Today, acquiring new customers is a top priority for marketing teams. Indeed new customer acquisition and retention is a defined position for many companies that recognize the discipline it takes to achieve long-term goals and objectives every business day. This role combines expertise in digital engagement, direct marketing, loyalty strategies/tactics, and data governance best practices. The following provides a practical guide to help you improve both your onboarding as well as activation of newly acquired customers, whether from a simple pop-up on your website encouraging email capture with an instant discount driving conversion to more strategic initiatives including loyalty program enrollment.
By: David Slavick
When you think about customer engagement it starts with acquisition or permission based opt-in. Then once you get past all the planning and operational build to succeed long-term, the hard part really starts. This quote from Warren Buffett who truly appreciates companies that invest in acquisition best practices but also commit to the same when it comes to retention is instructive:
“It takes 20 years to build a reputation and 5 minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”
For customer engagement programs that are “free”, program owners must fully embrace the position that simply sharing an email address is not an overt commitment to engage with the brand. It is merely a low effort shopper event to get something of value in return for sharing a small byte of personal information. Today, many customers opt-in to get an incentive, a free complementary accessory or item, or a savings coupon good towards next purchase. This is “deal loyalty” or “small l” loyalty, not real or "Big L" loyalty. From that point forward they may simply not pay attention to your program communications, or choose to not engage with the brand beyond that purely transactional event. They take what they are given but choose to keep their lives simple, free, and uncluttered thus avoiding communication via email or SMS/Text. There isn’t much you can do to solve for “deal” or “reactionary” type customers. They may continue to be active and high value buyers, but choose an unengaged relationship — thus low open to email or no response to SMS/Text.
With respect to problem solving for data challenges and help improve overall customer engagement, consider these challenges and associated solutions:
- Customer signs up for the program and email address post sign up bounces or is undeliverable
- Customer signs up for the program, email address or mobile phone opt-in is deliverable, but then bounces or is undeliverable
- On program website where customer signs in to make purchases or learn about new product or accessories, encourage members to keep their information up to date — if possible, offer bonus points or incentive for update to profile
- For existing customers, at their anniversary with a deliverable email address and/or successful mobile phone opt-in and delivery, thank the member for their continued engagement with the brand and give them a bonus offer, or point benefit, or alternate recognition as allowable for being an active and engaged program member
- Customer opt-in to email or SMS/Text but zero effort is made to find out their preferences by channel, frequency of communication per week, or alternate timeframe
- Customer expects the brand to personalize communications but is never asked what their purchase plans are, what categories offered are of primary interest, what their household profile looks like, and so much more
- When a customer first joins a program (first few weeks), make a commitment to capture zero party data, find out what their preferences are by planning ahead of a new program launch or as part of a program enhancement/re-fresh by building a methodology for customer preference capture.
- Link new data captured to your Customer Data Platform as well as add those attributes to your Loyalty SaaS platform to drive personalization and inform predictive modeling/ segmentation.
- Build a predictive model that sits on top of the data to inform personalization, offer management, and local/regional highlighting for where they can enjoy product, buy product, etc.
Test & Learn
- To achieve engagement, consider the following tactical methods all managed by a sound test & learn construct
- Create promotions to celebrate new customers — for example this month we celebrate all new program members by having them be eligible to win prizes — randomly selected, no purchase necessary — simply sign up to be eligible to win
- For continuity to maintain active engagement, current program members that have made at least one purchase of at least one item earn one entry into a promotion with multiple prizes — then provide incremental entries with chances to win incentivized by social sharing, posts, likes, product reviews, content, etc.
- Incorporate Strategic or Tactical Partners — find partners that complement your product/category or service industry. Partners keep your messaging fresh, lifting overall open rates in anticipation of realizing new/compelling benefits from your partner companies.
There are so many ways to build a relationship with new customers, but there is no substitute for the operational as well as strategic methods shared. Starting out with a plan for acquisition plus build ways to learn more, do more, and give more to valued customers is key to retention and achieving incremental lift from your customer engagement efforts. Big L Loyalty should always be your guiding principle for long-lasting customer engagement.
David Slavick is a world class expert at CRM/Loyalty business case development, program design/strategy, and global technology assessments. He has designed some of the largest, most successful loyalty programs in retail, restaurant & hospitality, department store, and e-commerce sectors.