Through a sea of brand messages, information and images that are being transmitted to consumers on a daily basis, on both online and offline channels, there is one thing that marketers still laud as the holy grail in the industry: customer engagement. How do you keep your band of followers interested and encourage repeat sales in a fiercely competitive marketplace?
The overwhelming amount of daily dialogue and opinions that take place by consumers on social media means that clear, planned and effective consumer engagement strategies are more important today than they’ve ever been.
Ryanair, which had previously prided itself on its no-frills attitude, has undergone a revolutionary change to its corporate philosophy, introducing the new customer-centric ‘Always Getting Better’ plan, which has seen the airline relax its hard-line cabin baggage allowance and reduce penalties for failing to print out boarding passes.
In a recent survey carried out by The Economist Intelligence Unit on behalf of Marketo Inc, more than 80% of all marketers say that their organisations will need to undergo dramatic changes in order to keep up with increased technical and consumer demands.
So where does the future lie for customer engagement? How can brands and their agencies optimise the customer experience when it’s the customer who is increasingly leading the way?
Power to the people: listen to consumers
As the average Brit becomes increasingly tech-savvy and self-sufficient, consumers will be armed with a more developed skill set to create tools, services and even products of their own.
But this will not put brands, marketers and their agencies out of a job. Building brand loyalty will still be a key component of the marketing mix and by increasing their social listening, brands will be able to understand their key followers’ opinions and feedback, as well as to pre-empt any potential new issues that arise.
Either way, consumer engagement is about a dialogue and every good conversation starts with good listening so brands that follow this mantra will succeed.
A recent case on Virgin Trains exemplifies this point: a young passenger on a Virgin Trains journey discovered that there was no paper when they visited the on-board toilet. Being the millennial that they were, they Tweeted about it, directly tagging the Virgin Trains social media team.
The company’s social media team read the tweet, worked out which train and coach the passenger was on via Twitter, and provided them with a fresh roll.
The story quickly went viral across many social media platforms and the quirky nature of it meant that it was even picked up by top tier UK newspapers. This small act did wonders for the company’s reputation and is a great example of how an integrated customer service approach can drive first-class customer engagement.
Experiential marketing and personalisation leads to engagement
The customer experience is seen as a key to competitive advantage in every industry. The recent rise of experiential marketing companies are a sign that brands now want customers to experience the brand journey themselves, rather than through traditional promotional channels.
According to the Economist Intelligence Unit survey, over the next three to five years, 75% of marketers say they will be responsible for the end-to-end experience over the customer’s lifetime (compared to only a third today) – proof that brands and agencies should be continually developing new ways to engage and educate consumers.
Personalisation will also be a key component to engaging consumers in the future, particularly in the luxury consumer goods industry.
Burberry for example, a digital innovator in its industry, has already developed a number of customer-centric initiatives including the Burberry Kisses campaign (a partnership with Google which allowed consumers to send messages sealed with your real kiss through a form of facial recognition technology) and personalised perfume and scarfs. They also invest heavily into ensuring that the Burberry shopping experience is the same, wherever a consumer chooses to shop.
Tech plays a big part shaping the future of customer engagement
When it comes to engaging with brands, research shows that Generation Y typically prefer not to use the phone, while Generation Z shies away from email too, making video often Millennials’ first-choice communication method. With every passing year more Millennials are joining the workforce, and their growing spending power will continue and companies will respond by offering more video chat to their customers.
A new technology called WebRTC is making it possible for consumers to use video directly through a web or mobile browser, without the need to download video-conferencing software.
For example, imagine how easy it would be if when you had a question during the check-out process about delivery costs, you could just click a button and be instantly connected to a video call with a customer service rep, instead of abandoning your basket or waiting for a webchat question to be answered. Innovations like this, coupled with consumer demand, will really drive the use of video in customer service.
Also the rise of cloud-based systems will enable companies to operate with agility, speed and scalability when responding to market demands. Companies such as Salesforce are developing new technologies that provide their CRM customers with new tools to simplify the sales, service, marketing and apps process in the cloud.
Ultimately, this efficiency and agility is passed down to customers and allows big brands to significantly speed up the process in which they respond to consumer demands.
Overall, brands can’t ignore the rising power of the consumer, enabled through technological innovation. Smart business leaders cannot ignore the consumer influence on technology, company operations, and customer expectation. Companies need to know their audience, customer and employee personalities to be able to effectively use the right technology to engage with them.
To ignore the insights they provide could be hugely detrimental to a company’s reputation and overall business model in the future. The successful business will be the one that shares the right information, at the right time, through the preferred method, and in the right context.