Flashback a few decades ago, and the average consumer was seeing only about 500 ads a day. Now think about how you’re barraged with ads today – online, on TV, direct to email, on social media and you’re out and about. Studies estimate that the number has increased by 10x, subjecting consumers to as many as 5,000 ads daily.
With so many ads, it’s really hard to get consumers’ attention now. They’ve learned to tune most of them out, or fast forward through them. It’s only the ones that truly engage them personally that get noticed.
This sensory overload is part of the reason why many brands are taking a different approach: putting an emphasis on customer engagement in marketing. And customers agree, the “State of the Connected Customer Report” reveals that more than half of customers think companies need to fundamentally transform how they engage.
What consumers want is their favorite brands to anticipate what they want, send them personalized offers, and engage proactively across all touchpoints to build a strong trusting relationship. The key to doing this is engagement marketing.
Engagement marketing can also be referred to as “experiential marketing,” “loyalty marketing” and “live marketing” among other terms. What these concepts share is a strategy of directly engaging consumers, and having them “participate in the evolution of a brand or a brand experience.” In this approach, consumers are more than just passive receivers of thousands of ads a day. Instead, they are active participants, developing a two-way relationship that results in a deeper and longer-lasting connection with the brand.
A move to engagement marketing requires brands to completely retool the way they think about communicating with their audience. It’s important to connect with each consumer as an individual in a meaningful way over their preferred channels and devices, no matter where they are. Then brands must evolve that relationship based on the actions the consumer takes and the outcomes the brand desires.
Engagement marketing is more critical than ever before, since many research firms – including CEB, Forrester and SiriusDecisions – have estimated that 60% to 90% of the buyer’s journey is now self-guided.
By relying on engagement marketing, brands have been able to realize a wide array of benefits – from driving traffic growth, converting leads, increasing sales and revenues, and generating greater customer lifetime value (LTV).
Engagement marketing helps brands identify those consumers who are most likely to purchase, and target them with messages, content and offers that are tailored to their individual interests. Personalization also enables brands to differentiate themselves, providing the information that is important to enticing consumers to identify, get to know and ultimately trust the brand. Epsilon Marketing noted that 80% of customers would be more willing to do business with companies who offer personalized experiences and greater engagement. This preference was most prevalent among the burgeoning groups of Millennial and Gen Z consumers, signaling that brands need to revamp their marketing strategies to appeal to the newest generations of consumers.
By engaging consumers, brands have a stronger likelihood to retain them and benefit from a longer, stronger customer LTV. These customers then have a passion for your brand, advocating for it and gaining referrals (and free advertising!) through peer reviews and worth of mouth marketing.
Ultimately these efforts to engage and personalize interactions with customers transform into real business results. Consider that relevant personalized email marketing campaigns can drive 18x more revenue than broadcast emails. And businesses using marketing automation to nurture prospects have seen a 451% increase in qualified leads, and those nurtured leads make 47% larger purchases than non-nurtured leads.
In the end, brands that have the most engaged customers will spend less on marketing per converted consumer, and get a better return on investment.
Data is the key to achieving successful customer engagement marketing. Brands need to break down the traditional data silos that exist between sales, marketing, IT, data science, customer service and other organizations within the company. By combining these internal resources, and integrating them with third-party data, brands will have a significant amount of information from which they can begin to derive insights into the customers at the individual level.
The amount of data available can be overwhelming, so brands will need to leverage a customer data platform that can serve as the dashboard for relevant information and support 1:1 engagement marketing activities.
Creating these personalized offers can be time consuming. For the average marketing department, it is impossible for humans to accomplish these tasks in a timely manner so they can communicate relevant offers to each customer. To hasten these efforts, brands need to incorporate automation, driven by artificial intelligence (AI), to scale effectively. AI also can learn with every transaction, helping marketers continually refine their messages and make every touchpoint even more relevant and engaging to the customer.
Technology, like AI and machine learning, will be THE trend driving customer engagement marketing into the future. The State of the Connected Customer Report noted that 75% of customers expect brands to use new technologies to create better experiences, and 62% indicated that they'd be open to the use of AI for an improved customer experiences.
But technology is just the facilitator. The report noted that its research identified several customer engagement trends that brands must consider, such as:
Brands that can inspire, engage and provide insights to their customers, instead of pushing ads and sales pitches to buy this product or try this service, will achieve the greatest success in the long term. By relying on customer engagement marketing, these brands will build a loyal following, which in turn will drive stronger sales, higher revenue and a more impressive customer LTV.
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