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 its lifecycle. Consistently engaging customers on a variety of channels helps brands build and strengthen a ‘human-to-human’ connection with them and adds 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’. 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/ client engagement involves actively interacting with your audience with messaging that interests, educates, or motivates them, and encourages two-way conversations with your business at each stage in the buying journey.
Think of it as a friendly conversation between your brand and your customers. This conversation happens not only when they make a purchase but at every step of their journey with your business.
To drive customer engagement, it’s crucial to listen and respond to your customer’s feedback and needs. This means actively seeking their opinions and using this valuable information to improve your products or services. When consumers feel heard and valued, they are more likely to become loyal advocates for your brand, spreading positive word-of-mouth.
Moreover, customer engagement is not a one-size-fits-all strategy. Different customers may prefer different channels of communication, whether it’s through emails, social media, or even in-person interactions.
Understanding these preferences and adapting your approach accordingly is key to building lasting relationships and driving business growth. In essence, customer engagement is the heart and soul of a thriving modern business, where genuine connections with customers lead to success in the long run.
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.
In a world where online businesses are booming, customer engagement plays a pivotal role in distinguishing one brand from another. It’s not just about making a sale; it’s about fostering trust and loyalty.
Customer engagement isn’t limited to flashy marketing campaigns or special promotions. It’s about being there for your customers when they need you, whether it’s answering their questions, resolving issues, or simply sharing valuable information.
Moreover, customer engagement isn’t just the responsibility of one department within a company. It’s a collective effort that involves everyone from marketing and sales to customer support and product development. It’s about understanding your customers’ needs, expectations, and feedback, and using that insight to improve your offerings and create better experiences.
Importance of customer engagement
Implementing an effective customer engagement strategy can have numerous benefits for businesses. It strengthens customer relationships, improves loyalty, and drives profitability.
By engaging customers across various channels and touchpoints, businesses can form stronger connections and earn loyal customers. Regular interaction, addressing customer needs, and adding value to their lives foster a sense of care and encourage repeat purchases.
Customer engagement also contributes to improved retention rates and reduced churn, resulting in increased profits. Research by Bain & Company states that a 5% increase in customer retention produces more than a 25% increase in profits.
Analyzing engagement data enables businesses to personalize recommendations, leading to better cross-selling and upselling opportunities. It also helps in increasing subscribers by demonstrating the value a business offers and staying top of mind. Furthermore, engagement shortens the sales cycle, attracts prospects, and creates brand evangelists who actively promote the business.
Finally, customer engagement contributes to establishing a distinguishable brand identity and enhances customer service by allowing proactive interaction and providing support beyond ticket resolution, leading to higher customer satisfaction.
Eight metrics to measure customer engagement
Customer engagement is essential for businesses, though there’s no definitive formula to measure it. Several key metrics can help estimate engagement levels: average time spent on site/page, open and click-through rates for communication channels, social media interactions, the number of form fills, customer referrals, repeat purchase/renewal rate and repeat visit frequency.
Additionally, direct user feedback through NPS/CSAT scores and online reviews provides valuable insights into customer interactions across touchpoints.
Engaged customers are more likely to stay loyal, refer others, and make repeat purchases, making these metrics critical in gauging customer engagement for online businesses.
Types of customer engagement
Earlier, companies could only gauge user engagement through transactions. But in this technology-driven age, companies can assess the various meaningful ways in which customers engage with their brand. Here are four types of customer engagement methods brands keep track of.
When customers are emotionally engaged, they have a deep and personal connection with a brand. They feel positively about the brand, trust it more, and convert into loyal customers. Emotional engagement also stems from factors like shared values, exceptional customer experiences, compelling storytelling, and resonating with customers’ emotions. It is certainly an important aspect of customer engagement strategies as it goes beyond transaction interactions, tapping into the emotional aspects of the customer-brand relationship.
Discussions about your brand, product, or services are constantly happening online, especially on different social media channels, regardless of whether you actively participate or not. When people have a positive experience with your brand, they share it on their social media profiles, spreading the word to others. On the flip side, when they have a negative experience, they may also spread negative comments hurting your brand reputation. Therefore, online customer engagement on social media has a greater impact on people’s purchasing decisions than any marketer or influencer.
Engagement of convenience
In the engagement of convenience, customers interact with a brand because it offers them convenience through its product or service. Any interaction that enhances convenience not only benefits customers but also provides the brand or retailer with valuable insights into each customer’s unique preferences, purchasing patterns, or budget preferences. This information can be leveraged to align your brand’s offerings with the customer’s specific context and needs.
Let’s say, an online food delivery company tracks customers’ order history and preferences to offer personalized suggestions, saving the customer time and effort. This tailored approach motivates the customer to keep using the service due to the convenience it offers.
Contextual engagement is when you use customer data to deliver highly relevant and personalized messages to customers based on their specific context or situation. Consider you searched for hiking boots online, and while reading a hiking blog, you see an ad displaying the same boots you searched for, along with a discount offer. This is an example of contextual engagement where the brand uses your browsing behavior to deliver a targeted offer. Real-time customer engagement is a part of this as it involves the process of identifying customers’ actions and offering the next best action to take in real time to further engage them with your brand.
Five strategies to increase customer engagement
To improve consumer engagement, you need a solid marketing strategy that focuses on establishing connections with your audiences at every touchpoint across all channels. This is called customer engagement marketing. Here are some key customer engagement strategies or best practices you should adopt to ace this style of marketing and get the results you want.
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 customer/client 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. Sign up for a free trial with VWO – a/b testing platform to dive deeper into these features and harness their power for your business.
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 customer engagement campaign on a channel basis where you currently stand and what’s working well for your business. Similarly, define the corresponding metrics all your consumer 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 customer engagement 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 user 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 consumer engagement
- An actionable customer engagement plan you can immediately set in motion
From small tweaks in your current campaigns and approach to experimenting with completely new ones, your customer engagement 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 with examples
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, devices, locations, and industries 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 customer engagement 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 consumer 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 based on interests and behavior to enhance their 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 user 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 streamlining 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 watching 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 user 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 on 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, and contests frequently to convey to your audience that their inputs matter
Here’s an example of an engaging Instagram post by Netflix:
Image Source: Instagram
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 vouching 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 has continued 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, the 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 user 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 their 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.
Key steps to acing customer engagement strategies
No matter what your customer engagement ideas are or on which channels you want to roll them out, there are key three steps you should be following to get the best result out of your strategies.
Conduct behavioral research
Dig up some valuable visitor data specific to your business. Along with the usual numbers from your customer loyalty programs, social media interactions, and customer support cases, look into the factors influencing how customers engage with your brand. Discover your users’ preferences by gathering responses through surveys, observing their behavior on your website through heatmaps, and identifying any obstacles they encounter through funnel analysis.
Connect insights to metrics
Once you have insights from visitor behavioral analysis, it is important to connect them with your key metrics and find ways to leverage those insights to achieve your main goals. For example, let’s say you notice a recent drop-off of returning customers on your website when analyzing the funnel. As a result, you come up with a new customer engagement idea: displaying product recommendation tiles on the homepage based on a user’s previous purchases. By implementing this idea, you expect to see a positive impact on your main metric, like increasing revenue, while also addressing the issue of drop-off among returning customers. This is how you use insights to come up with ideas that move your metrics forward.
Analyze and iterate
The logical next step is to analyze the outcomes of your customer engagement ideas. Identify any shortcomings or areas that can be improved upon. Continuously iterate and generate improved ideas to optimize for conversions.
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 customer 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 strict ‘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 sales 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 based on customers’ search history, providing customized deals and offers based on 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 a 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 for spreading the word and driving more traffic and engagement.
Another customer engagement 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 brand 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 signing 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 customer 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 customer 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 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 a factor in 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 an automation tool that centralizes, automates, and analyzes customer interactions across touchpoints, enhancing customer experiences and driving growth. It monitors journeys, offers insights for targeted communication, and automates tasks like workflow building, omnichannel communication, personalization, and analytics. It empowers teams to focus on innovation rather than manual tasks, improving engagement and leveraging technology for data-driven decisions. Without it, teams waste time and effort, while a platform boosts efficiency and engagement metrics through technology-backed strategies.
Customer engagement vs. customer experience vs. customer satisfaction
Often confused with the other or assumed to be the same, customer experiences and customer engagement are actually quite distinct concepts. While they aren’t the same, they do work together in impacting and determining a business’s 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 whether or not they wish to engage with the business. Customer experience is both an input (to decide your customer 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 experiences and engagement. A shopper lands on an eCommerce store with the 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. In such cases, the store’s cart recovery communication aimed at enticing them back is considered a form 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 successful 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 for a great customer experience (destination).
Similarly, there is a difference between customer engagement and satisfaction and we should avoid using them interchangeably. Customer satisfaction is the overall satisfaction a consumer derives from using a product, service, or brand. For example, if a customer buys a new pair of Bluetooth headphones and likes the audio quality, comfort and fit, battery life, and so on, they would likely be satisfied with the product.
On the other hand, customer engagement goes beyond satisfaction and refers to active participation, such as interaction with your company’s posts on social media, joining loyalty programs, providing feedback, or attending events. A satisfied customer who does all of that would be considered engaged with your brand.
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. 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 could 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 encourages 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 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. 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.
Top 5 customer engagement tools for you to try
With so many options available in the market, it can be overwhelming to make the right pick. Here are 5 tools that can boost your customer engagement.
VWO is an experimentation platform with robust capabilities for improving customer experience, engagement, and retention. Be it your marketing team or product engineering team, everyone can use VWO for either setting up simple website A/B tests or server-side experiments.
VWO Insights – This capability helps you figure out why visitors behave in a certain way on your website. While funnels tell you where users drop off from your website, heatmaps show customers’ interaction points with different website elements. Based on the insights gathered, you can prepare a testing roadmap, a step towards improving your customer engagement.
VWO Testing – Develop smart hypotheses based on data-driven insights to see which experience helps drive more conversions for your online business. With this feature, you can perform A/B, split, and multivariate testing and track metrics across the funnel to measure its impact and make informed business decisions.
VWO Data360 – Personalize marketing messages and offers by collecting first-party data from multiple sources and creating a single customer profile. By delivering contextually relevant messages to customers at the right time on the right channel, this feature helps you foster meaningful relationships with them, thereby increasing customer loyalty and engagement in the long term. Take a full-featured trial to explore more of VWO capabilities.
AWS Customer Engagement
As there is no requirement to deploy cumbersome infrastructure, you can scale the services of AWS Customer Engagement based on your needs and conveniences. Leveraging AWS’s built-in AI, businesses can also develop a better understanding of customer behavior.
Amazon Connect – This feature allows you to set up an AI-powered contact center and onboard agents to accelerate support to millions of customers. Maintain contact flows and track performance metrics to react to customer needs over both chat and voice.
Amazon Pinpoint – From automating campaigns to personalizing communications, you can reach the right customer segment with the right message at the right time. Further, you can perform A/B tests to release the best online experiences to customers using this capability.
Amazon Simple Email Services (SES) – This cloud email service provider can be integrated with any application to send emails in bulk. With SES, you can be privacy-compliant and reach users’ inboxes as a trusted sender, thereby building trust and engagement with them.
Netcore is one of the easy-to-use but powerful customer engagement tools that drives omnichannel growth for businesses by connecting with users across multiple touchpoints.
Journey Orchestration and Multi-channel Marketing – By collecting data from diverse customer touchpoints, you can create single customer profiles to release effective cross-channel marketing campaigns. This way, you can also identify which channel works best for customer engagement and adjust your strategy accordingly.
App Churn Prediction – Want to know how sticky your app is? Netcore’s app churn production feature forecasts the number of users that are most like to stop using your app, so you can re-engage them with exciting offers in real time.
SmartPush – Based on each user’s unique customer ID, you can deliver personalized app push notifications to your customers. Smartech’s servers trigger push notifications through FCB and Xiaomi gateways while ensuring that customers receive notifications only once.
MoEngage empowers marketing and product teams to collect AI-driven data on one hand and creates tailored customer journeys across channels on the other hand. This versatile platform meets customer needs on every channel and for every industry.
AI-powered Campaign Optimization – MoEngage’s AI engine Sherpa shifts your customer engagement from being reactive to proactive as it helps predict which customers are likely to churn or convert. Its Intelligent Path Optimizer allows you to identify and release the best-performing journeys for customers.
Website Personalization – Based on visitors’ data, you can personalize your website content using MoEngage’s no-code visual builder as per their interests and preferences. You can set up such campaigns at scale very easily without requiring any development time.
Real-time Transactional Alerts – MoEngage Inform enables you to create and manage transactional data across channels – from emails and SMS to WhatsApp – thereby solving difficulties for your users in real time.
Twilio offers a whole gamut of APIs, serverless tools, and programmable solutions that are easy to deploy. This platform empowers you to work with intuitive tools and workflows to create unique conversations for each customer at scale.
Twilio Engage – This feature helps capture first-time data to turn them into personalized campaigns on multiple channels to increase the lifetime value of customers. You can scale and measure the performance of cross-channel campaigns and add channels without extra engineering efforts.
Trusted Activation – Whether you want to prevent fake account creation or trigger no-input onboarding for genuine users – you can do it all with Single Network Authentication. Further, this capability helps you ensure online transaction protection and frictionless login to improve customer experience.
Twilio Flex – Deploy, adjust, or scale Twilio’s cloud contact center to quickly meet customer demand while saving on operations costs. Plus, your agents can leverage contextual information to power highly personalized interactions with customers.
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, educates, or motivates them & inspires 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 experiences through these channels.
When calculating consumer engagement score, you should tailor it to your business priorities. Here are some steps for engagement score calculations.
Define engagement – Understand what engagement means for your product since it varies from one product to another. Let’s say you have a project management tool and you define engagement as the number of active projects by users, the frequency of updates made to tasks, and the level of collaboration among team members.
Track events – You can track events such as creating a new project, adding tasks, assigning tasks to team members, commenting on tasks, uploading project files, and so on. These events indicate user engagement and usage patterns within the tool.
Assign engagement scores: Each event can be assigned an engagement score based on its impact on user engagement. For instance, creating a new project can be given a score of 5 to reflect how committed users are to using the tool. Assigning tasks to team members may receive a score of 4, as it indicates active user involvement. On the other hand, marking tasks as complete may be assigned a score of 3 since it represents progress but not necessarily ongoing engagement.
Calculating the customer engagement score is as simple as adding up the values for each event and obtaining the total customer engagement score for each customer.
CES = Total Event Value 1 + Total Event Value 2 + Total Event Value 3 + Total Event Value 4 + ……
By summing up the Total Event Values, you can obtain the overall Customer Engagement Score.
There is no consensus on the exact formula for calculating customer engagement. Usually, companies can use various metrics to measure their ROI from their customer engagement efforts. Average time spent on site/page, open and click-through rates, and the number of form fills can be some metrics for you to track engagement. You can go to the relevant section of this guide to read about them in detail.
To drive customer engagement, create customer-centric content, humanize brand communication, personalize experiences and communication, and leverage user feedback to plan your marketing strategies. For more detailed information on these points, refer to the related section in this guide.