Brand marketing leaders are directing unprecedented focus on customer experience (CX), which has grown from an idealized strategy into a tactical, operational mandate; centered on how a customer experiences a brand at all touchpoints, from awareness to post-purchase loyalty.
Improving CX is no small undertaking, but brands can’t afford to sideline its importance. As Forrester Research recently revealed, improved customer engagement directly impacts corporate revenue, potentially making millions.
How can customer engagement help improve customer experience?
While CX focuses on the emotional connection a customer has with a brand’s products or services, customer engagement involves a focus on the actions a customer takes with that brand.
What kinds of actions?
Everything from a customer actively providing feedback to their digital network to browsing and reviewing new products and services, participating in promotions and campaigns, sharing product-related photos, videos and stories, to tweeting, liking, and sharing across social channels.
Those engagement actions are a very important piece in the customer experience puzzle. Today’s customers are socially trained. They are empowered. They influence the fate of a company’s success. They expect, indeed demand, the chance to participate with a brand actively and positively. Customer engagement actions, done right, generate positive feelings that impact the overall customer experience.
Luckily, there are many digital options to trigger valuable “that’s great!” engagement moments, not only through social newsfeeds, but also on social pages, websites and across mobile devices.
Here are six of our favorite ways to improve customer engagement:
Personalize the matching of customers with products and services
Pose questions proactively to customers that get them to reveal interests, preferences and needs, and then show them products and services that ‘match’ their personality; these personality/preference quizzes not only give a company marketing insight into audiences, but they can be fun and quick to deliver, with an actionable result. Educational institutions, such as the University of Oxford, Said School of Business, The Open University, and The University of Manchester are doing this, both by posing questions about what a potential student is looking for in a higher education offering and connecting potential students with existing students to provide authentic references.
Help customers to learn something about themselves
When making an ‘emotional’ connection to a brand’s products or services, it is possible to ask customers to reveal something of themselves that may not be directly related to a product, but that offers something shareable at the end. Reebok asks audiences what it means to them to ‘be more human’ with a series of informative, interactive experiences.
Challenge customer knowledge
Challenge customers to share their knowledge of a brand’s products and services, potentially in exchange for promotional favors. Customers will take pride in knowing answers and sharing that knowledge, and they are always motivated by rewards, as exemplified by the National Geographic, who challenged readers’ knowledge of energy issues.
Invite best customers to the inside track
Include some customers in special pilot programs that allow them to vote on future products, or product ideas, or, for a lighter touch experience, allow all customers to vote products up and down in order to deliver ‘customer powered’ product and service catalogs. Smartwool does this with their Fan Field Tester program, giving those customer special access to new products they can test in the outdoors.
Ask customers for testimonials
Invite customers to provide testimonials on how they use products and services; of course, on the high end, customer testimonial systems can be integrated into an entire e-commerce workflow, but on the lighter touch end, a simple application experience can encourage the submission of testimonials with photos for the chance to get featured or for a specific monetary reward. The clothing company Urban Hilton Weiner, for example, allows fans to ‘pay’ for a product with a selfie @UrbanSelfie.
Ask customers for content
Ask for stories – something beyond just a testimonial – with photos and/or videos that show how customers use or interact with a product or service. Particularly with specialized products, such as outdoor goods, customers should offer up social stories, videos, and photos that describe ways they interact with products and services. GoPro does this better than almost any brand, with their GoPro Channel of user content along with running shoe company Hoka OneOne, who invites customers to share stories and photos in a website gallery, which gives credence to the brand and shows customers that Hoka OneOne connects with their passion. In all these examples, brands are asking for proactive involvement from their customers – resulting in the customer spending more time with the brand, and potentially learning something in the process.