If there is one term in the realm of digital business that always seems to spark discussion (and often heated debate) among ’Net professionals it is that of “customer engagement,” and its pursuit and, of course, achievement.
Engagement is, without question, a complicated subject matter – and practice – thanks in part to the variety of definitions that could be, and often are, applied to it. By creating unique and memorable digital experiences, however, it is possible to develop productive and profitable relationships with customers.
One enterprise, for example, might define engagement as repeat visits with purchase amounts over a certain level, while another might be laser-focused on those moments along the user’s journey when activity reaches a certain level – X number of pages viewed, Y number of items shared on social or Z number of friends referred as the indicator of a genuine level of engagement. In each of these instances it is easy to see how deeper connections and greater revenue can be achieved from engagement.
Essentially, Web businesses (all businesses really) will measure engagement in different ways based on enterprise objectives. Regardless of how an enterprise defines and plans to increase engagement among its users, however, one thing should be certain – it is essential to success.
Customer Engagement Today Starts with Tech
While an incredible amount of investment (time and financial resources) is required to achieve true improvements to the state of user engagement, there are plenty of technologies and techniques that can be leveraged to get enterprises where they need to be.
Authentication solution LogMeIn, for example, recently acquired Nanorep, a company that provides a self-service chatbot and virtual assistant. The Nanorep products use artificial intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP) technologies to create solutions (bots) that make self-service more engaging and intuitive (see image). Brands including Intuit, FedEx, Toys“R”Us and Vodafone are just a few of the companies currently using Nanorep for some of their key customer service initiatives.
LogMeIn also recently released a new customer relationship (or engagement) management platform, Bold360, and many will see the Nanorep acquisition as another opportunity to deliver more human, more personalized and more intelligent customer engagement solutions. LogMeIn seems to be headed toward developing digital experiences that enable them to establish better ’Net relationships with consumers, but what about you?
The reason that engagement is such a tricky subject to discuss (besides the fact that it can be defined in so many different ways) is that the factors and elements we are dealing with here (emotions and data) are so wildly different for each user.
The Secret to Customer Engagement
When users feel a connection with a brand, a bond or rapport with the experience that has been presented, what ultimately ensues is familiarity (the precursor to customer engagement).
The secret to engaging users therefore is actually quite simple: know the user.
Knowing users’ wants, desires and ultimately their emotions provides an opportunity to spark their interest. Engagement only grows when users are confident that businesses actually care about their well-being and meet their expectations – or, at least to care more than taking their money alone.
Despite loads of evidence that personalized digital experiences outperform those that are not tailored to a person’s history, behaviors and attributes, Web retailers have been relatively slow to adopt technology to make it happen. Omnichannel commerce platform Kibo and Astound Commerce have released a joint study that assessed the current personalization and omnichannel sophistication of retailers testing metrics across desktop, mobile and in-store buying touchpoints; and the results are disheartening to say the least.
Seventy percent of personalization experiences on an e-commerce site, for example, only happened when the shopper was logged into an account. What is even worse is that just 4 in 10 retailers did not send an email following an abandoned cart on a website. Of those retailers that did send an email, zero offered an incentive to purchase. And here is another: 4 in 10 retailers did not even display recently visited items on a website upon a consumer’s return visit.
How can e-commerce merchants, or any ’Net professional, expect to develop a productive relationship with that level of effort?
The point is there is more that can be done to improve the experience of users and truly engage them – which can only be achieved by creating unique,dynamic and interesting experiences.
Creating & Crafting Experiences
Now that the secret to customer engagement is known (remember, it is to have an emotional connection with the user) – enterprises are ready to create and craft experiences that truly engage users.
Step 1: Identify why users are not engaging currently If current rates of conversion and rates of interaction are known, enterprises can compare participation levels among audience groups and content categories to position their products and offers in a way that delivers an experience that is in-demand. Analytics help track and collect data about user profiles, which is the only sound way to develop an engagement strategy.
Step 2: Foster collaboration People have some weird, human and internal need to share their stories, struggles, victories and losses. They also love to talk about themselves and will “love” businesses that provide them an opportunity to do that. When users are able to send messages to one another, post videos/images, share their opinions and expertise with others, they will be delighted by the opportunity and the chance of return increases dramatically.
Step 3: Develop memorable experiences The experiences that brands create must be memorable and lead to some pre-defined performance gain.
Loyalty software provider OfferCraft, for example, defines engagement as “motivation.” In other words, how can brands use digital outreach and digital experiences to incite action?
OfferCraft’s VP of Marketing Dan Grech suggested it comes down to getting people to do what it is the enterprise wants them to do. And how do they do that exactly?
Enterprises may want to consider approaching that question through the prism of science (specifically behavioral economics and decision theory).
“One of the ways we do that is through games,” said Grech. “Games are tremendously motivating to people. If you take any promotion and you gamify it, you accelerate it – you get more people to do what you want them to do.”
In practice, OfferCraft teamed up with Swinomish Casino & Lodge in Anacortes, Washington, to launch weekly gamified offers that customers can play on the new website SwinBig.com, in email and via social media. And each week, the Swinomish Team offers a live look at each game on Facebook.
The games, themed around a movie series, summer holidays, and casino amenities and anniversaries, have been received enthusiastically by more than 10,000 people, and the prizes have driven hundreds of players each week to visit the property. Since initially launching in May 2017, the weekly gamified offers have driven 6.97 times the number of redemptions compared to similar offers on Facebook and email made a year earlier.
Promotions using Facebook Live videos and SwinBig.com have led to a 15 percentage point increase (from 10 percent to 25 percent) in the reward redemption rate in the 2017 summer movie campaigns compared to 2016.
Understanding the barrier to engagement, fostering community and collaboration among users, and making the experience memorable and enjoyable are all important to the success of engagement initiatives, but there are many other elements that must be considered as well.
The Role of Design in Engagement
It cannot be said enough; everything impacts the level of engagement that consumers will experience. And that everything, of course, includes digital design.
Unfortunately for many enterprises, design can have a deeply negative affect on their consumers’ experience. How often, for example, are the long-term ramifications of digital design decisions made at your company (recently or long in the past) considered in relation to levels of engagement?
Design trends emerge routinely and they often immediately capture the attention of everyone involved in the digital experience, but it is difficult – even among the most data-driven and industry experienced – to understand the result and broader impact of implementing specific elements or leveraging entirely new styles. Such is the case, it appears, with the trend of flat design.
Some research made available recently from nngroup revealed that flat interfaces often use weak signifiers. The eye tracking experiment compared different kinds of clickability clues, and found that user interfaces with weak signifiers require more user effort than strong ones. Essentially, flat user interface (UI) elements attract less attention and cause greater uncertainty – and that is obviously not the ideal scenario.
nngroup investigated how strong clickability signifiers (traditional UI design clues such as underlined, blue text or a glossy 3-D button) and weak or absent signifiers (for example, linked text styled as static text or a ghost button) impact the ways users process and understand Web pages. The results, as you might imagine, are anything but encouraging. The average amount of time was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong signifier versions. On average, participants spent 22 percent more time (which means slower task performance) looking at the pages with weak signifiers.
What’s more, the average number of fixations was significantly higher on the weak-signifier versions than the strong-signifier versions. On average, people had 25 percent more fixations on the pages with weak signifiers. nngroup suggested that since their experiment used targeted findability tasks, more time and effort spent looking around the page is not good.
There is no reason to forgo design modifications because of concerns over what might happen to engagement, but it is something to monitor closely. As always, a marketer using his or her best digital judgment is always a good decision. When all else fails, they should follow their digital heart.
Emotional Intelligence & Engagement
It turns out that a high-level of emotional intelligence could greatly benefit brands – particularly those that primarily service the millennial generation.
According to recent consumer research from Klarna UK, millennials experience higher levels of anxiety, impulsiveness and impatience than their older counterparts. The research indicates that two thirds (68 percent) of millennials reported feeling excitement when adding items to their online basket, compared to less than a quarter (24 percent) of people over 55. Other highlights of the study include:
+ 20 percent of millennials would feel less guilty if they were offered deferred payment options, and 1 in 5 would be more likely to complete a purchase if they knew they could spread the cost over time.
+ 89 percent of millennials use the basket as a tool to review costs, while more than three quarters often use their basket as a wish list, compared with only 29 percent of over 55s. Meanwhile, nearly three quarters (74 percent) admit to indulging in ‘buzz browsing’ – adding items to a basket with no clear intention to buy.
+ 58 percent of millennials are more likely to complete a purchase if an online offer is going to expire, so tapping into this fear of missing out by offering time-bound incentives and educating shoppers about pay after delivery or consumer finance options can encourage customers to complete their purchase.
At the core of every data-driven engagement strategy is the ability to target individual customers with precision, in real-time. Knowing how often customers interact with a brand, where they encounter a brand and how much they spend across all channels allows marketers to drive intelligent interactions based on data, not conjecture.
Website owners need to target users with customer lifetime value (CLV) in mind and there is no shortage of solutions emerging to help them do just that.
Customer engagement platform SessionM, for example, recently launched an interesting enhancement to its Audiences Module to enable marketers to go beyond the traditional method of defining and creating customer segments using generic demographics or attribute data filters and target using more specific data such as which items were purchased, spend thresholds, etc.
The update also enables marketers to calculate RFM (recency of purchase, frequency of purchases, monetary value of purchases) data about each customer, which can be aligned with guidance from SessionM’s product recommendation engine to deliver the next-best offer based on individuals’ preferences and past purchasing behaviors.
In (Constant) Pursuit of Customer Engagement
There is no one way to define engagement and no one engaging experience that will apply to every brand. Many elements and processes must be in place to establish genuine connections with consumers and motivate them to take the action desired by the enterprise. Only by focusing on creating technology-driven, unique and memorable digital experiences is it possible to win the hearts, minds and wallets of today’s consumers.