The day after the crisis brings in lots of variables that businesses of all sizes need to cope with: The market is shrinking as job cuts continue and consumer spending is getting weaker. During the pandemic, consumer behavior and preferences shifted within only a few weeks, placing eCommerce a top priority among any marketing mix, in any industry. In retail, specifically, data show that we are entering a really deep recession, worse than any other we faced until now forcing retailers of all sizes to seek a viable business strategy for the next day. 

However, being data-driven can help any manager get out of the dead-end: eCommerce can greatly extend the reach of your business from a regional to a global scale. Also, taking into consideration that this pandemic shaped new shopping trends, pushing consumers to conduct nearly all shoppings everything online. During March and April, online food & grocery businesses grew by 167%, and stationery and hobbies categories saw a massive growth of +204% in online sales. The business goal for any retailer is pretty clear: To build and grow online, successfully.

Is it easy? Absolutely not. But for many retailers, there’s no alternative. As more retailers are going online, your business needs new ways, in forms of marketing and content strategy, to stand out and survive. Focusing on the customer experience is the most important metric here. But how do you optimize Customer Experience? This is where the customer engagement strategy comes. Customer engagement optimization is one of the key ingredients for generating happy customers, increasing customer retention and boosting company sales. 

Let’s start with the basics.

Definition of Customer Engagement Strategy

A customer engagement strategy enables a brand (B2B or B2C) to create and optimize its interactions with its target audience (customers) with the goal of maximizing conversions and customer retention. A great customer engagement strategy enriches and boosts the customer experience, which leads to higher conversion from a first-time visitor to customer, and a first-time buyer to a repeated and loyal customer. The ultimate result of a stellar customer engagement strategy is creating a brand ambassador/evangelist.

Benefits of Creating a Customer Engagement Strategy

Creating a good customer engagement strategy can benefit businesses of all sizes into multiple dimensions. The most important of them are:

  • Optimizes Customer Experience (CX): The result of an effective Customer Engagement strategy is better Customer Experience as during its process, you optimize every single interaction you have with your customers.
  • Finetunes the Sales Process: Having a well-coordinated plan on how you will interact with your customers paves the way for a better customer journey and thus, more sales.
  • Improves Customer Loyalty & Retention: From customer support to a simple interaction on a social media post or campaign, every interaction which positively affects the sentiment of your customer towards your brand, contributes to acquiring more loyal customers.
  • Nurtures Brand Ambassadors/Evangelists: If your brand manages to deliver a high-quality experience in the long term via your customer engagement strategy, you will see some of your top customers converting to brand ambassadors which will produce earned media for your brand.
  • Increased Brand Awareness & Exposure: At the end of the day, a company with highly optimized customer interaction policies and processes can generate massive amounts of exposure and reach for your company. Every social interaction is publicly visible and thus, it is an opportunity for the rest of the world to see your customer-centric philosophy. Nail this and see your brand awareness rise.

Key Ingredients of a Solid Retail Customer Engagement Strategy

Developing a customer engagement strategy is a complex process that should be carefully and constantly optimized. There are a number of common characteristics that every successful customer engagement strategy has which should be taken into account l during your planning process.

So, effective customer engagement strategies primarily consist of:

Customer Persona Analysis: This is extremely important. Normally it should be the 1st step to creating your Marketing Strategy, but this is a great opportunity to validate/update it. The idea is that you need to map the characteristics of your top buyers/customers in order to be able to understand them better and serve more interesting content or services/products to them. Ignore this and you will end up wasting a ton of your marketing budget.

The best ways to do it:

  • Study sales data from your CRM (online & offline sales)
  • Combine these data with behavioral data to create more complete profiles

Integrated Customer Profiling: As McKinsey states “Companies need an integrated view of Customer Engagement” pointing out the need to collect, combine, process and convert all this customer data into meaningful interactions. While
IBM estimates that more than 60% of failed customer support calls could have been solved with better access to data, having the right technology which will allow your brand to build advanced and integrated customer profiles with both online and offline interactions, you will be able to serve a truly personalized and coherent experience to your audience.

The best ways to do it:

  • Invest in an “all-in-one” platform to limit the number of channel integrations for your customer touchpoints.
  • Search for “plug n play” solutions in your niche, since it is not easy (nor wise) to change your entire software stack

Omnichannel Approach in your plan: In today’s world, everyone uses multiple mediums and devices each day to communicate, work, educate or entertain themselves. Based on the Rule of 7, also validated from Salesforce, you will need to get in front of your target customer persona at least seven times to convince them to buy from you. So, going omnichannel is the most effective way to actually achieve it. In retail, specifically, omnichannel marketing is one of the top 3 latest trends, so it is even more crucial to be able to create a truly omnichannel journey that will ‘remember” the consumer, either he/she interacts in-store or via the company’s website.

The best ways to do it:

  • Create an all-around customer engagement plan using multiple channels (email, messaging (VIBER/SMS etc.), push notifications, postcards). Keep this approach for every marketing campaign.
  • Get inspired by how big guys did it: Brands like ASOS, NETFLIX and STARBUCKS have nailed it. Do your research!

Optimization of every brand touchpoint: Now that you have your omnichannel customer engagement strategy ready, you’ll need to “finetune” it. The most important step to get from a good customer engagement plan to a great one, is by (hyper) optimizing every interaction policy and pattern you build, with the best possible personalized reply.

The best ways to do it: 

  • Use your Customer Journey Map to spot the total number of scenarios you need to create patterns and templates for. When you are done, make sure you communicate them sufficiently in your business organization. 
  • Corporate and staff training may be essential to achieve the desired results

Creating a Customer re-engagement plan: Remember the Rule of 7 we mentioned above? Remarketed visitors are more likely to convert by 43% according to Criteo, so creating a dedicated re-engagement plan and keeping a dedicated ad budget should be essential.

The best ways to do it: 

  • Try creating a coherent omnichannel remarketing plan with presence in social media, search engines, and of course, don’t forget about in-store remarketing.
  • Again, using as few tools as possible will make your life easier, so try investing in reliable all-in-one firms.
  • As mentioned, it is very important to keep a different dedicated budget for this type of ads.

 

Build. Measure. Learn. Repeat.

Let’s be honest. Tough times are ahead of us and the only way to prospect is by staying committed to endless testing and optimization of your customer experience. As Simon Sinek said in a momentum TEDx Talk, people don’t buy what you sell, they buy how you make them feel. So one of the most vital parts of serving a great experience to your customers is by building an even greater customer engagement strategy. Keep in mind to remain as execution-focused as possible, constantly “hear” the feedback from the data you collect, and see your numbers rise.

Posted by Outside Contributor

From time to time, we are glad to feature outside authors who contribute to BizzMarkBlog with their insights and experience. This is one of those features.