We’re living in a new reality.
For decades, companies dictated their interaction with consumers. Brands chose how they would communicate and when to deliver messages.
However, the consumer climate has dramatically changed. Technology has enabled and empowered customers to control the types of conversations they have with companies.
The rising issue is that most companies haven’t adjusted to these new changes. They’re stuck doing things the old way. As a result, their outdated systems lead to unengaged consumers and declining sales.
That’s why it’s so important for teams to create a bridge that closes the customer engagement gap. It’s an opportunity, not an inconvenience, for your business.
Let’s examine how your company can discover hidden inefficiencies and develop solutions to connect with your audience.
Defining Your Customer Engagement Gap
It isn’t wise to use best practices to solve your customer engagement gap. Every eCommerce business operates differently.
On top of that, most companies approach this problem in the wrong manner. They identify whether they have an engagement gap from a limited mindset. Rachel Happe, co-founder and principal at The Community Roundtable, explains the concept:
“We know that customer engagement matters. Yet much of our thinking about engagement remains simplistic. Most current definitions of engagement are bimodal – someone is either engaged or they’re not. But this is a limited view that hampers our ability to manage engagement in meaningful ways.”
So, what should you do instead?
Sit down with your team and define customer engagement for your organization. Some businesses want to boost customer satisfaction, while others desire to increase the average revenue per customer.
Then, you want to analyze the data that affects your goal. For example, tracking your Net Promoter Score can gauge customer satisfaction.
It’s critical that your team reimagine their roles when creating solutions to this problem. The engagement gap doesn’t revolve around the company. Yet, it should focus on the customer, the market, and the brand promise.
Move past the old way of closing the customer engagement gap. Your business can achieve more with data and a new holistic approach.
Building Cross-Functional Teams
At some companies, the engagement gap is a singular issue tasked to one team. It’s usually the marketing or customer success department’s responsibility.
Without any push back, that one team maps out a plan with all the bells and whistles—objectives, strategies, tasks, and outcomes. It’s only after the execution of the plan that they realize the need for input from their sales, product, and customer support teams.
Working in silos is common for some eCommerce businesses. Managers miss how every team plays a role in customer engagement. Christy Pettey, contributor at Smarter with Gartner, offers her perspective:
“Although silos are a natural outcome of the way modern business is organized, the poor customer experience that they create can turn customers into ex-customers. Some customers become frustrated and abandon their customer journey altogether, taking their business elsewhere.”
The customer engagement gap can expand across the entire customer journey. It can be the convoluted copy on your website, the misguided messaging from a sales rep, or even long wait times for support tickets.
By building cross-functional teams, your organization can tackle the challenge from multiple vantage points. Every department brings its expertise, and it helps eliminate the misalignment of future goals.
Personalizing the Customer Experience
With new eCommerce businesses popping up every day, the competition to attract and retain customers is fierce. Personalization is driving companies to rethink the customer experience.
Lack of customer engagement can stem from a business’s inability or unwillingness to adapt to their target audience’s needs. It’s visible when brands offer one solution that’s supposed to fix various issues. But customers don’t see the benefit.
You’ll also notice brands only personalizing the experience at one part of the customer journey. They personalize to acquire the customer, but fail to take similar actions to retain.
The best personalization techniques use data to uncover the likes and dislikes of your customers. With accurate information, you can transform a generic experience into a customized shopping adventure.
For instance, subscription-based men’s clothing service Bombfell leverages data from a customer’s style survey and budget to curate clothing packages. Retailer OfficeMax uses its email subscriber’s location to send targeted campaigns to customers in a specific zip code.
Personalization shouldn’t be a one-off task for your team. Rather, it’s a chance to show customers that you understand their desires.
Collaborating with Your Customers
It’s hard to solve a problem without the necessary stakeholders present. So, it makes sense to add customer collaboration to your strategy.
There are several ways to get feedback from customers. Implied and expressed are two forms of customer collaboration.
Implied collaboration involves customer behavior and how their interactions with your brand affect their shopping experiences. These actions may include the number of times they visit your website, when they open your emails, or their product choices.
From these behaviors, your team can assess what content resonates with customers or which products offer the most benefit to your audience. Implied collaboration doesn’t require the customer to tell you anything; you’re simply making educated conclusions from their actions.
On the other hand, expressed collaboration is directly asking for customers’ opinions. You may request for the customer to fill out a survey or have the customer reply to an email.
It’s also possible to bring your consumers together in a Facebook group to casually address brand engagement. Here’s insight from Danyl Bosomworth, managing director of First 10 Digital:
“One of the most powerful ways to remain valuable is to enable the consumer to connect and share with other like-minded consumers, this allows the like-minded to flock together and simultaneously deliver ongoing insight for the brand hosting the platform.”
To truly turn the engagement gap into an opportunity, you must involve the customer. Find ways to incorporate their feedback into your plans.
Planning Ahead for Future Engagement
The engagement gap isn’t going anywhere. With ongoing advancements in technology and changes in consumer taste, your company must constantly strive for new ways to engage.
And as consumer preferences overlap, you may learn that one of the best strategies is to build external partnerships. Connecting with partners places your product in front of different audiences and strengthens your brand perception in the market.
Brand partnerships range from co-marketing opportunities to revenue-sharing models. The key is to find the right partnership that benefits all parties. Plus, you want the partnership to directly impact your customer engagement goals.
In 2015, CoverGirl teamed up with the Star Wars franchise to create a limited edition makeup line. Because Star Wars is often marketed to men, the partnership encouraged more women to watch the movie. CoverGirl also earned more brand visibility by associating itself with a notable film series.
Prepare your team for future hurdles in customer engagement. Sometimes, the strategy will involve uniting with other companies.
Filling the Gap with Engagement
There’s been a shift in communication power—from the companies to the consumers. Your target audience can decide when, how, and even if they want to engage with your brand.
Start by defining the problem within your company and build cross-functional teams to develop a cohesive strategy. Personalize the shopping experience with collaboration from the consumer and continue to think about the future of customer interaction.
This is your opportunity. Tackle the customer engagement gap.
About the Author: Shayla Price lives at the intersection of digital marketing, technology and social responsibility. Connect with her on Twitter @shaylaprice.