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Guest Blogger

By Christopher Baldwin, VP Marketing, Zoovu

“Customer engagement” has been the term du jour for some time, overheard in board rooms, executive meetings and agency pitches around the world. Depending on who you talk to, CEO, CTO, CMO, or CIO, you may get a different definition. I define engagement as “the degree of intensity of the interaction and emotional connection between your company and your customer, sentiments which strongly influence their buying decisions.”

So, it’s probably no surprise that, according to eMarketer, engagement is now the top business objective for 59% of marketing professionals – overtaking other objectives like increasing conversion or growing revenue.

In a world where Consumers are given multiple opportunities to interact with multiple brands each day – how do you deliver something exceptional (that drives results)?

Reality Check

Technology has created a new era of entitlement in consumers. They now expect nothing less than personal and meaningful engagement, in fact, 84% of consumers say being treated like a person, not a number, is very important to winning their business and 70% admit that their buying experience is driven by how well they feel they are being understood.

So yes, customer engagement is vital. Committing to customer engagement is less of a choice than you think. Dismal customer engagement can actually cost you more than eyeballs, it can diminish revenue, CLV, market share and reputation.

When to engage?

Every purchase decision journey is different – and the type and level of engagement varies depending on where a consumer in that journey, and what they’re looking for. Here’s where and what you need to focus on, depending on which stage your consumer is at – the principle remains the same throughout: Understand, Engage, Converse, Convert.

Exploration – 64% of consumers engage with a company to learn about its products and services. To avoid losing prospects in this early stage, understand and learn what each individual is looking for and cares about to engage properly

Purchase – 74% of consumers engage with brands in order to purchase. Delivering highly-relevant, assistive and informative experiences will not only increase a consumer’s purchase confidence but also help you re-engage them when they are

Support – So you made the sale, now what? 51% of consumers seek to engage with companies for support after the purchase. Whether it’s to report a problem or asking for guidance, providing meaningful engagement in this stage will significantly affect loyalty and advocacy.

Ask the right questions

While methods of communication are constantly changing, human nature is not – they still have a need to be treated like an individual. Conversations are at the heart of successful engagement strategies. Instead of displaying static, impersonal product listings and expecting consumers to find their way around, be proactive and offer them a helping hand by engaging them in a 1:1 conversation.

Recognise the ‘I want’ moment

It’s the most critical moment to make a difference in a customer’s purchase decision journey. Failing to engage when they need support and assistance can quickly lead to abandonment. In fact, 71% of consumers admit to abandoning a purchase to go look for a competitor that makes their purchase easier.

Leverage technology to scale

With speed, convenience and the “human touch” being the cornerstones of commerce now, it can seem contradictory to talk about using AI and machine learning as a means to be more ‘human’ but it’s the only way to scale your business. Fueled by an increasing number of channels and data crumbs, leveraging AI and algorithms are no longer negotiable to scale engagement without hugely increasing cost. Plus, 55% of younger respondents wanted to explore new ways to interact with digital assistants.

Analytics is the new customer voice

Everyone who engages across your digital platforms generates millions of data points that can provide clarity into customer intent and preferences.

By combining demographic data (who), behavioural data (what) and explicit data (why) you will be able to gain a fuller picture of your customers. This is why brands are evolving beyond basic demographic information and sales history towards a far more detailed customer understanding. Doing so enables you to make every customer engagement experience meaningful, personal… and profitable.

The outlook

In a world of increasing options and decreasing attention spans, meaningful engagement is the only route to building valuable and profitable customer relationships.

2019 has proven to be a year of contradictions for anyone in the customer experience – and 2020 doesn’t show any signs of that changing. Businesses need to recognise the need to automate, but also to use technology to preserve the ‘human touch’.

It is a delicate balancing act – and the ones who find it first will win.