Customer engagement, a must have in today’s customer economy
How to cultivate and leverage customer engagement? Customer engagement is important because we live in a Customer Economy.
The route to consumers has become increasingly complex; as has the customer journey itself. This is a byproduct of a highly fragmented and saturated market where consumers are constantly bombarded with choices. Thanks to technology, communication channels have changed and multiplied. Consumers’ involvement in building successful brands has also evolved over time, morphing from a passive role to a more active one.
In this environment, any brand that wishes to maintain and cultivate loyalty and growth needs to connect with its customers and engage with them; mobilizing those who are most influential.
The fundamental challenge of marketers is two folds:
- To wake up and convert a population of passive/non-interested target consumers into a receptive and connected group – better yet, turn them into brand advocates and promoters.
- To protect and reinforce the opinion of the advocates and the promoters.
To be successful the brand has to be relevant and consistent across its key audiences and all touch points. The brand can try to gain attention, but ultimately the consumer decides where and how to look.
So, what does customer engagement really mean?
One thing that everyone agrees on is that there is no universal definition of ‘engagement.’
Sometimes engagement itself becomes the means to an end. We often hear about the importance of having large fan bases, or twitter followers, or the most number of ‘likes.’ Any social media experiment that engages users in some form or another (i.e., interactions, visitation, number of ‘likes,’ etc.) is deemed a success as long as it generates more fans or visits… – regardless of whether or not it has had any impact on the brand metrics, loyalty, or even sales.
It all boils down to a simple question of key objectives. What is the goal or measure of success for your customer engagement program? Is it having a bigger fan base? Do you care if they are active or passive? Is it about spreading the news? Or is it to enable and engage your advocates?
Until there is clarity around what the efforts are intended to achieve, and among whom, it will be difficult to correctly gauge their efficacy and success. Without this focus, brands and brand owners can’t design the right approach or program for effective customer engagement.
Some of the basic questions to ask ourselves are:
- Who are we trying to engage and why?
- Do we know what really matters to our target? What gets them excited?
- Are we leveraging the right engagement plan / channels to reach and activate our target?
- And are we giving them the right stories to tell or be a part of?
Generally speaking, we (at Added Value) tend to think of customer engagement in terms of how brands connect with consumers:
Inform of existence: What’s your name? What do you do? What’s new?
Entice, learn more: What can you tell consumers about yourself that would interest them?
Activate: Do they want to associate with you, spend more time with you, get to know you better?
Reciprocate: (active participation) Is this is a fair relationship with open channels of communication?
Identify advocates: Would they take it upon themselves to tell others how fantastic you are?
Customers and their experiences are at the heart of the customer brand journey. Experiences can range across a wide gamut (interaction with the brand, brand ambassadors, marketing, so on so forth). So depending on whom you are trying to engage with, there are different channels to use to reach or active them, different messages to entice them, and different influencers that could tip their decision or make them care.
Customer engagement and the relationship to customer journey – a holistic view.
Customer engagement is not just about reach and frequency anymore; and customer journey (from the point of first contact all the way to loyalty) is a non-linear path.
- … decisions are triggered by new unpredictable factors, making the process non-linear
- … the path varies from customer to customer
- … various events and potential factors influence consumers’ decisions
Engagement planning should be holistic and across all touch points. It is a feedback loop – the better you understand the customer journey the better your customer engagement planning, which in turn will improve loyalty and activation.
Measuring customer engagement
To measure customer engagement, it is necessary to understand and/or track a number of factors:
- Customer profiles / typologies
- Customer history / experiences
- Customer needs / values
- Customer behaviors
- Track conversations
- Customer Journey / decision making process
- Media consumptions / habits
- Brand touch-points that they have come across
All of these elements interplay and relate to each other hence why a holistic approach is recommended for designing and applying a successful customer engagement strategy.
Ultimately, what we are trying to say is that for an effective engagement program, brands need to:
1. decide who their main target is
2. get to understand their behaviors and learn what makes them tick
3. focus on what their goals are / what are they trying to achieve
4. catch their target at all the touch points where they get exposed to their brand and brand message
5. identify those who are their brand advocates and engage with them; mobilize them
6. stay flexible
By no means do we claim to have presented here the recipe to successful consumer engagement. Every brand and every situation is unique and as a company, we don’t believe in generalization. That being said, what we hope to have provided is a basic primer to help facilitate dialogue or discussion on this topic as you work to successfully engage with your customers and get them engaged with you.
Written by Mahta Emrani, Senior Project Manager.