Customer engagement, having been a rapidly growing hot topic in loyalty marketing circles for the past few years, has become the key to brand survival in the post-recession economy, according to a survey of marketing professionals at Alterian's recent 'Engaging Times European Summit'.
At the summit, marketing experts discussed how personal, one-to-one engagement with consumers requires a radically new way of creating content and on-demand services. The survey found that 87% of marketers felt that customer engagement requires new ways of thinking while 56% felt that their current web site was "adequate, but could do better" when engaging with customers.
All of the speakers explored how customer engagement and social media are now critical to marketing in the 21st century, and the survey explored the challenges faced by marketers today. When asked about the greatest individual challenge to achieving customer engagement, 35% said that linking online and offline marketing activities played a major role.
Some 77% of marketers believed that they were already delivering personalised communications and, when it came to social media, 81% felt that they would be able to effectively use this emerging channel.
Stan Rapp, chairman for Engauge, explained how social media has become essential to customer engagement, and discussed how the "awesome power of direct marketing" still applies even in the digital age. The results of the live survey, which found that 80% ranked the importance of social media to the overall marketing mix as increasingly important or critical to success, showed that those attending the event agreed.
For the majority of those that were already taking advantage of social media, 36% said they would be using it to build brand advocacy and 31% said they would be using it primarily as a lead generation and business development tool.
Apart from social media, other areas of online interaction featured highly in the focus of marketers, as 85% of those surveyed said that web site individualisation (personalisation) would be increasingly important or critical for success over the coming two years.
When asked how they expected their marketing budget to change over the following 12 months, 33% expected it to increase. And, when then asked where the focus would lie over the next year, 25% expected to see a focus on social media and user communities, while 26% expected an increased focus on marketing analytics, and 22% expected an increasing focus on their web site.
The technology to effectively engage with customers has been around for some time but the rise of social media has sped up the process significantly, and it is clear from the survey that many marketers have realised that a brand's survival will depend on its ability to effectively engage its audience, both online and offline.
David Eldridge, CEO for Alterian, concluded: "The halcyon days of mass mailings, brochure-ware web sites, and email blasts are now well and truly over. The key to marketing in the 21st century will be individualisation - engaging with customers and prospects on a one-to-one basis with targeted marketing communications."