Until a few decades ago, business was personal. Buyers and sellers met physically. Transactions were quick, human, and social. But e-commerce brought about a disconnect in the way businesses and customers interacted.
That disconnect has now come full circle. Customers once again desire that human connection, even when shopping online..
Getting new customers, and keeping customers you already have, requires purposefully engaging them. This includes engaging them in every communication across every channel you use: emails, live chat, social media, websites, and phone.
In this post, we’ll cover the basics of a customer engagement strategy. We’ll define what it is, why it matters, and the key ingredients of a winning strategy.
What is a Customer Engagement Strategy?
A customer engagement strategy is a plan for engaging customers systematically across every interaction, wherever it occurs in the buying cycle.
Every company engages customers, whether they’re strategic about it or not. A strategy makes this engagement purposeful.
It starts by understanding customers, learning how they interact with your brand across time and across channels, and mapping out their buying journey. It then proceeds to build a plan for communicating with them across all channels, including websites, social media, and email.
A customer engagement strategy is a core part of modern business. Today’s customers aren’t just looking for one-off, impersonal transactions. They want to be engaged in a relevant way throughout the buying process, from the moment they first come across your company, to long after the purchase is complete.
Why Do Businesses Need to Focus on Customer Engagement?
We think business is about numbers, financial sheets, and cost-benefit analysis, but at the core, customers prefer to do business with companies they know, like, and trust. Buying decisions are driven by emotion. So it’s worthwhile to think through how you engage customers so they have a good experience while interacting with your company.
Meaningful customer engagement has numerous benefits, including:
Engaging customers is a surefire way to boost sales. Engaging prospects early in the buying process makes it easier for customers to get what they need from you. This shortens the sales cycle and makes it more likely prospects will carry out purchases. Increasing customer engagement over the long term also boosts the likelihood of word-of-mouth referrals, a golden source of new business.
Improving the customer experience
Engaging customers helps you improve their experience as they purchase and implement your solution. It allows you to learn more about customers, understand their behavior as they evaluate your product or service, understand what they like and dislike about your company, and learn their purchase habits.
You can then turn these insights around to help nurture the relationship while focusing on creating value and removing roadblocks to a sale. This in turn helps you deliver an even better, more consistent customer experience in the future.
Increasing customer loyalty
Customers aren’t loyal to every company they patronize. They’re loyal to those companies that understand their needs and offer solutions that provide outstanding value — and 52% of customers say they’ll “go out of their way” to buy from a favorite brand. Delivering personalized engagement is a way to generate a loyal customer base that comes back again and again. It helps people feel a connection with your brand.
Engaging customers also starts a two-way conversation that allows you to provide better value, anticipate needs, deliver what customers want, and support them at every stage of the buying process.
Improving customer retention
Did you know that attracting a new customer is five times more costly than keeping an existing one? You can’t build a solid business that relies solely on acquiring new customers. You need to focus on reducing churn and retaining customers.
Engaging customers in a personalized, relevant manner helps move your relationship from one-off transactions to a mutually beneficial relationship. You address their needs, and in turn influence them to continue being customers.
Key Ingredients of a Winning Customer Engagement Strategy
Companies that learn how to engage their customers will boost their odds of winning the business game in the coming years. Customer engagement comes down to understanding customers, interacting with them in a way that’s valuable, and addressing their needs in a relevant, personalized way.
Let’s take a deep dive into the key ingredients of a winning strategy:
Map the customer journey
Customer engagement starts with understanding the buyer and how they prefer to interact with your brand. Understand all the important points of contact, barriers, and challenges your customer may encounter. Learn their behavior and desires.
Devote some time to mapping customer touchpoints, so you can identify all of the opportunities to engage your customers. With this knowledge, you’ll be able to develop an engagement strategy that works well with how customers prefer to interact with you.
Adopt an omnichannel approach
The global pandemic created a 50% increase in omnichannel shopping. Customers might make an inquiry through a brand’s Facebook page, follow up by email, then want to continue that conversation by phone.
Deliver a seamless experience wherever you engage customers by adopting an omnichannel approach. This means all channels are integrated to deliver a consistent, connected, relevant experience centered on the customer.
Source: Conversations from different digital channels - live chat, facebook Messenger, Instagram, WhatsApp, email, Apple Business Chat and more - get sent to a centralized dashboard that is linked to your CRM.
Doing this requires a platform that can store all previous customer interactions in a way that’s easy to access on the fly. JivoChat — an omnichannel messaging app — tracks all customer interactions, so your live agents can access customer data quickly.
Emphasize quality and speed
Long response times are the #1 customer experience frustration:
Are you moving quickly enough to serve the 90% of customers that expect an immediate response when they have a question? And are your customers getting quality responses?
Live chat is a simple tool that allows team members to respond to queries immediately.
A bonus is that live chat enables service people to run multiple support sessions concurrently, boosting productivity.
Automate for “always-on” support
Live chat is a proven way to address queries in real time, but there are a few obvious problems with it. It’s a challenge to have staff ready to deliver instant responses around the clock. And many questions are repetitive, leaving service members answering simple queries over and over and unable to resolve more complex issues.
AI-powered chatbots are a revolutionary way to address this issue. They can sort queries into ones that can be answered automatically and ones that need a live support person or technical crew member. Chatbots can also analyze customer behavior, segment customers, and ultimately increase sales conversions, and by 2022, they may be resolving up to 90% of all customer queries.
Chatbots are deployable across channels including your website, Facebook, WhatsApp, and Instagram, allowing you to personalize service while reducing costs. AI innovations allow them to improve their knowledge so they can deliver accurate responses on a wider range of queries.
Set up an onboarding program
Onboarding isn’t just for employees. It sets the tone for your engagement with customers, and is critical for reducing churn among first-time customers. An onboarding program can include a welcome or thank-you message once they’ve purchased, a step-by-step guide for getting started, helpful hints for getting the most out of your product or service, and check-ins to see if customers have any questions.
Deploy in-product messaging
In-product messaging provides a way to engage customers after the sale. With well-designed in-product messages, you can nudge users to set up the product, walk them through the product, update users about new features, and share any relevant news.
For instance, you can display messages to notify customers about features they can take advantage of, or to nudge them to use paid features. The point is to help users get the most value out of their purchase, so it’s a valuable part of a customer engagement strategy.
Focus on the mobile experience
In the first quarter of 2021, nearly 60% of online traffic came from mobile devices. Having a mobile responsive website and/or app is critical to delivering a great customer experience.
With the increase in smartphones, apps create new ways to engage customers. They can act as a loyalty card that sits on the customer’s phone, can push notifications to grab users’ attention when they’re not in the app, and deliver messages directly to customers without passing through spam filters. Push notifications need careful planning, since users may turn off notifications they don’t find useful or relevant.
Make personalization a top priority
Did you know 90% of customers are willing to share personal data in exchange for more relevant engagement? Make sure you’re collecting data that will help you personalize the customer experience. Ask for customer data like their location, job title, and past purchases, and incorporate this in your content and offers.
Re-engage quiet customers
Everyone loves the loud customers who sing your praises on social media and refer friends to you. But don’t overlook your quiet customers. Odds are they will be delighted you’re paying attention to them, as long as you approach them in a way that respects their desire to be less vocal.
Try a simple, “There’s no particular reason for this note other than to thank you for your business.” People appreciate being appreciated. Also, you can use notes to remind customers about how to reach out if they need help.
Reward engaged customers
Sometimes customers will go out of their way to engage you, such as by tagging you on social media. For these customers, it’s great to have some rewards on hand to thank them for their support and encourage them to continue engaging. Think of branded t-shirts, a book they’ll love, or just a simple thank-you note and call-out.
Incorporate customers into the brand
A great way to liven up your brand is to give it a human face. Look at who in your customer base is a vocal fan. Call them out on social media, or highlight them in a customer success story or testimonial. This will help customers feel like they’re a significant part of your company, and help give a more personalized, customer-centric appeal to your marketing materials.
Promote user-generated content
Customers and prospects like to read honest opinions from other users about your product, and 88% of consumers find user reviews just as persuasive as personal recommendations. Social proof is one of the most powerful forms of influence.
So collect and publish user-generated content. Show images of your products in action. Highlight how real-life customers use your products.
Gamification is a powerful way to influence customers and reward loyalty. It’s the process of embedding game dynamics into loyalty programs or other business processes to reward users for participation.
At the core, a game consists of a set of players, a way to win, and a set of rules. You can use this framework to create new programs, or modify existing programs to be more enticing.
For instance, to attract word-of-mouth referrals, create a contest that gives referrers a special discount or prize based on how many referrals they send. Think of ways to use this schema to reward loyal customers or repeat purchasers. The main goal is to reward engagement and boost customer satisfaction
Stay in touch with customers
Frequency sells. Even if a prospect has not purchased from you, they can still turn into a customer down the road, but you need to stay in touch — prospects may not make a purchase until you’ve followed up with them eight times. The key is to stay relevant and send useful information that ties back to your brand.
One popular way to stay in touch is to send email newsletters with useful information. Be careful not to turn the newsletter into a catalog. Include a good mix of sales promotions and useful or entertaining content. This will help build long-term relationships, and you’ll likely see a sales boost when you send them out.
Close the feedback loop
Always collect customer feedback, and then show customers how you have acted on it. Premium customers look for respect. They also want their feedback incorporated so they get more relevant, personalized experiences. Ask for their feedback in surveys, give them incentives for reviews, then show how you responded to the review.
Enable customer self-service
Even though customers may want to speak to a live agent at times, 69% of customers prefer to resolve their own issues, when possible. Allow customers to access knowledge base, webinars, video tutorials and support articles so they can answer queries without contacting support.
Be sure your customer-facing teams are able to update knowledge bases. They know what customers are asking about and will be able to suggest relevant updates.
Launch a loyalty program
Customer loyalty is a long-term play. Customers have their own desires, pain points, and goals. They’re loyal to businesses that understand their needs. Engaging customers and satisfying those needs is a winning path to gaining their loyalty.
Once you’ve gained loyalty, building a loyalty program can reap additional dividends in the future. Customers who buy frequently will appreciate being rewarded for it. This can include early access to new products or services, special events, or unadvertised discounts or special offers.
The Starbucks loyalty program mobile interface. Source
Measure your engagement metrics
Measuring engagement can provide actionable intelligence on what is working well with your users. Use this feedback to evolve your strategy moving forward. A few key metrics to consider measuring:
Activity: When and how often customers are using your product.
Churn rate: Knowing how many customers you lose helps you understand how well you’re engaging customers. High churn rate can indicate deeper issues such as poor product-to-market fit.
Which functionalities they’re using: This gives further insights into how customers use your product.
Once you have these metrics in place, take the insights you gain to improve your in-product messaging and other aspects of your customer engagement strategy.
Start Engaging Your Customers
Today’s customers want a personalized, high-touch shopping experience. It’s easier said than done.
Part of the challenge is engaging customers across channels. Delivering a consistent experience across social media, email, websites, phone, and other channels is nearly impossible to do without the right technology.
That’s where JivoChat fits in. Our live chat system can enhance your customer engagement strategy, and our AI-powered and rules-based chatbots can lighten the workload for your live agents.
Curious to learn more about JivoChat? Create a free account today!