What are you favorite brands? What is it about those brands that make you love them? For as long as I could remember, I have always loved the brand Nike. For me, it was a combination of the quality of the sneakers they produced, and the marketing messaging the company used throughout the years. The sneakers in of themselves were excellent -- they felt good to wear. But a lot of sneakers felt “good to wear,” so what was different about Nike? It was the brand messaging; the brand “made me feel good.” I felt like I was a part of something big, and Nike understood how I felt and what I needed. Customer engagement management is all about that last part, the “understood how I felt and what I needed.”
Web marketers and business strategists are consistently tasked with keeping customers engaged. The more engaged your customers are, the better opportunity your brand and/or company will be able to keep them as satisfied customers. Customer engagement management is the process of setting up an interactive connection between your customers and your brand whereby you are delivering enough value and/or services to keep them satisfied with your offering(s). The goal is to make them feel like you understand how they feel, and what they need.
Leading-edge websites will be able to better adapt and interact with customers as if your web presence was an entity capable of reasoning, intelligence and informed responses. Does this sound like a scene out of a Steven Spielberg movie? It shouldn’t -- it’s achievable today!
Why It’s Important
For most organizations to stand out in their competitive landscape, your company has to offer something more than a traditional brochure-based website. It has to be “smart” enough to understand your customer’s needs. To illustrate an example, let’s use an online electronics retailer to walk through a scenario of customer engagement.
Let’s assume I am interested in purchasing a TV. My first step would be to research, on the web, the features and functionality most important to me -- the “what I need” part. As this research is being performed, I am developing impressions for each website I visit based on the website’s ability to work with my requests. How easy are the tools on the site to use? Is the time I am spending on this site rewarding me with valuable information needed to make a final purchasing decision? Value in this example equates to the site’s ability of being intelligent and providing informed responses. An extremely important aspect of customer engagement on the web is interaction. The website that provides the best interaction will most likely be the one I purchase from.
To expand on the interaction concept, during the initial checkout -- using the example above, if I have a TV in my cart, and I’m now ready to purchase, the website should provide useful suggestions to me for that product: extended warranty, necessary cables, wall mount(s) that “fit” the TV, etc. This interaction helps to provide a useful service in making sure I am not forgetting something necessary to start enjoying my purchase sooner.
Let’s go further with the example -- fast forward two weeks. Let’s assume I purchased a TV from that website last week. On my next visit, I would probably be unlikely to buy another TV this week. But, I may be very interested in purchasing a Blu-ray player, a surround sound system, or a universal remote for the TV I recently purchased. Another important aspect of customer engagement management on the web is reasoning and informed responses.
Track your customer’s purchasing patterns so that you can deliver them personalized product suggestions based on what they like and what they have already purchased. This will keep customers better engaged, and help to create that sense of personal understanding.
On subsequent visits, most people are not going to buy a TV two weeks in a row, but other complimentary products might go well with the new TV that was just bought. There’s no reason why your website cannot become a virtual assistant for your organization. Imagine getting the message, “Welcome back Pete, we hope you’re enjoying that new TV! Check out these other products that would go great with …”
To be able to excel with web customer engagement, your organization should be leveraging tools to help empower the effort. The three major tools necessary to deliver an engagement platform are:
- A Content Management System (CMS) -- Be able to easily create, edit and classify content so that targeting and personalization can be performed.
- Engagement Platform -- This is the engine generally responsible for targeting and personalization.
- Structured User Database -- User information needs to be recorded so that you can properly understand what they need, and ideally, how they feel.
Structuring Your Content and Profile Repositories
There are several powerful techniques that can be used to help with customer engagement. One of the most effective is delivering targeted content through personalization.
Personalization starts with gathering and storing information about your web visitors. This information can include, but is not limited to profile information, pages visited, amount of time spent on each page, and pages and/or other websites the user is coming to the page from -- and -- leaving the page to. The data should be stored “per user” to be able to accurately measure and “profile” each unique visitor. This information is very important to better understand who they are so that you can help deliver to them what they need.
The next step is being able to effectively manage the content of your site, especially tags, keywords, meta data and “classification” of this content. This is critical in being able to bridge the gap between what “people are interested in” and “your site’s content.”
As your site’s traffic and user base grow, so too will the amount of information gathered, and conversely, the amount of personalization you can deliver. Personalized content will allow you to provide more relevant information, faster, to your visiting users -- the key is to deliver the right information to each visitor at the right time.
In additional to delivering highly targeted and personalized content to your visitors, personalization can also enable your site to target advertising, better promote products, provided recommended and/or related content, and better target email content and distribution list(s).
Having the right tools in place and leveraging appropriate techniques can help greatly with engagement management, satisfied customers and increased brand loyalty. Knowing your website is delivering exceptional value for your customers is a great feeling -- put those Nikes on and “Just … (you know the rest).
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