This year is proving to be a baffling one for marketers. We’re going full throttle on digital and automation, while at the same time pushing hard to still preserve the ‘human touch’. It has become a delicate balancing act.
Today, customer experience goes further than closing a sale. Your customers need to be on a first-name basis with your brand. They must identify you as a part of their lifestyle. They must think of you as soon as they want to shop. Need shoes? Go to Zappos. Need a new phone? Check out Apple. Need a refill on your make-up? Sephora it is. These brands offer exceptional experiences across channels and engage consumers on an emotional level. That’s the kind of engagement you’ll want to create on your website and other digital channels.
Everything good begins with customer engagement. Customer loyalty, increased revenue, brand advocacy, positive word of mouth—all depend directly on how you engage your customers.
So, what does it take to deliver exceptional customer engagement?
1. Begin by understanding your customers
While it sounds simple, few brands are really up to it. Everyone seems to be doing market research and customer surveys. Yet, a study by IBM found that only 22% of customers feel that brands understand them. Brands need to really get a sense of everything that their customers care about.
Start with assessing what they want, what they expect from you, and how you fit into their life. This will help you develop a creative message that strikes a chord with them on a deeper level.
A fine example of this is the Real Beauty campaign by Dove, which the brand launched 10 years ago. It was developed based on the understanding that women were impacted by the unrealistic standards imparted by media and advertising, which affected their relationship with beauty brands and products. Using this insight, Dove created a remarkably targeted, yet far-reaching campaign, with a long-lasting impact.
“We found out that the women and men exposed to [the “Campaign for Real Beauty”] became much more interested in buying anything the brand was selling,” said Nancy Vonk, one of the creative team at Ogilvy, Toronto, who worked on the campaign from its outset. “That wasn’t about, ‘I’m so glad they put this in the shampoo.’ That was about, ‘I really appreciate what the brand is doing in the world. I want to put my dollars against what they are doing.’”
However, pay attention to your methods of understanding consumers. The glory days of surveys (if there were any) are over. The smart, savvy customers do not like to be stalked on social media and certainly don’t appreciate frequent communications that open with “To help us serve you better.” Today, inconveniencing your customers to collect feedback data can be detrimental.
This is where artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, and sentiment analysis come in handy. They help analyze interactions and behavioral data to reveal valuable consumer insights. This guarantees that the marketer is looking at the most important data from its target audience to inform their next marketing campaign.
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2. Above everything, build trust
The Trends in Customer Trust study by Salesforce found that 54% of customers don’t feel companies have their best interests in mind. Brands stand to lose half their business if they don’t solve the trust crisis, as trust is one of the biggest drivers of customer engagement, with 95% of customers saying they would be loyal to a brand they trust.
So build trust. Be honest and transparent with your customers. While building trust begins with your products and services, you can use your website to communicate your values and your efforts in delivering those values. Using real images of real brand interactions as opposed to over-the-top happy stock images are a worthy investment. Include just the right amount of social proof, customer stories, and testimonials. Show them how you are protecting their data, what you are using it for, and if you are sharing any of it.
3. Build dynamic customer profiles
Customer segmentation is the most critical elements of crafting personalized customer engagements. You need to carefully understand your customers and categorize them into segments or groups of customers who share similar features, qualities, and interests. Since you can’t really create individual messaging and campaigns for your millions of customers, customer segmentation is the closest alternative.
Use customer segmentation to develop personas and customize your marketing to each individual persona. Use subtle variations to personalize the content, tone, and timing of your brand messaging to make it relevant for each customer.
4. Rise above your business goals
Today, consumers are increasingly aware of their role in the world and the larger scheme of things. They want to be responsible citizens, care about global causes, and like to engage with brands that do the same. So from time to time, create impactful campaigns, and customers will flock to join.
Once again, begin by understanding your customers and find a cause that resonates with the brand as well as your customers. Such campaigns have consistently brought in admirable results for brands and vastly improved customer engagement.
Some of the best examples include Airbnb’s We Accept campaign that addressed race and diversity:
And P&G’s Like a Girl campaign for the empowerment of women and girls:
The campaign went viral and was a great success for the team at P&G:
- 90m+ views—number two viral video globally
- Twitter followers tripled in the first three months—YouTube channel subscribers grew 4339%
- Higher-than-average lift in brand preference—claimed purchase intent grew more than 50% among our target.
In a world of increasing options and decreasing attention spans, making customers want to stop and pay attention to your brand is quite the challenge. It is far too easy for a customer to pull up results from multiple websites, choose the cheapest option, and go with it.
To be able to capture their attention and make them listen to your offer, to make them spend time on your website and consume your content, to motivate them to take action and buy from you instead of someone else, you need to differentiate. Engaging your customers on an emotional level requires taking the time to understand them and caring about what they care about.