Customer engagement is complicated, but only if you complicate it

The focus of how we invite people to see our business should be built around personalisation and customer engagement, where people walk the path they want to walk.
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Trends in website development change all the time. The most noticeable recent change in how websites are built involves where the focus sits. Marketing departments once ruled the roost over websites, sharing responsibility for them (often begrudgingly) with sales teams. The focus has shifted to building according to the natural pathways people use to navigate for information. It’s like the often used example of having an architecturally beautiful path winding through park space, which nobody uses. Instead, there’s a foot-worn path across the grass that makes more sense in going from A to B.

But this post isn’t about web development (much). I’m using it as a case study in how trends have shifted from generating traffic, impressions and opportunities, to understanding what people actually want to do when they find your business. The focus used to be on having interactive features that kept people on a web page whether they were useful or not. We’re moving away from producing metrics to make page duration look good for the boss. It’s now about focusing on producing an offer enticing enough to capture people’s attention in a way that makes them curious enough to forge their own path. The focus is on customer engagement.

What’s the difference? Where once we created interactivity to boost interest, we now build to boost loyalty. It’s a series of continued interactions, not just one or two that help inflate marketing figures. And authentic customer engagement lies primarily in the hands of the customer rather than the company.

By this, we mean the onus is on the business to create information, products, and services that encourage the customer to want to connect and stay connected. We do this through clear, concise messaging, consistency of tone, strong landing pages and attractive calls to action. As with any efforts to create simplicity, it’s complicated. However, the key to successfully nurturing customer engagement is through personalisation.

Really, really, really know your customer

People are fighting back in the battle to win possession of their own data. I’m one of them. I believe we should have more control over what we share about ourselves, how we share it, and with whom. So, how does a business go about creating an environment of personalisation to boost customer engagement? How does it do this by possibly knowing less about a person?

The first step is knowing what to do with the data you already have, or are allowed to have. For instance, knowing a customer’s telephone number is a privilege, so use it with care. Make mobile personalisation a key feature of an engagement programme, with a strategy that stretches right across all products and services. What does each customer already own? How can mobile connections be used to help that customer remember what a business actually does? Build a relationship. Build loyalty. Deepen the connection and look to constantly improve the value you offer the customer. If this is achieved for one person, a community may follow, but not if you force it. The natural growth of customer engagement is fickle, and people are more willing to embrace honest transparency than inauthenticity and clumsy manipulation.

By focusing on what’s good for them and delivering it, you will in turn reap the rewards that ultimately improve the business. Mobile is just one use case of where you can begin to tap into the benefits of creating a personal approach to your customers. Websites are another. In fact, any online or offline channel is fertile ground for redefining the relationships businesses nurture with people. In following these paths, and being consistent with content, user journeys, and product information, you could gain a highly engaged brand ally.

When potential customers come to walk through the myriad offers before them – through all of your competitors – they may very well settle of their own volition on the one that offers them a chance to cut through the park. The one they feel more engaged with. In return, they may reward your business with long-term loyalty, and tell everyone else about you too.

Photo by JJ Ying

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