The New Customer Engagement Definition: It’s Not What You Think

January 29, 2018CCG Retail Marketing Blog

How to remove barriers and improve customer engagement with these results-driven retail marketing tactics.

According to a recent State of Engagement survey, 82 percent of marketers believe they understand how their customers want to be engaged — but nearly half of customers disagree.1 While retailers have more resources than ever to help them understand their customers, clearly there are gaps between what retailers think they’re achieving with customer engagement — and what customers are experiencing.

Improving customer engagement is about more than using digital tools to put a new spin on traditional marketing tactics. It’s about taking a different approach to meet customer expectations: an aligned, customer-centric approach that starts at the highest executive level in an organization. An approach that moves from solely focusing on increasing transactions to focusing on helping customers by doing things that matter to them. Read on to find out how your company can create meaningful customer engagement that drives revenue.

What is the definition of customer engagement in retail marketing?

Customer engagement is the extent of the relationship a customer has with a brand. It can be strengthened — or diminished — with every interaction. From making a purchase to writing a review to joining a loyalty program, the depth of customer engagement increases and becomes more mutually beneficial the more closely a brand can connect with a customers’ preferences.

In an era where everyone and everything is connected, customers have come to expect more from the brands they interact with. In a nutshell, customers seek personalized relationships that provide value whenever and wherever they want to engage. This customer-centric approach is redefining the way retailers build and nurture relationships with shoppers.

Challenges to Effective Customer Engagement

Surprisingly, the primary barriers preventing retailers from successfully reaching their customer engagement goals have little to do with customers and more to do with the internal framework of their organization. Following are the top three barriers to effective customer engagement.

Lack of support from the executive team.

Convincing the CEO and other C-level executives to support your customer engagement strategy is key to customer engagement success. According to the Marketo State of Engagement Survey1 58 percent of companies report higher profitability than their competitors when their CEO is in charge of customer experience initiatives.

Forward-thinking retail marketers understand the value of a well-executed engagement strategy. And customers appear to agree. After all, 60 percent of consumers expect an improved experience from the brands they’re engaged with, according to the Marketo survey.

Tip: Remove this barrier by making a case for customer engagement. Show your boss some examples of how your competition is doing a better job of engaging customers than your organization. Then demonstrate how your engagement strategy ties to and supports company goals.

Lack of strategic alignment across the organization.

Your marketing team’s best intentions at customer engagement are for naught without organizational buy-in and support across the board.

Tip: Remove this barrier by demonstrating how your customer engagement strategy will benefit each individual department — for example, sales, customer service and operations.

Too many singular-focused technology tools.

Tools and systems that aren’t relevant or compatible with existing resources make it too much of a challenge to effectively manage engagement across multiple channels. The right technology can lead to better engagement, higher return on your technology investment and increased customer engagement success.

Tip: Remove this barrier by moving beyond single-purpose tools to platforms that seamlessly connect the flow of data.

Opportunities for Effectively Increasing Customer Engagement

Understanding the definition of customer engagement is one thing — putting it into action is another. Technology and data provide unlimited opportunities for gaining a deeper understanding about what customers really want and expect from their retail shopping experience. Here’s how to put those opportunities into action.

Build an enterprise-wide culture of customer-centricity.

By taking an enterprise-wide approach to meeting customer expectations, customer engagement will become an organizational priority from the top down. To achieve customer engagement at scale, start by training staff, sharing goals and objectives, and soliciting feedback from internal teams. Gaining top-level support and creating an enterprise-wide culture of customer-centricity can help your organization stand out from the competition.

Define customer engagement in measurable terms.

Gauge engagement success by focusing on metrics that matter to your organization and align with your strategy and goals. For example, perhaps you want to focus on email opens, loyalty program usage and customer engagement scoring.

Leverage the right technology platforms.

Artificial intelligence (AI), predictive analytics and the right technology platforms lead to more coordinated data and insights, more effective segmentation and personalization. Invest in tools that help you identify the right message to the right customer at the right time, not once, but across the customer journey. Use segmentation to creatively target campaigns to your customers’ diverse backgrounds and interests. For example, online lingerie retailer True and Company uses a quiz to personalize recommendations for potential customers, making a potentially stressful experience (finding a perfect bra) that much easier.

Leverage multiple message channels and platforms.

Most customers are active on multiple devices in multiple channels. And customers value consistent engagement. Integrating email, website, mobile and social interactions, for example, lets you engage with customers at the right moment.

Shift from a transactional to a customer-driven approach.

One of the top reasons for customer dissatisfaction is receiving too much irrelevant content from brands. Take a more customer-centric approach by moving from a mindset of, “I want to increase sales” to “What does the customer want and need” — and align marketing tactics to focus more on the customer.

Today’s customer engagement is an ongoing dialog that, when done right, is mutually beneficial to both retailers and customers. The feedback you get helps you improve your products and services, and gives customers a better experience. For example, The Home Depot found that many of its customers were turning to YouTube for DIY instructional videos. They decided to create their own “how to” video collection — which now has more than 40 million views.

Customers expect to benefit from stronger engagement with brands by receiving advantages customized to their interests. Here are the top five benefits of strong engagement, according to consumers:1

  • Improved consumer experience overall
  • Receiving discounts and promotions tailored to my preferences
  • Improved consumer experience overall
  • Receiving discounts and promotions tailored to my preferences
  • Getting the latest information on products and services
  • Faster resolution of issues and problems
  • Feeling valued, heard and wanted

Keep an Open Mind as You Identify Customer Engagement Opportunities

As you work toward implementing your definition of customer engagement, make it a priority to understand customer interests, listen to feedback, stay on top of trends, experiment and optimize. A combination of the right technology with an aligned engagement strategy and a customer-centric approach can position your brand for success and yield higher engagement, retention and profits.

Customer engagement is key to nurturing and growing your customer relationships. CCG’s retail marketing experts have spent the past 40 years helping top retailers across North America develop and maintain long-lasting, profitable customer relationships. Our strategic retail marketing services include loyalty and retention program development, refinement and management, as well as proprietary services such as our Statistical Loyalty Program OptimizationTM, FasTrackTM program implementation and interactive Loyalty Assessment Tool.

Schedule a free consultation with CCG CEO and retail loyalty expert Sandra Gudat or call 800.525.0313 for assistance.

1 “State of Engagement,” Marketo.com, published 2017, https://www.marketo.com/analyst-and-other-reports/the-state-of-engagement/