Creating compelling social/digital engagement
The typical consumer begins each day with a social network or an online community, browsing details of desirable products and interacting with other consumers. In other words, according to Vaibhav Khamesra of Capillary Technologies, they might not be 'mall hopping' every day, but they're potentially in constant contact with their favoured brands - if they're engaging enough.
With a colossal amount of product data available on different media, consumers these days are better informed, smarter and, not surprisingly, harder to please. Add to this the challenge of catering to an ever-connected digital shopper, armed with Smartphones, aware of every market conversation - and you already have a business case to create an ever-present brand.
According to Forrester Research, more than 75 million users accessed the internet through mobile devices in 2011 - a number estimated to grow to nearly 117 million by 2015. If these figures are anything to go by, we could be looking at a strategic shift in how brands drive digital customer engagement.
Experience is king The customer is omnipresent - on different channels and through different devices. The mantra to stand out and grab attention is by creating impressive, lasting experiences each time a customer interacts with your brand, be it in-store or online. The key is to facilitate personalised customer communication that transforms the entire shopping experience from conventional select-pay-buy to exceptional purchases focusing on individual buyer preferences.
Analytics can be your 'ready reckoner'. When a customer visits your website, they are specifically looking for something that can answer a question or provide advice. Throw in a vague offer on your landing page and you have lost a potential lead forever. This is where analytics can be your life saver. Use predictive data models to understand individual buyer requirements by studying historical data, and create bespoke on-the-go offers to engage your prospect. Whether a makeover wardrobe for a finicky teenager or a bundled offer on baby clothing for a soon-to-be mom - it is how you surprise your customers with intuitive personal offers that will drive success for your business.
Stop talking, and start engaging The worst you can do for your brand is to incessantly push your products onto your potential customers, who are already well-informed thanks to the internet and social media. Instead of talking endlessly about your products, engage in a continuous dialogue with connoisseurs of your brand.
Use relevant and timely content to build conversations, create buzz, and proactively deal with customer service issues. Adopting the right technology will help you test every piece of content across various touch points -paid text ads, email campaign subject lines, and customized website messaging. Profile your customers based on the depth of their interaction with your brand (e.g. are they loyal, a follower, an influencer?) and initiate customised social campaigns for each category. Reach out to your social influencers and reward the positive buzz they create. A 'content centre' hardwired into your marketing team can help churn remarkable content to keep your customers interested; and forge that rewarding emotional bond and trust with your brand that can convert a customer into a loyalist.
Pervasive Marketing is 'in' Traditionally, retailers were happy to hinge their service quality on in-store face-to-face interactions with their customers. However, brands today are realising the potential of the vast pool of information available on shoppers - be it transaction history, customer location, and buying preferences. This has revealed the role played by each stakeholder in the delivery process and the imperative of an integrated approach to managing customer engagement and experience.
It's everybody's responsibility Customer engagement is a responsibility of every function in the organisation - from frontline employees to product development to data analytics and marketing communications.
Investing in a 'digital team' with the right marketing tools and resources to monitor how different customer groups interact on multiple channels will enable you to identify patterns, tweak your messaging, and ultimately offer customers a delightful shopping experience.
Perhaps Tom French, Laura LaBerge, and Paul Magill of global management consulting firm McKinsey said it best: "To truly engage customers whenever and wherever they interact with a company - in a store; on the phone; responding to an e-mail, a blog post, or an online review-marketing must pervade the entire organisation".
Digitization has transformed the retail landscape, creating endless opportunities for retailers to mine the sea of information available on potential customers. A structured and integrated social outreach strategy is a must-have component of any business strategy.
Retailers must now invest in technology and resources, and create a systematic digital strategy to keenly observe and listen to customer wants and desires; create products and services that resonate with the pulse of their target market; and eventually convert dedicated customers into loyal brand advocates.