Keeping customers engaged and loyal to your brand is not a one-time exercise. As CRM expert Paul Greenburg explains, it is the “ongoing interactions between company and customer, offered by the company, chosen by the customer.”
In essence, a customer engagement strategy is a continuum, starting simply with making them aware of the brand and getting them to genuinely care about a product or service, according to the National Business Research Institute. Engagement then begins when consumers “actively consider purchasing the product or service,” making inquiries about it and comparing it to other offerings to see if it meets their needs. At the highest point of this continuum is satisfaction with their purchase and becoming repeat, loyal customers.
Engagement can take many forms. But all revolve around making the customer feel that they have a personal stake in your brand. According to Ron Shevlin, senior analyst at Aite Group, LLC, this includes “product involvement, frequency of purchases, frequency of service interactions, types of interactions, online behavior, referral/behavior intention and velocity.”
2020 is the year that Frost & Sullivan predicted that customer experience will overtake price and product as the key brand differentiator. And we’re seeing that seriously take hold with major brands, like Starbucks, Amazon, Sephora and others. These companies are seeing double-digit revenue growth associated with highly engaged customers in their respective loyalty programs.
The most effective way to build long-term relationships is with 1:1 personalization. Sending customers emails addressed to their first name, or using basic demographics, such as gender, age or geography to develop offers, isn't enough. Neither is creating microsegments based on more detailed attributes like lifestyle, interests, attitudes, purchase behavior, search behavior, buyer stage and other factors. This kind of data can make offers relevant to smaller, more closely related groups of customers, but they often still miss the mark because they do not reach and engage with the consumer on a 1:1 level.
There are a number of proven ways you can drive stronger customer engagement with your brand. Here are seven tips to ensure that your company can gain, and maintain, its competitive advantage:
Since price and product alone are no longer enough, companies need to rethink their strategies. The first step is listening to what consumers want, and understanding when, where and how they want it.
And customers expect companies to learn more about them. About 87% of loyalty program members said they are open to having various details of their activity and behavior watched, monitored and tracked in order to receive access to personalized rewards or engagements. Using this information, customers expect their favorite brands to anticipate their needs and send them highly relevant offers.
Loyalty programs offer companies an ideal opportunity to gather accurate and complete information about each individual. Make it easy for them from the start. Ensure that questions are relevant and do not take a lot of time to answer, customers remain motivated to complete their profile.
But don’t stop there. You need to continue collecting information about customer preferences, motivations and other influencing factors so you can fine-tune offers and foster continued engagement.
When you continually collect customer data, you can quickly find yourself overwhelmed with more information than you can handle. You’ll need customer data platforms to help you turn data overload into actionable insights.
Artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can augment and add value to other marketing automation tools. By continuously learning and analyzing customer data, these solutions help marketers automate offer development and execution to streamline their workflow and guide customer journeys.
Print ads and TV spots have gone the way of the dinosaurs. Customers want to engage with their brands through a mix of new, emerging, and growing tech, including augmented reality, virtual reality, card-on-file, social media, mobile devices and more, according to Bond Brand Loyalty.
In fact, the Bond survey indicated that 85% of loyalty program members who have redeemed offers from their mobile phone say their experience was improved by that technology. And 83% have had a better experience by receiving automatic, location-based offers when they were inside their favorite store.
Marketing from the perspective of one-size-fits-many is no longer effective. While marketers have moved toward microsegmentation driven by data insights, it is not enough to foster deep, lasting customer engagement.
About two-thirds of people hate being shown irrelevant content, according to Janrain. On the flipside, though, nearly half of consumers said they will spend more if their experience is personalized. Brands that can provide customers with a tailored experience will take the lead in building the greatest brand loyalty.
Some may prefer to pick up the phone, or go to the store. Others may only shop and make purchases online, since they can do that 24/7. And some may be enticed with offers that come via email or text.
Companies must have many ways in which customers can interact with them, since not every individual enjoys the same channel.
An effective customer engagement program requires buy-in from the entire organization - from the C-suite to a variety of departments who design, build and execute offers. Once everyone is on the same page, it's vital to draft a roadmap that will guide the organization to activate its goals.
With a new organizational model, it's imperative to share customer information across cross-functional teams (this is where AI and ML play an important role). And you need to continually examine the metrics and make adjustments as you move forward with your roadmap.
Improving customer engagement isn’t simply about getting them to purchase more at one time. It’s a long-term strategy used by brands to build customer loyalty, which translates into increased customer lifetime value, and has the potential to deliver as much as a 3x growth in net incremental revenue.
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