Now that customers routinely rely on many sources of information and discuss brands with each other online before engaging with the brands themselves, the rules of customer engagement have changed. But as a new e-book from Sitecore, “Engaging with the Empowered Consumer: Tips for the E-Marketer,” explains, these empowered consumers actually represent more value for digital marketers than ever before.

Sitecore cites statistics indicating that fully engaged customers represent a 23 percent premium compared to average customers in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth. However, 87 percent of customers are disengaged. This means digital marketers must find new ways to effectively engage empowered consumers who are far better informed than consumers have ever been before.

6 Tips for Customer Engagement

Following is a summary of six key tips Sitecore offers to digital marketers seeking to engage today’s empowered consumers:

1.    Get to Know Your Customers Better -- Marketers should develop personas that enable the marketing and creative staff to get into the mindsets of their customers. This involves defining personas for each target buyer and influencer, including a real name, title or position, tasks they need to accomplish, relevant demographic info, problems, needs and wants. Sitecore advises a good persona description also includes a narrative that describes the flow of that person’s day, including their skills, attitudes, environment and goals.

2.    Understand That Relevance Has a Shelf Life -- Sitecore uses the term “temporal relevance” to describe the fact that what currently interests a customer or prospect may not be as interesting within a matter of hours. Digital marketers need to capture customer behavior and trigger a reaction based on peak interest levels. Sitecore recommends investing in an engagement platform that automates much of the process with defined customer interaction scenarios and triggers that move the conversation forward with relevant responses.

3.    Create a Natural Conversation -- Creating a natural, flowing conversation with consumers requires eliminating channel and marketing silos and collecting, storing and mining customer behavior in all channels so that conversations can pick up where they left off, regardless of communication channel. Digital marketers need to collect customer information across channels in one central place, identify the proper moments to speak and listen throughout the customer lifecycle and automate the engagement flow to ensure relevance (see tip #2).

4.    Take Personalization to the Next Level -- Personalization increases conversions and the average dollar amount spent, but remains underutilized by most digital marketers. Sitecore advises collecting customer data such as interest level, keywords used, preferences, behaviors, needs, wants and patterns of usage and then modeling scenarios for what content or offer to present next in the customer lifecycle that would be most relevant based on this data. Technology that can sense and adapt to site visitors’ behaviors can help automate scenarios to personalize the experience and deepen the engagement.

5.    Measure Engagement Value, Not Just Clicks -- Beyond measuring open rate, clicks and site traffic, digital marketers need to track and measure engagement value. Sitecore recommends assigning a value or points to interactions throughout the customer lifecycle. These become conversion goals and should be indicative or predictive of revenue and also demonstrate how channels are affecting engagement and which interactions are performing better than others.

6.    Embrace Today’s Cross-Channel Buying Process -- Customers are empowered by access to information and it’s changed the buying process, shifting the balance of power to the customer. To adapt, Sitecore says digital marketers should create a seamless experience across all channels and touchpoints. This will allow interactions to become more personalized and relevant to customers throughout the customer lifecycle.

Responsive Design Optimizes Web Experiences

Digital marketers looking to optimize a seamless cross-channel customer experience may want to investigate responsive site design. As explained in a recent Forrester report, “Understanding Responsive Design,” responsive design is “an approach to Web development that forces user experience developers to design and optimize from the outset for all touchpoints they need to support, regardless of screen size or device orientation."

Executed properly, responsive design allows developers to provide optimized Web experiences from a single HTML5 code base. A new feature in HTML5 and CSS3 known as “media queries” allows capable browsers to detect the size of the user’s screen.

In addition, on the back end, the usage of a single URL improves site analytics and SEO performance, and sites can easily be resized for new viewing formats. Furthermore, responsive design brings all site development players together on one team, eliminating departmental silos and also reducing redundancy of tasks and headcount.