What is customer engagement?
Quite a buzzword among online businesses today, customer engagement is a measure of a brand’s interaction with its customers across all touchpoints throughout their lifecycle. Consistently engaging customers on a variety of channels help brands build and strengthen a ‘human-to-human’ connection with them and add value beyond just transactional relationships.
If there’s anything that hasn’t changed from the good ol’ brick-and-mortar times to this day and age of thriving online businesses, it’s the firm belief in the mantra ‘Customer is King’. And with iconic marketing campaigns such as ‘Share a Coke’ (Coca Cola) or the ‘Big Sleepover’ (Ikea), giant multinational corporations have taught us that customer engagement is a key pillar of any other business strategy for happy, returning, and loyal customers.
Customer engagement is no longer limited to sales, support, or services; instead, it’s an ongoing practice of brands anticipating customers’ needs and keeping in touch with them to foster lasting relationships, loyalty, and hence, business growth.
Often used interchangeably, customer engagement or visitor/user engagement involves actively interacting with your audience with messaging that interests, educates, or motivates them, and encourages two-way conversations with your business basis their stage in the buying journey.
With more and more businesses adopting the customer-centric approach while developing their marketing strategies, customer engagement inevitably holds center stage in order for them to build top-of-mind awareness and achieve the intended inbound growth.
Benefits of customer engagement
With a plethora of marketing avenues available at a marketer’s disposal, one could wonder whether customer engagement is truly effective in achieving business goals. If you too are in doubt about the same, read along to find out how an effective customer engagement strategy can do wonders for your business:
Stronger and healthier customer relationships with improved loyalty
Having brilliantly capitalized on the rapidly growing internet penetration across the globe, online businesses have outdone the traditional, offline way of doing business in almost every aspect. However, if there’s one thing online businesses are yet to master, it is the art of building sustainable, long-lasting relationships with customers that drives profitability and loyalty.
An effective customer engagement strategy can be pivotal in helping brands connect better with their customers in a way that makes them want to continue to be their customers. If you put in the effort to engage your customers across various channels and touchpoints above and beyond what’s necessary to get them to make a purchase, you are likely to form stronger relationships with them. If you interact with them regularly about what’s relevant to them, keeping in mind their needs, priorities, motivations, and aspirations, you constantly remind them that you care.
Once you start offering more than just your product or service and adding value to their lives (or business), your customers are convinced to automatically turn to you whenever they think of making a purchase. This will help you build a community of highly engaged brand loyalists who are willing to look beyond the ticket price and choose you whether or not you provide the cheapest product/service in the category.
Improved customer retention and reduced churn
Research by Bain & Company states that a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profits. This and many other prestigious studies have concluded time and again that engaged customers are responsible for driving a significant percentage of a business’s total revenue. Given this data, one cannot undermine the value and pressing need for online businesses to focus on retaining their existing customers.
And while there are endless strategies marketing and customer-facing teams increasingly deploy to retain customers, actively engaging customers and consistently nurturing customer relationships is a primary tactic you’ll find in every business playbook.
Devising and following a systematic customer engagement roadmap will ensure that your relationship with your customers doesn’t end at the time of purchase, but only grows thereon. By regularly reaching out to them through their preferred channels, you can attempt to further elucidate the USPs and benefits of your products/services to help them make the most of it, introduce them to new features and functionalities, educate and inform them about the latest trends and advancements in the industry – all to make sure they can leverage your offerings to their benefit and don’t forget about you.
A clearly defined engagement strategy will also help you, as a business, to identify and understand the key pain points of your customers when it comes to using your product/service, so you can effectively address them and retain customers.
Better opportunities for cross-sell & up-sell
Upon analyzing the data collected from your engagement campaigns, you can figure out what works for each customer segment, and also get an idea of their behavioral attributes. This will then allow you to better shape and personalize your recommendations and accurately target up-selling and cross-selling offers. This will not only enhance your business’ average customer lifetime value and ticket size, but also help deliver more relevant and intelligent recommendations that are more likely to be appreciated by your customers.
Increase in subscribers
Whether it is to your blog, push notifications, or newsletter, your audience is only going to subscribe to your resources if they find your business worthy of adding value to their life or providing exclusive solutions for their needs.
Frequent and relevant engagement with your audience can be instrumental in making them realize the value your business has to offer and why you deserve a piece of their mind. As a result, they will be more likely to subscribe to your brand communication to stay updated with the latest content, industry trends, and the best deals you have to offer. By delighting consistently, engagement helps you win over customers or at the very least, pique their interest in your business and offerings.
Also, if you maintain interaction with your audience across channels, it will help them recognize your brand, connect better with it, and also motivate them to subscribe to your communication as opposed to a brand they don’t usually hear from. Engagement, therefore, serves as an excellent alternative (or additional) route to growing your subscription lists.
Shorter purchase cycles
Engagement doesn’t just come into play for existing customers. Instead, it is equally (sometimes even more) effective in shortening the sales cycle and converting a prospect. If planned and executed well, it can be powerful in stimulating your prospects to give your business a shot.
Whether it is informing and educating your prospects about best practices, making information exploration easier, anticipating and addressing their needs, or establishing authority in your domain/category; the opportunities to engage are endless.
You can use this as a chance to cater to various audience segments (depending on their buying stages) to showcase that you can offer much more than your competitors, and not just when it comes to pricing. Also, consistent engagement can help you retarget prospects and stay on top of their minds so you can mold or positively impact their purchase decisions. This will help by automatically drawing prospects to your business, thereby reducing the burden on your sales teams by shortening the sales cycle.
More brand evangelists
Once you start engaging your customers routinely, it won’t be long until they acknowledge your efforts and start forming a deeper and longer-lasting connection with your brand.
Therefore, it wouldn’t be hard for you to then gain more and more customers who regularly purchase, trust, and vouch for your products/services. By allowing you to organically be a part of your customers’ lives, engagement can be extremely fruitful in building an online community of highly satisfied customers who are the easiest to convert to evangelists.
Once you’ve piqued their interest with your communication and got them hooked, they wouldn’t shy away from actively promoting or recommending your business on any public forum or to their friends or family.
Distinguishable brand identity
Though all your marketing efforts are inevitably aligned to establish, foster, and maintain a distinctive brand identity, there is no silver bullet that can guarantee you’ve done enough.
Customer engagement is just one of the many efforts that can help in perpetuating a distinguishable brand identity. A well thought-out omnichannel engagement strategy that keeps customers’ needs at the forefront and lays a clear roadmap for continuous and relevant engagement can establish a unique tone of communication that allows customers to tell your brand apart and identify themselves with it.
With every targeted newsletter, social media post, and blog piece that talks directly to your customers and keeps them hooked, you are essentially inching closer to standing out in the digital noise with a unique brand identity.
Enhanced customer service
With 93% of customers likely to make repeat purchases with brands that offer excellent customer service, one really cannot undermine the importance of this pillar of running a business. For most customers, engagement is a part of excellent customer service as they see this is an effort on your part to keep in touch and not just be available when a support ticket is raised.
By thoroughly engaging them on channels where they are most active, you allow them to interact with you and even raise concerns without having to call a helpline number or visit the customer support portal. Not just that, they are also repeatedly reminded of how they can make the most of your product/service and feel more connected to your business. All of these add up to ensure that your customer satisfaction (CSAT) score is consistently high.
How to measure customer engagement?
While there is no absolute formula to calculate customer engagement, and it is literally indicated by almost every marketing KPI, the following metrics combinedly can be the most useful in estimating the engagement levels for your business:
Average time spent on site/page
When it comes to on-site metrics to measure customer engagement, average time spent on site or page is probably one of the most obvious ones. If you manage to capture visitors’ attention and interest, they are going to stick around for not just completing an intended task, but also for the sake of exploring what your website or app has to offer and thereby, uplifting your engagement rate.
Open and click-through rates
For communication channels such as emails, push notifications, Facebook Messenger, etc., open rate is the percentage of unique opens received, and click-through rate represents the percentage of recipients who clicked on any CTA in the message. Since these two metrics give you a direct measure of how well your audience is responding to your communication and whether or not they are interested or curious to learn about the updates/offerings you’ve shared, it is directly proportional to how engaged your customers are.
Social media interaction
Whether it is via replies, video views, likes, tweets, mentions, shares, comments, or tags, it’s safe to assume that social media is the primary off-site channel your followers use to interact with you. They follow your social media pages and handles to stay updated with your latest offerings, reach out to you in case of a query or concern, be informed of the latest trends in the category, and so much more. Therefore, the interaction on all your social media handles is an important indicator of how well your audience is engaged with your business.
Number of form fills
If you own a website, you’re almost definitely using forms at some or the other stage in your funnel to capture visitors’ data. But, the number of form fills you receive depends on a variety of factors, including how engaged your visitors are with your business. After all, they will only willingly share their valuable data if they find merit in interacting with you and want to stay updated with your business’ ongoings.
By keeping your customers engaged, you are essentially making it easier for your business to convert more and more of them to evangelists, advocates, and loyalists. And since well-engaged and highly satisfied customers are more likely to recommend your products/services to their friends and family, customer referral is a strong indicator of customer engagement for any online business. Moreover, engaged customers will be aware of referral bonus campaigns and offers as they closely follow your communication, so they are more likely to drive referral traffic for your business.
Repeat purchase/renewal rate
If your customers are actively engaged with your business on various platforms, you are most likely going to be the first name on their minds whenever they need to make a purchase. Better still, you might even be able to drive some impulse purchases by sharing the ongoing deals and offers with engaged customers. Therefore, a good percentage of repeat purchases is an indicator of a highly engaged customer base.
Repeat visit frequency
Needless to say, well-engaged customers wouldn’t mind spending their valuable time visiting your website or app every once in a while as they are likely to be looking forward to the new experiences you have to offer. Not just that, they might even be directed to your website/app from your social media posts, emails, or push notifications. Therefore, high visit frequencies of customers on your site/app signal an effective customer engagement strategy.
Direct user feedback (NPS/CSAT scores or online reviews)
Closely monitoring and analyzing customers’ feedback helps you unlock incredible insights into what your customers appreciate, what they feel is missing, and the improvements they expect. These will tell you how well they are interacting with your business across all touchpoints and therefore serve as a direct indicator of customer engagement.
How to draft a winning customer engagement strategy?
Define an ideal customer journey on your website and app
This would be the primary step that would form the foundation of your customer engagement strategy, without which you’d be compromising on its robustness and efficacy. To be able to successfully drive and encourage engagement on your digital properties, you first need to define how a typical customer or prospect interacts with your business, and what their journey looks like.
This will include defining all customer touchpoints right from when someone comes in contact with your business till after they have become a customer, understanding how they navigate on your website or app and through the conversion funnel so you can identify the exact opportunities for optimization to drive more engagement.
Track and analyze customer behavior on your digital properties and across channels
Next, use quantitative and qualitative tools such as VWO’s AI-powered free heatmap generator to track and analyze customer behavior on your digital properties. This will help you scrutinize how customers are interacting with your business – where they are dropping off, where they are engaging the most, and so much more. Once you have drilled down these insights, you can work on optimizing for the particular loopholes discovered and double down on what’s working well.
To track and analyze user behavior on your website, you can use tools like heatmaps that offer a visual representation of click and scroll behavior depicting visitors’ interaction with your site. This will help you churn out insights on how well they are engaging with it, how far they’re scrolling, what’s grabbing and holding their attention, elements distracting them, and so on. To dig deeper for insights, you can use session recordings where you get to watch your visitors’ interaction with your website via an interactive visual player. Another great tool that can help you mine actual user behavior to figure out your site’s engagement levels is website surveys.
When it comes to your marketing channels such as email, push notifications, social media, and chatbots, be sure to rigorously track and analyze the interaction and engagement for your various campaigns so you have a definitive starting point and a clear picture of the improvement areas.
Clearly define goals and the corresponding KPIs
Once done with the pre-requisite research, you are all set to define the engagement goals you are aiming for and the key metrics you’ll be measuring. Set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic, and timely (SMART) goals for every engagement channel basis where you currently stand and what’s working well for your business. Similarly, define the corresponding metrics all your engagement campaigns will be focused on improving. Constantly assess and revisit these metrics as you might need to alter a few to align with the latest developments in your business, innovations in the industry, etc.
Segment your customer base to target all communications
While a universal approach to engage all customers might work in some scenarios, in most cases, you’ll need to segment your customer base so you can deliver more relevant experiences. Therefore, before you begin working on a strategy, it’s essential to clearly define your customer segments so you can align all your campaigns and communication as per customers’ needs, behavior, and purchase/search history and grab their attention from the get-go.
Purchase behavior (new vs. returning vs. loyalist), geo-location, device type, time of maximum interaction, etc. are just some of the many factors you can use to slice and dice your lists and divide them into suitable buckets for relevant targeting.
Create an omnichannel, definitive roadmap to improve customer engagement
Now that you have all the data and insights you need and are aware of your goals, it’s time to work on a definitive, omnichannel strategy that you can follow to drive customer engagement holistically. This will be a step-by-step guide on how you can leverage your own digital properties and other channels to grab and capture your audiences’ attention and build everlasting customer relationships.
It should clearly define at least the following –
- Your primary, secondary (and so on) buyer personas and their behavioral attributes and interests
- How you will engage these at various touchpoints throughout their purchase journey and beyond
- How you will tie together interaction across multiple channels to deliver a flawless, delightful experience
- The various opportunities you will be leveraging (such as product launches, topical events, retargeting, etc.) to encourage engagement
- An actionable plan you can immediately set in motion
From small tweaks in your current campaigns and approach to experimenting with completely new ones, your strategy should encompass it all. However, it should be ever-evolving so you can incorporate your learnings at any point and make the necessary modifications.
How to drive customer engagement? A guide on various channels
Owned digital properties (website/mobile App)
Being the cornerstone of your business’s online presence, your website and app experience certainly deserve a great deal of attention as engagement largely depends on the quality of the experiences your customers are offered.
Whether it is the messaging, UI, or UX; quite literally everything your website or app adds up to shape your customers’ experiences. In order to engage well, the goal is to simply optimize these elements to make customer journeys as hassle-free as possible, while delivering immersive experiences that make customers want to stick around.
To deliver delightful experiences and engage better, you could start by targeting some low-hanging fruits such as the following:
- Offer relevant, distinctive, and valuable content across your blog and other resources so your customers willingly spend time reading it and benefit from it
- Make sure your customer touchpoints are personalized as per customers’ needs, device, location, and industry to ensure all your communication is contextual
- Incentivize customers across all touchpoints (offer relevant freebies, exclusive coupon codes, complimentary expert consultation, referral bonus, etc.) to lure them into sticking around on your digital properties
Including such tactics in your marketing strategies will ensure your customers willingly spend more time on your site/app, and your engagement levels soar.
One of the more conventional and age-old customer engagement channels, emails are just as relevant and effective today. As marketers or customer-facing reps, you rely on emails for almost all communication with customers. And while this varies from business to business, customer emails can broadly be classified into the following:
- Welcome/Signup Emails
- Thank You Emails
- Abandonment/Recovery Emails
- New Product/Service Launch Emails
- Feedback/Survey Emails
- Transactional Emails
So, how do you make the most of this channel so as to guarantee maximum engagement? The important thing to note here is irrespective of the nature of email, there are a few best practices you can follow to ensure your efforts are in the right direction and your email engagement rates are always on the rise:
- Use powerful and persuasive subject lines to optimize for high open rates
- Ensure your emails are mobile-friendly as more than 50% of your emails are opened on mobile
- To make your email stand out in a congested inbox, offer value and utility – keep the copy informative and interesting, share useful resources, make emails interactive, and avoid being too promotional
- Share customer success stories and social proof to build trust in your products/services and motivate customers
- Send out targeted emails basis interests and behavior to enhance its relevance and engage better
Here’s an example of an interesting year-in-review email from Spotify:
Web push notifications
As opposed to emails, push notifications require an opt-in from customers and are proven to deliver better CTRs. Therefore, engaging customers through this highly effective, rapidly growing channel could be challenging, but equally fruitful.
To rest assured that your customers are, in fact, engaging well with your web push notifications and performing the desired actions, you need to first optimize your opt-in for maximum conversions. Make sure your opt-in copy is personalized and compelling and highlights your value proposition to make customers want to stay updated with your offerings.
Next, instead of restricting their usage to promotional messages, use push notifications as a medium to regularly push updates, trends, new content, and other useful resources. Here’s an example of the same:
Also, segment your lists to send out targeted notifications to your customers so they are in line with their interests and needs. Personalize them basis your customers’ geographic, demographic, and other relevant attributes to improve chances of engagement.
Most importantly, avoid spamming your customers or sending redundant messages if you are using more than one channel for the same campaign. It will only annoy customers, harm your engagement metrics, and might even increase your unsubscription rate.
Chat: human and bots
With as many as 92% of customers feeling satisfied when they use the live chat feature compared to other channels, online businesses have realized the role of live chat as one of their key customer communication platforms. Since it’s already trusted and preferred by a major chunk of your customers, leveraging live chat to engage better becomes a no-brainer.
Apart from providing real-time troubleshooting and query resolution, businesses can use live chat to improve engagement metrics by strategically retargeting returning visitors on their site/app, offering personalized recommendations, providing links to helpful resources, driving traffic to key pages of the site, etc.
Today, businesses are offering both a combination of live chat and chatbots to smartly manage high volume without impacting user experience. In fact, chatbots are changing the face of customer communication as businesses increase the adoption of conversational marketing. Also, traditionally hosted on websites and apps, chatbots are now increasingly hosted on messaging platforms such as Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp, etc. This allows online businesses to leverage chatbots to not just offer resolutions to customer queries, but also to make customer interactions with the brand as seamless, prompt, and as fruitful as possible. Since these AI-based bots can learn and adapt to customer preferences, they can arguably outdo humans at anticipating customer needs and personalizing their responses accordingly. By using chatbots to automate repetitive tasks such as assisting customers through their purchase journeys and streamline the buying process, helping with information exploration, resolving queries, and improving the response rate, retargeting and recovering customers, businesses can improve their overall customer experience and watch their engagement metrics reach new heights.
It’s the age of social media and, for better or worse, engagement on social media platforms accounts for a sizable percentage of a company’s overall customer engagement efforts as well as customers’ overall interaction with a brand. With so much chaos, the need for businesses to consistently engage with their followers through effective and relevant communication cannot be stressed enough.
While there’s no secret recipe that guarantees a well-engaged customer base on social media, the following best practices will offer a good place to start to keep audiences hooked and keen to interact with your business:
- Respond to mentions so you are always up to date with what your audience is talking about you and don’t miss out any opportunity for interaction
- Capitalize topical content to stay ahead of all industry trends and events relevant to your audience and category
- Be consistent with your posts to stay on top of your audiences’ minds
- Offer satisfactory responses to customer complaints in comments to assure your audience you are listening
- Post customer and employee stories to humanize your brand and connect better with your audience
- Make your posts interactive; roll out polls, quizzes, contests frequently to convey to your audience that their inputs matter
Here’s an example of an engaging Instagram post by Netflix:
The most memorable and preferred form of branded content among consumers, videos have taken center stage in the online marketing landscape, with more and more brands doubling down on their video marketing efforts. Whether hosted on your website, app, social media, or any other third party platform, videos are proven to drive excellent engagement numbers owing to the fact that they are more compelling, snackable, entertaining, shareworthy, and ideal for on-the-go consumption.
To make the most of this rapidly-expanding customer engagement channel, the key is to constantly innovate with formats, content, etc. so you can drive more traction, engage delightfully, and convert better. Instead of limiting your video marketing efforts to product or educational videos, you could also explore interactive videos such as Q&As or ‘Ask Me Anything’ where you get an expert on board to answer customers’ questions. Another format you can experiment with is UGC videos wherein you invite your social media followers to contribute short videos as a part of a contest.
Video testimonials (that can be shared and promoted on social media) have become quite the rage today as showcasing happy customers vouch for a business works far more effectively in driving more traffic and engagement as opposed to textual testimonials resting on the website. Depending on the nature of your business, you can also create vlogs and webinars that talk in-depth about a particular topic but have a lower probability of the audience getting distracted and wandering off compared to a long blog post on the same. Here’s an example of a Facebook Live expert AMA session video hosted by Sephora:
Comparatively lower costs, no technological requirements, ease of use, and average open rates as high as 90% are probably the reasons why SMS marketing continues to be a viable channel for customer engagement since its inception in the early 90s. Effectively leveraging it to uplift customer engagement for your online business shouldn’t be a challenge as SMS is one channel where customers don’t really mind (or even look forward to) receiving promotional or transactional messages. The only code then left to crack is getting the maximum ROI on your SMS marketing efforts, for which the following tips could come in handy:
- Use historical data to make your SMSs more contextual and personal to ensure a high click-through/response rate
- Since visual elements tend to stand out and captivate better, make your SMSs visual by adding relevant emojis and images
- Use SMS to send helpful and timely reminders about events, abandoned purchases, etc.
- Keep your customers updated with information on their reward points and loyalty benefits so they don’t lose out
- Instead of sharing links in your SMSs, give an option to respond to the message to perform certain quick actions such as confirming an order, canceling a subscription, etc.
Mobile app push alerts
If you have a mobile app for your business, you have probably already tested and measured the effectiveness of notifications in engaging and retaining customers. In case you haven’t and need some convincing, these statistics from the latest research might be able to help:
- Push notifications can boost app engagement by up to 88%
- Users who opt-in for push notifications tend to retain at nearly 2x the rate compared to those who don’t
If these numbers are anything to go by, they clearly indicate that you might be losing out on a huge customer engagement opportunity by not using app push notifications. Whether it is sharing content-related updates, latest offers, and deals, personalized recommendations, or reminders regarding abandoned purchases, mobile push notifications can help enhance interaction with your app users, thereby uplifting app engagement and retention rates. Also, for mobile apps (such as social media, gaming, and dating apps) that have daily visits as a crucial engagement metric, push notifications can come in handy to send reminders when users haven’t visited on a particular day.
To make the most of push notifications for your app, make sure you are constantly innovating. For instance, ditch the standard text-based notification for rich ones that include images, video, audio, or any other interactive element, so your users are instantly attracted to them and inevitably click on the embedded deep-link to launch your app. You can also use behavioral targeting to send out push notifications in response to users’ behavior on your app. For example, if you own a video streaming platform, you could send out push notifications with personalized recommendations depending on users’ browsing history.
While still in its nascent stages, voice assistants (such as Amazon Echo, Google Assistant, Apple Siri, and Microsoft Cortana) have already shown promising potential to take conversational marketing to newer heights. Based on AI-powered technology, voice assistants are an interactive and personalized customer engagement channel. Voice assistants are increasingly gaining ground as the newest and most intuitive communication channel between brands and customers as they facilitate real-time, bidirectional interaction unlike its traditional counterparts such as email or SMS. Apart from that, they allow communication with a brand in the most organic and human form – through voice (as opposed to typing on a keyboard), which helps build deeper and healthier customer relationships. Whether it is on-the-go shopping, troubleshooting and query resolution, or simply accessing the news, voice assistants are transforming how businesses engage with customers.
Actionable ideas to boost customer engagement
Create a customer-centric content marketing strategy
The backbone of inbound marketing, content has the power to make or break your customer engagement efforts. But with so much content on the internet begging for attention, merely putting out content will not necessarily attract it, let alone drive the desired engagement.
To achieve your engagement goals, you will need to ensure your content marketing strategy is extremely consumer-centric so you only post valuable content that customers can benefit from. You can start by describing a prototypical buyer persona, and then use data to anticipate your customers’ needs, interests, motivations, and aspirations to create a definitive strategy. This will then guide the kind of content you create so that it aligns with what your customers want to read. It must also lay down the content guidelines, various formats of content you will be creating for multiple channels and touchpoints, how often you will be posting, how the content will be promoted and distributed, and how you will be measuring it.
Gamify your digital experiences
As obvious as it is, if you offer enjoyable experiences on your digital properties, your customers are going to want to stick around. While not a recent innovation, gamification is one powerful technique that is gaining momentum as more and more businesses adopt it as a means to engage better.
If you haven’t jumped on the bandwagon yet, here are a few ways you can consider gamifying your digital experiences to foster engagement:
- Run a contest on social media for the promotion of a new product. For example, you could invite followers to take screenshots of an animated GIF and giveaway your new product to the winner
- Run a quiz on your website to test visitors’ knowledge on a particular subject and offer gated resources based on their answers
- Conduct treasure hunts as part of your blockbuster events such as sale day, anniversary, popular festivals, and more
- Incorporate games across your digital properties which help customers earn loyalty benefits, or other rewards redeemable for exciting goodies
Here’s an excellent example of a contest run by Wok To Walk on Instagram to drive engagement:
Continuously collect and incorporate customer feedback
When it comes to evaluating your marketing efforts and engagement strategies, you shouldn’t miss any opportunity to hear it straight from the horse’s mouth. So, while you rely on data to figure out what works and what doesn’t for your engagement metrics, give equal importance to customer feedback so you uncover improvement opportunities that data alone can’t fetch you. You can then realign your approach as per their expectations and hence drive enhanced engagement.
Not just that, collecting feedback is also a way to engage by making customers feel important, valued, and heard. By assuring them that their views are being taken seriously, you can win them over and form healthier customer relationships.
You can leverage exit intent pop-ups to target visitors leaving your site to learn about what made them wander away, offer incentives to customers to fill out a detailed survey, use live chat to get to know what your customers really think while they are on your site or app, or simply email feedback forms to your customers regularly. Each of these tools (and many more) can help you effectively capture your customers’ feedback that you can analyze to engage better.
Humanize your brand communication
In order for your customers to engage better with your brand, they would first have to form a connection deeper than a transnational one. Therefore, keeping your communication absolutely straightforward and devoid of any human emotion is not going to help you create valuable customer relationships. What you need to do instead is humanize your communication to build a personality for your brand that customers would love to associate with and consider much more than a product/service.
To get started with the same, you must revisit your communication across channels and work strategically towards giving it a human voice. For instance, when it comes to your blog, you need to first define and own a certain style of storytelling that sets you apart and connects with your target audience and customers. Since empathy can go a long way in building solid relationships, making your blog posts more empathetic can help you strike an emotional chord with the readers as opposed to one that is strictly ‘matter of fact’.
For social media, creating and consistently engaging with a community comprising your target audience and customers can work in your favor. This will help your customers perceive you as an inherent part of their community and hence connect better. Another approach that works for social media when humanizing your brand communication is staying as real and transparent as possible. Customers appreciate brands that make an effort to stay unfiltered and avoid tweaking their words away from the truth in order to be too salesy or promotional.
When it comes to trying out new avenues to connect and engage better with your customers, videos and podcasts can be of great help. They add a human face/voice to the message you are trying to convey and help deliver it effectively as though it’s coming from their family or friends.
The eCommerce giant, Flipkart has created an official Twitter handle (Life @Flipkart) to share cultural updates, news and stories regarding happenings within the company such as employee stories and so on. A great example of how a brand can humanize their social media communication.
Personalize customer experiences and communication
The primary step to winning over customers is convincing them they mean more than just a sale to you, and personalizing your messaging across channels lets you convey exactly that. So, leverage collected data and analyze your customers’ behavioral and psychometric attributes to learn more about them to shape your communication accordingly.
Delivering personalized and targeted experiences basis your customers’ behavioral history, demographic and geographic factors, interests, and preferences will ensure customers find value in your offerings and hence are more likely to engage better.
For example, you could start by ensuring you are following best practices such as segmenting email lists and personalizing email copies, offering relevant product recommendations basis customers’ search history, providing customized deals and offers basis interests, etc. Apart from these, there is endless scope for exploration when it comes to personalization. It’s only defined by how you leverage your collected data and slice and dice your lists to churn out sizable insights you can benefit from.
Following is an example of personalized push notification for a cart abandonment campaign:
Create exclusive engagement strategies for power users
If you already have a set of highly-engaged customers wanting to be associated with your business, nurture those relationships, and work on strengthening them. Engage with them consistently and exclusively so they are always aware that you value your relationship, and you are never short of loyalists and advocates.
By giving them an exclusive sneak peek into your products before launch, regularly collecting and incorporating their feedback, and keeping them updated with the latest developments, you can rely on them not just for staying loyal, but also spreading the word and driving more traffic and engagement.
Another strategy you can leverage to effectively engage with power users and create more of them is designing an enticing loyalty program. According to the recent ‘Loyalty Report 2019’ published by Hubspot, as many as 79% of consumers said that loyalty programs make them more likely to continue to purchase from a particular brand, and 66% even went on to agree that they modify their brand spends to maximize loyalty benefits.
The numbers really aren’t surprising given that loyalty programs are one of the most effective strategies for customer retention. Once a part of your loyalty program, your customers are going to consider you as one of their default choices. Therefore, their interaction and engagement with your business becomes way easier to drive as opposed to customers not signed up for the program.
So, in order to get customers eager to interact with your brand, formulate an exciting customer loyalty program that instantly gets them hooked. Make sure you market it well enough, and you’ll see your engagement metrics shoot up.
The perfect example of a brand making the most of customer loyalty to drive engagement is Starbucks. Their exclusive rewards program allows members to earn points on every penny spent, which can later be redeemed when placing orders.
Customer engagement for B2C Vs. B2B
Whether your end customer is an individual consumer or a business, the foundation of a winning engagement strategy is pretty standard. The tech, tools, and best practices remain the same, no matter what the nature of your business. However, when it comes to the key pillars of the strategy, namely the messaging style, communication channels, content formats, and the success metrics, the distinction in approach towards engaging the different decision-makers is noteworthy.
Take success metrics, for instance. For B2B, these are quite linear. For most businesses, the most critical ones include churn rate, CTRs across communication channels, and dollar retention rate (DRR). For B2C brands, however, engagement metrics can be dynamic as well as subjective. Businesses need to track each and every social interaction (like, share, comment), referrals, loyalty, and so much more.
Another point of difference lies in the communication channels B2C and B2B brands leverage for engagement depending on their target audiences’ presence. The B2B engagement landscape still happens to be dominated by email and paid marketing. Others include handpicked social media channels where professionals are likely to engage, such as LinkedIn, Twitter, and Facebook, and rapidly growing ones such as chatbots.
When it comes to B2C, the industry is increasingly moving towards multichannel or rather, omnichannel engagement, wherein on-the-go and always-on customers expect to be constantly delighted across various touchpoints. Whether it is the traditional channels such as email and social media or the emerging ones including voice assistants and video, it has almost become customary for brands to thoroughly establish and maintain their online presence to engage their audience and achieve top of mind awareness.
Similarly, when we think about content formats, the B2C market is moving towards videos, user-generated content, and real-time engagement with long-form content moving lower in the priority list by the day. With ever-decreasing audience attention spans, the battle for businesses is to simply stand out and grab attention and short-form and other newer content formats arm marketers for exactly that.
While a similar shift is being observed in B2B, it is much slower and hasn’t diminished the relevance of traditional formats as yet. Long-form content such as whitepapers, eBooks, and thought-leadership blogs have their own place and continue to be one of the strongest assets leveraged by businesses to improve engagement on their digital properties.
Likewise, when it comes to the messaging style, for B2C brands to drive effective engagement, it’s imperative to appeal to human emotions over everything else as decisions are, in all probability, driven by emotions. Other effective motivators include instant gratification, incentivization, exclusivity, credibility, and the need to bargain hunt. On the other hand, for B2B brands, driving engagement effectively is majorly a factor of offering tangible value, and the messaging needs to focus primarily on that.
Here’s a look at recent holiday campaigns by a B2C brand (Macy’s) and a B2B one (Vidyard).
While the contrast between customer engagement for B2C and B2B is extremely prevalent, it isn’t set in stone as there is quite a fair amount of overlap between the two, and constant innovations in both spheres are challenging conventional wisdom and best practices. Therefore, to stay afloat in this ever-dynamic experience economy, businesses can only work to ensure their engagement campaigns are relevant, contextual, enticing, and innovative.
What are customer engagement platforms & why are they important?
A customer engagement platform is simply an automation tool that helps online businesses centralize, automate, track and analyze customer interaction across all touchpoints throughout the customer journey. By enabling them to seamlessly coordinate and execute their engagement campaigns, it empowers businesses to deliver better experiences to their customers, and in turn, drive growth while continually outdoing operational efficiency and reducing costs.
A customer engagement platform helps you closely monitor your customer journeys and figure out relevant opportunities for engagement. Since it comes equipped with analytics and best practices, you can rely on customer engagement platforms for insights on customer behavior to deduce patterns and accordingly deliver targeted, most relevant communication.
A customer engagement platform can help you automate the following:
- Building an efficient engagement workflow that allows collaboration and information sharing and helps fastrack business processes
- Facilitating omnichannel customer communication (across email, social media, live chat, etc.)
- Forming customer segments and delivering personalized experiences
- Maintaining consistency and quality across all customer communication
- Drilling down granular insights for various customer relationship to better shape customer-facing teams’ communication
- Defining key metrics and measure the outcomes of your customer engagement campaigns
By using a platform for consolidation and automation of all customer engagement activities, you not only get to streamline workflow and simplify collaboration but also rely on it for all the heavy lifting and, in turn, lift the load off of your customer-facing teams. Once not responsible for manual, repetitive tasks, your teams can then proactively focus on developing innovative customer engagement strategies for long term business growth.
Without a customer engagement platform, you are essentially rendering your teams unarmed and their engagement efforts, inefficacious as they are likely to be wasting a lot of time and effort optimizing their engagement activities for maximum results. A customer engagement platform, thus, ensures you leverage emerging technologies to make data-backed, customer-focused decisions to constantly improve your customer engagement metrics.
Customer engagement vs. customer experience
Often confused with the other or assumed to be the same, customer experience and customer engagement are actually quite distinct concepts. While they aren’t the same, they do work together in impacting and determining a business’ overall success.
Customer experience simply refers to customers’ perception of a business’ interaction with them. Whether it is with the marketing, sales, or support, each and every interaction a business has with its customers on any given channel constitutes their experience.
Customer experience could be positive, negative, delightful, or troublesome depending on the outcome of the series of actions a customer is nudged to take once they get in touch with a business. It is usually influenced by speed, convenience, ease, value, and delight of performing the same. However, since anything and everything adds up to an experience, it can be interrupted by the mildest of hiccups and cause the customer’s overall perception to change for the worse.
Customer engagement, on the other hand, is the sum total of all interactions between a business and a customer, encouraged by the business, but driven by the customer. Customer engagement is an effort on a business’ part to foster and nurture a healthy relationship with its customers wherein they consistently receive value out of the same. Unlike in the case of customer experience, a business can only encourage engagement; it is completely up to the customer on whether or not they wish to engage with the business. Customer experience is both an input (to decide your engagement strategy), as well as an output (to understand how your engagement strategy is working) to customer engagement.
Let’s consider an example to understand the difference between customer experience and engagement. A shopper lands on an eCommerce store with an intention to make a purchase. All the interactions that happen through their entire purchase journey from searching for the product on the homepage to finally making the payment and checking out, make up their shopping (or customer) experience. Now, let’s say they change their mind and abandon their cart. The cart recovery communication the store sends to win them back is a part of customer engagement.
While customer experience is almost inadvertently a part of a customer journey, engagement is something businesses have to consciously focus on to form a valuable, long-lasting connection with their customers. Also, since customer experience determines your business’ perception among your customers, it’s also a key factor in shaping the results of your customer engagement campaigns. This is simply because customers who are happy with the experiences you offer are likely to happily and actively engage with your business wherever possible. Therefore, the two are correlated in a way that engagement is made up of and influenced by the quality of a series of experiences delivered by your business. In other words, customer engagement is the vehicle (method or journey) that can take you to your destination of a great customer experience (destination).
Customer engagement case studies
Travel – LA Tourism
With a mission to promote the rich and diverse city of Los Angeles and uplift its tourism economy, LA Tourism is the official, privately owned, tourism marketing organization of LA. Since they are primarily responsible for undertaking the sales and marketing efforts to drive and boost tourism in the city, they are constantly on the lookout for newer channels that can help them engage better with their audience and meet this objective.
When the teams at LA Tourism discovered push notifications, they were instantly keen on trying it out for their website as they felt that this rapidly growing channel was as non-intrusive as it was attention-drawing. And the first-ever campaign they ran turned out to be a huge success and further added to their enthusiasm. The very first push notification itself received a CTR of 16%, making them realize that push notifications were going to be a remarkable asset for their marketing strategy.
They decided to go a step ahead and personalize their push messaging to increase its relevance for its subscribers. They segmented their user base and categorized users basis the pages they had previously visited. The aim of this exercise was to simply understand what a particular visitor was keen on reading and exploring so they can be targeted according to their interests. They went as far as pulling out granular information regarding visitor behavior such as niche categories visited, the number of times a particular post was visited, the last article visited, etc. They then created user buckets basis the granular information collected regarding their visitors’ interests and sent out customized notifications for each segment.
As a result, the teams at LA Tourism saw an 8X increase in their click-through rates once they started using segmentation and sending out personalized notifications. Their website traffic also increased significantly, and the bounce rate decreased by 43%.
Technology – AMD
Based out of Santa Clara, California, AMD is a multinational semiconductor giant that creates computer processors and other electronic components for businesses and consumers. Upon analyzing their engagement metrics, the teams at AMD came to realize that there was plenty of scope for improvement. They decided to go ahead with A/B testing to optimize their site and boost engagement.
AMD consistently publishes posts on industry trends, news, and updates about their company and latest offerings on their official website and encourage their visitors to share them on social media to drive traffic as well as engagement. To facilitate social sharing, they had embedded a ‘Share This’ icon below every post in the footer of the page.
The online marketing team at AMD had their doubts about whether the placement of the icon in the footer was optimal. Hence, the first hypothesis they came up with was that making the icon more visible would help boost the number of shares received. They created an A/B/n test that experimented with the icons and their placement of the social sharing button. They designed 6 variations with various positions (left, right, bottom) and appearances (icon/link, large chicklets, small chicklets) and ran the test on one of the most frequently visited and shared sections of their website, Support & Drivers (http://support.amd.com).
After running the test for 5 days on the subdomain and achieving a statistically significant result, the test findings were analyzed. The tested subdomain demonstrated a 36X increase in social sharing as compared to the original site. And based on the test results, the team decided to go ahead with the left-position chicklet version with dynamic adjustment based on the browser window size.
SaaS – Chargebee
Founded in 2011 and based out of California, Chargebee is an automated subscription billing software used by local and global SaaS and other subscription-based eCommerce businesses. It integrates with leading payment gateways and helps businesses seamlessly manage subscriptions and invoicing by automating recurring billing and payment collection.
The Chargebee blog comprehensively covers trends, stories, and news from the SaaS industry as well as the latest updates and offerings from their business. The blog has a two-fold aim – establishing brand awareness and nudging potential buyers down the conversion funnel. While their blog is a valuable asset, the marketing team at Chargebee is always on the lookout for newer avenues to reach out to their audience and drive traffic and engagement to their blog. With the same objective in mind, they decided to give push notifications a try.
In just 3 months, they were able to get close to 2,000 blog visitors to subscribe to notifications from their website with an average subscription rate of 30 per day. Once they started sending out push messages to their subscribers, they were extremely satisfied with the results. The best click-rate they received from their first campaign was 17.11%, the notification was delivered to 533 subscribers, with 92 people clicking on it, and the average session duration was 2.5 minutes.
The teams at Chargebee came to realize that if used effectively, push notifications could significantly boost their engagement metrics. They, therefore, decided to send out a notification each for every post they published on their blog and even one each to promote their old content pieces. Along the way, they also came to realize the importance of timing the notifications and sending subsequent reminders to maximize engagement. All these efforts added up to a 200% increase in the click-rate and a substantial increase in the subscriptions per day.
Owing to constant innovation in engagement strategies fuelled by relentless competition among businesses for customers’ attention and loyalty, the definition, and scope of customer engagement is ever-evolving. It is no longer confined by a definitive checklist or a roadmap you can follow to win over customers. Therefore, the key to success is to keep evolving your engagement roadmap by constantly experimenting to find out what works and what doesn’t for your target audience.
That said, the silver lining is that your customers today are more engaged, and you literally have 24*7 access to their attention. So, by leveraging data and embracing emerging technologies to ensure you are always offering something relevant, consistent, delightful, and valuable to your customers to engage with, you can easily set the groundwork to building long-lasting relationships.
Frequently asked questions on customer engagement
A customer engagement strategy involves actively interacting with your customers using engaging messaging that interests, educate, or motivates them & inspire conversations with your brand.
Customer engagement is important because it helps your brand by creating a stronger and loyal relationship with your customers.
To be able to successfully build customer engagement, you first need to define how an ideal customer or prospect interacts with your website or app, and what their journey looks like.
Customer Engagement is important for marketers because it allows them to facilitate omnichannel customer communication (across email, social media, live chat, etc.) & form customer segments for delivering personalized experience through these channels.
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