Customers are what keep businesses alive. Without them, no business would exist. Which is why the amount of time we invest in understanding our customers holds a lot of value.
The buying cycle of a customer includes the following stages: awareness, consideration and decision. It’s crucial businesses interest and delight their audience at all of these stages to be in with a chance of driving brand loyalty, customer retention, and ultimately business growth.
Keeping on top of how your customers want to interact is a fundamental part of engagement. While one tactic might work for a while, the ways in which your consumers’ want to engage will eventually change, and sometimes quickly, especially with the ever-changing digital landscape. Businesses who don’t keep up with their customers’ behaviours and habits will find their customer engagement levels drop, sales decrease and employees will end up scrambling around trying to work out why.
In this article we’ll be exploring how to increase your customer engagement with proven strategies and examples of brands who are using engagement tools and techniques well. However, before we get onto discussing strategies, let’s make sure we all understand the true meaning of the term: customer engagement.
What is customer engagement?
A simple way to explain customer engagement is: “Customers connecting, interacting and conversing positively with your brand”. Poor engagement is when the conversation between a business and a customer is one-way – coming from the business only. Your ultimate engagement goal is making sure everything you do (that is customer facing) provides an opportunity for a two-way relationship. At all of your brand’s touch points you need to provide a way for your customer to ‘say something back’.
Businesses that work hard on their customer engagement will always reap rewards. A customer engagement programme is pivotal to achieving a high level of brand loyalty, and ultimately business growth.
What makes a good customer engagement strategy?
A good customer engagement strategy isn’t always straightforward as the best strategies don’t leave a stone unturned. There are huge amounts of detail to analyse, including scrutinising every moment a customer could potentially interact with you. You need to be confident that every conversation you have with your audience is spot on and delivers.
Before businesses begin developing their customer strategy, it’s vital you have a strong customer profile in place first. This should include your target customer’s age, location, occupation, hobbies, basically everything you could possibly understand about your target audience. Once you have this information, only then can you begin to consider where, when and how you can connect with these people, and create a customer engagement map.
Customer engagement maps are the back bone of a good strategy. Here’s an example of what a customer engagement map could look like. It considers an existing customer’s weekday routine and the touch points they could interact with the brand.
How to increase customer engagement in 6 steps
Now we’ve considered what a good customer engagement strategy looks like and analysed where we can interact with our audience, let’s get onto techniques to engage your customers well.
Our experts have developed a “6 Steps to Success Customer Engagement Plan”. Alongside each step we’ve shared details about real brands using the engagement technique with positive results. Take action to implement each of these steps, constantly review your results and your brand will be on its way to seeing your customer engagement levels rise.
Step 1: Execute a solid brand voice
The term ‘brand voice’ is marketing speak for how your business sounds in all of its content and conversations. While businesses understand brand voice and constantly aim to get consistency in this area, unfortunately many miss the mark. It’s not unusual to come across businesses that have outdated tone of voice documents, a brand voice they’re not proud of, or worse, no brand document at all.
A solid brand voice is key when you’re engaging with customers. If you’re conversing in the same way at every touch point it makes your customer feel comfortable, and they’ll perceive your brand as a familiar friend, rather than an unknown acquaintance.
Brand voices aren’t easy to get right. But, if you invest time in perfecting your tone and being consistent across all your channels, your customer engagement levels will benefit, immensely.
Businesses that have a clear and uniform brand voice are the likes of John Lewis, Uber and Gousto. They might not always get everything right with their customers, but when it comes to tone of voice they always converse in a coherent way. Because these brands have invested in getting an excellent brand voice, we (the customer), always know the type of engagement we can expect from them. It’s familiar and it makes us feel at ease, which in turn makes us more willing to positively engage.
Step 2: Find out what makes your customers’ tick.
Understanding a large customer base isn’t easy; trends, habits and hobbies will always change. Which is why it’s important to stay on top of customer likes and dislikes, so that everything you do resonates with them.
Sustaining a decent level of customer knowledge is critical and a variety of techniques should be used to regularly gather information about your potential and existing customers. Birchbox is an example of a brand who values understanding its customers. At the start of their customer on-boarding journey they use the opportunity to gather in-depth information by asking a series of questions. It means that as soon as you’ve expressed an interest in Birchbox’s products, the business immediately understands a lot about you including your likes, hobbies, skin type and even your hair colour. This kind of information Birchbox holds will be invaluable to its brand’s engagement strategy.
Other ways to ‘stay in the know’ with your customers include using social media, competitions or by simply asking them in-store. American brand, Wendy’s, uses Twitter as a tool to find out about its customers. Its witty tweets with a dry sense of humour gets conversations flowing. It might look light-hearted on the surface, but Wendy’s gains priceless information from their tweets as they can analyse the conversations that strike a chord with their customers.
To increase your engagement levels, find out what makes your customers tick and use this information to converse with them. Perhaps they enjoy a movie night-in, are missing long summer nights or have become interested in vegan cooking? Whatever their interests, grab the information and use it to have a conversation with them.
Step 3: Help, don’t sell
Where many businesses go wrong is they feel that every piece of content produced has to include a product or service that they sell. While this information will be useful for a customer in the decision state of mind, it will be off putting for customers at the awareness or consideration stage in their brand journey with you.
Profitable brands are businesses that help their audience. They discover their customers’ pain points and support them in these areas with useful resources.
Tesco is a brand that knows how to help its customers. The supermarket’s ongoing Clubcard Rewards is a customer engagement strategy that successfully keeps people interested and coming back time and time again. Tesco has also received praise for a social media campaign where it listened to customers and helped them by dropping prices on certain products they expressed a craving for.
Using social media to converse with its audience, the popular supermarket discovered its customers felt nostalgia towards old retro favourites, Freddo chocolates and Frazzles. However, because they weren’t always the cheapest items in the category, shoppers’ were bypassing them for lower-priced versions. Tesco reacted by dropping the price of Freddos to the historic price of 10p, and ran a competition to see whether people preferred Frazzles over Skips. The campaign struck a chord with Tesco customers and the supermarket ended up selling nearly half a million Freddos in just one week. Now, that’s a prime example of listening and helping – not selling.
To increase your customer engagement, find out what bothers your customers and what keeps them awake at night. Once you have this information, you can start putting a content strategy in place that supports your audience with their woes.
Step 4: Be personal – and get it right!
Personalisation is an effective way to get someone’s attention. However, with personalisation techniques filling our inboxes and social media feeds every day, you need to find a way to make your tactic stand out.
Many businesses will send emails to customers thinking that “Hi, David” is enough personalisation to cut it. While it’s important to refer to your customers by using their name, many emails shared in this way are linked to a bill, a payment or something mundane.
When it comes to personalisation the only way you’ll increase your customer loyalty and engagement with this tactic is by doing something that delights them. For example, sending a personalised digital gift card ‘just because’ or creating a personal avatar for your customer’s shopping account. Both are personal approaches that are sure to put a smile on someone’s face.
Coca-Cola is a first-rate example of a brand hitting the mark with its personalisation. Its ‘Share a Coke’ campaign rolled-out new cola bottles that had first names printed on them. Customers went into an excitable frenzy as they tried to find their name on the shelves. The concept was simple, yet highly engaging.
Find a way to make your brand’s conversation more personal with your customers and you’ll make them notice you and be more interested to converse with you.
Step 5: Show you value customers
When you’ve gained a customer’s trust and they shop with you again and again, showing how much you value them is imperative to retaining their business. A clear example of an industry that has lost business because it didn’t make customers feel valued, is the banking industry. Traditional high street banks have dominated the sector for years. They’ve become accustomed to customers staying with them for life and not expecting too much. However, the fintech movement has seen new banks coming into the industry and challenging the status quo. These banks are showing customers their worth with rewards and incentives and they’re reaping the benefits from their actions.
Dozens launched in 2019 with the strapline, “Fairer for your money”. Founded by an ex-HSBC employee, the bank’s goal is to put customers first and make them feel valued. Dozens provides personal and business bank accounts that not only look after its customers’ money, but helps them save and invest money effectively too. The bank wants to be known for improving an individual’s worth – not profiting from their debt. The start-ups value philosophy has paid off securing Dozens millions and millions of pounds in investments.
Another example of a brand who successfully shows customers how much they are valued is Apple. The tech-giant knew it was onto something when it launched Apple stores with the ability to book a one-to-one training session with an Apple expert. These experts give away their time, for free, to show customers how to use their devices and get the most out of their handset features. Customers can spend as long as they like with the Apple expert and gain as much information as they need from the sessions. Apple understands that this service adds value and shows its customers they matter.
Step 6: Reward engagement
The final step to increasing your customer engagement is building rewards into your strategy with a customer incentives programme. Recognising customers for a positive interaction with your brand will only make them want to engage with you more. You’re not buying customers by offering rewards, you’re simply saying thank you to the customers who stick with you.
Where, when and how you reward engagement should be considered sympathetically. You want to make sure your rewards delight customers and increases their loyalty – not frustrate them and make them shop elsewhere.
Simply Be is known for its successful customer engagement reward programme, Perks. The Chief Customer Officer of the brand explained how the business wanted to create a relationship with its customers based on more than just the transaction. And, Perks was developed to do exactly that. Customers are rewarded with gift vouchers, discounts and competition opportunities, based on their engagement with the brand, not just on how often they buy. Since its launch, Perks has accomplished more than the brand could have imagined, it saw a double digit growth in both Simply Be’s website hits and order frequency. The brand also confirmed they now have a community, not customers.
Reward ideas for customer engagement could include sending gift vouchers to customers who share your products on Instagram or emailing a “thank you for sticking with us” reward code to a customer who’s shown loyalty to your brand. The opportunities to reward your customers for engagement are endless. Work out where, when and how your customers will benefit from being rewarded, and put actions in place.
Want to discover more way to increase your customer engagement? Fill out the form on the right and a member of our team will be in touch.