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3 things to consider if you want to kick-start your customer engagement

The ‘Digital Era’ is in full effect. Easily affordable connected devices lead to us, as consumers, always switched on.

We can choose to communicate, interact and consume whenever we want, wherever we want and however we want. This goes as much for the way we interact with brands as it does in our personal lives. If digital has given us one thing, it’s the freedom of choice.

For businesses though, the opposite is true; the choice of channels through which they can communicate has instead created a burden of choice, like having 100 pizza toppings to choose from and opting/lusting for a margherita. The options are overwhelming, so they play it safe and miss out on the benefits of everything available to them.

If organisations are to be really successful, they need to strip their consumer engagement strategies right back to the basics and build them from the ground up. There’s more complexity than ever, but there’s more at stake. Here are three things to consider if you’re looking to kick your customer engagement into gear.

Don’t assume, it makes…

I’ll assume you know how that saying finishes. Customer engagement is all about the right channel for the right message, at the right time. Sounds simple, but how do you know what is the right channel and how do your customers like you to communicate with them? There’s a certain amount of assumed knowledge out there that is actually wrong. Young people have given up on SMS and are all about WhatsApp and Facebook Messenger? Not true – according to research commissioned by OpenMarket, 68% of 18-34 year-olds opt for text messaging when speaking to friends and family, as opposed to Facebook Messenger (61%) and WhatsApp (57%). Likewise, it’s often felt that SMS for promotional purposes is intrusive, but the same report found that 40% of people have no problem with receiving timely and relevant offers by text message..

Consumers are being bombarded with information 24/7 – so much that they can’t take it all in. Fail to understand what your customers want and the best case scenario is you’re ignored, worst case you actively irritate them. It’s just not worth it.

Not all that glitters is gold

Sometimes it’s just a shiny tin. Head on to any tech news website and you’ll hear about the latest social network or technology which will completely turn the way we communicate on its head. The next killer app is never too far away (we’ve had Periscope, Ello and Peach in the last two years alone), but it’s important to resist the temptation to invest in these without carefully assessing what they can do for you. When it comes to getting your content read and engaging customers, slicker isn’t always better. Keep an eye on these new apps for sure and make sure you’re able to support them when the time is right, but don’t dive headlong into the latest fad. This brings me nicely to… 

Only idiots go all in

Customer engagement isn’t a game of poker; throwing caution to the wind rarely pays off. A good customer engagement strategy incorporates phone, email, SMS, social and apps. Think of them as the five fingers of a hand – it works better when you have all five. Businesses need to mix all five and apply them in the right place at the right time. Phone, for example, is great for research purposes and managing complaints, but not so great for direct selling. Email is cost-effective, but 80% of it goes unread. Social media like Twitter is instant, but ignores a large number of consumers. SMS on the other hand is virtually ubiquitous (used by 84% of the UK population) and can be great for urgent communications; it can, however, be invasive if overused. Business needs to get the right mix in the right proportions. Consumers are telling brands about how and when they want to be approached. It’s up to brands to listen.

By David Senior, sector director, Retail EMEA at OpenMarket

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