success, or revenue increase, but there are some examples to go by.
Turning back to emotions and video marketing, this microbusiness in Wales managed to garner over 2.7 million views with a simple story of a family-owned hardware store. The budget for the video was a little over £100.
IMAGE: Thomas Lewis Jones and his son Arthur, star of the Hafod Hardware store ad.
If social media is king, having a laser focus on marketing through online communication is the red carpet that leads to the throne. This is how an American ice cream company consistently rakes in views, increases response times, and retains high online engagement and audience participation on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook. It’s as simple as posting the ice cream of the day!
IMAGE: Jeni’s Icecreams advocating National Ice Cream day on Twitter to their 80k followers.
Personalization is important, which is why having an AI ask the customer every little detail about a gift they are planning to purchase is essential. Goldsmiths for example has an extensive list of questions it poses before the purchase of any jewelry to make sure the products fit whatever criteria or preferences the customer has.
A way to keep customers hooked is to offer a loyalty program for anyone wanting some extra benefits. Nike does an excellent job at giving special rewards for anyone completing a workout through their app, has user-specific playlists connected through Apple Music during a workout, as well as provides personalized promos for any new products.
There are more ways than ever to have a successful customer engagement strategy to ensure longevity on the market. However, with that also come competitors who have equal knowledge of these tactics. As with all things marketing-related, being the first to reach the goal isn’t a measure of success. Rather, what’s important is being the last business standing in the sea full of drowned potentials.
Co-Founder, Gleantap & Mastera