Marketers are paying more attention to online customer engagement than ever before, with 77% of companies saying that its importance has increased in the past 12 months, according to a survey by E-Consultancy and cScape.
The 'Online Customer Engagement Survey' report showed that the majority of companies (90%) believe that online customer engagement is either 'essential' or 'important' to them.
Integrating interactive channels
The report also found that companies are using a wide range of methods to interact with customers, including web-based and desktop 'widgets' (small software applications) as well as participation in social networks and uploading to video-sharing web sites such as YouTube.
Many marketers are now realising that they need to take an integrated approach that embraces all the channels used by their customers, as a "consistent online and offline customer experience" was seen as being 'essential' or 'very important' by 86%.
Barriers to e-customer engagement
According to Richard Sedley, customer engagement director for cScape, "This year's survey shows that most companies still experience barriers to achieving online engagement, and that the gap between aspirations and realities is yet to be bridged."
Linus Gregoriadis, head of research for E-Consultancy, added: "The days of a top-down, broadcast approach to marketing are nearly over. It is no longer about who is shouting the loudest, and those that are engaging effectively are reaping the benefits of improved customer loyalty and increased revenue."
Increased engagement focus
The survey found evidence that many companies have already been taking steps to deliver a more integrated customer experience. Since the first edition of the survey at the end of 2006 there has been a significant improvement in the number of organisations that are either 'very advanced' or 'quite advanced' at mapping customer experiences.
Nearly one in five companies (18%) said that they are already using web-based widgets, while a further 39% plan to use them in the future. A widget is essentially a third party software application that can be embedded in a web page, and holds particular attraction for marketers because it can help achieve off-site visibility and engagement.
Almost one third (32%) of the companies surveyed said they are planning to use social networks (such as Facebook), and a further 19% are already using them. Video-sharing web sites are being used by 21%, and a further 29% are planning to use them in the future.
The full report has been made available for download from cScape's web site - click here (free registration required).