While some brands still seek to resist the onset of transformation among online consumers and other target audiences, the truth of the matter is that digital customer engagement has evolved significantly over the past several years. The reason for this movement can all be traced back to the rise of mobile platforms, as well as other new conduits of digital interaction.
Not being willing to accept the reality of customer engagement as a vital piece of the ongoing transformation of the digital world can only lead to lasting damage to your brand reputation. Additionally, this backward mindset can also hinder your ability to prosper and grow in the online marketplace via functional customer- and employee-facing apps, web applications, kiosks, and even emerging technologies like smartwatch apps.
To safeguard your customer engagement prospects and ensure that you’re not left behind in this age of digital transformation, here’s a look at the causes that led to this new online landscape, as well as what your brand needs to do to adapt and thrive moving forward.
Failing to Meet the Standards of Modern Consumers Leads to Disinterested and Disengaged Customers
As perhaps the most influential piece of this digital transformation puzzle, it makes sense to point out that today’s modern customers expect only the best in terms of the quality of their digital experience. Anything less – broken website design, poorly optimized mobile apps, etc. – can lead to a severe case of audience disinterest and disengagement.
“When customers believe they are getting more out of a business, they give more to it.” – Susan Sorenson and Amy Adkins, Gallup Business Journal
So just how important is it to have a top tier digital customer experience? According to Susan Sorenson and Amy Adkins of the Gallup Business Journal, Engaged customers represent a 23 percent premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth when compared to disinterested customers.
Going a step farther, Sorenson and Adkins offer up a “by industry” breakdown of the disparity between engaged and unengaged customers:
- Retail Banking – Fully engaged customers bring in 37 percent more annual revenue than customers who are unengaged.
- Consumer Electronics – Engaged shoppers make 44 percent more visits per year to their preferred retailer or branded site over those who reside within the disengaged shopper segment.
- Restaurants (Casual Dining) – Fully engaged customers make 56 percent more visits over the duration of a month than their unengaged counterparts.
- Restaurants (Fast Food) – 26 percent more visits occur over the same timeframe from engaged customers when compared to those who fall into the unengaged portion of this audience.
- Hospitality – Fully engaged customers spend 46 percent more during the course of a year over disengaged guests.
- Insurance – Engaged policy owners purchase 26 percent more policies than disengaged owners.
In other words, regardless of your chosen industry, if your brand isn’t willing to develop a winning take on its digital products and services, then don’t be surprised when you lose the attention of these individuals and they engage with competitors who are willing to meet their needs and desires.
New and Impactful Technologies Also Augment the Expectations That Surround Customer Engagement
Another reason why having a strong digital customer engagement plan – and the various apps and overarching online experience that go with this mindset – comes from the realization that with each new technology or platform to hit the online world, customer expectations shift and evolve. In many ways, this rapid growth expedites the digital transformation of the customer experience exponentially with each new iteration of an emerging trend.
“But to Nike, their brand also stands for innovation. Nike proved this in 2006 when they first developed the Nike+ for iPod, a run tracker sensor and software that preceded the iPhone.” – Elad Natanson, Forbes magazine
As Elad Nathanson points out in his piece for Forbes magazine, Nike is one of the best examples of a brand that has committed to taking on a proactive stance regarding its digital customer experience and new and impactful technologies. From the original Nike+ app, to its latest forays into the shared space of digital communities and fitness via NikeFuel and Nike+ Training Club, this company understands that staying ahead of the curve in relation to the constantly transforming digital customer experience is essential to its sustainability and success.
Outside of having stellar branded apps and web experiences that take advantage of emerging and exciting consumer technologies, organizations that win on this front also understand that consumers wield more power over brands that ever before. From this perspective, it’s imperative that you support and manage your digital offerings on social media, review sites, and other channels that provide customer feedback and insight into the experiences of these valued individuals.
Understand That Your Employee Experience Is Also Part of the Customer Engagement Process
Building a winning plan for survival in this period of transformation also requires a keen understanding of the employee experience in relation to the customer engagement process. Essentially, having great employee-facing apps helps bolster your customer engagement and enhance your ability to optimize and refine your web and mobile offerings.
These customer-facing employees require the ability to pull relevant information from across the IT ecosystem (customer support, field service, sales, professional services, etc.) at the moment of interaction. – Diane Berry, Data Informed
As the above quote from Diane Berry of Data Informed shows, your customer-facing employees need a strong IT system in place that supports their daily functions. Without this kind asset, extracting the most value out of these integral team members and promoting enhanced customer engagement via these interactions in the digital ecosystem simply isn’t a realistic outlook.
The Rising Trend of Digital Transformation and Increased Customer Engagement Is Not a Passing Fad
Before delving into how best to optimize your digital customer engagement approach in the face of this rising trend toward digital transformation, it’s important to understand that this movement is not just some passing fad. The need for great mobile apps, branded domains, and all of the other pieces of the digital experience is something that will shape and define brand success for years to come.
“They are inspired by their customers. Everything they do is by and for their customers.” – Brian Solis, Digital Analyst and noted author.
In a question and answer session with the team from the 2015 Vision Critical Summit in Chicago, noted digital analyst and author Brian Solis touched on the need for a great digital customer experience and illuminated the fact that the best brands don’t just understand this reality, but embrace this process wholeheartedly. Adopting this mindset isn’t just about appeasing customers in the short term, but rather committing to an approach that always addresses these needs, requests, and desires moving forward.
Developing High Customer Engagement in the Face of Ongoing Digital Transformation
So now that the case for high caliber digital customer engagement and its role in your brand’s future survival has been made from a variety of different angles, it’s time to talk about the best ways to build successful branded apps and web experiences for your target audience.
Hold a Customer Engagement Summit
The first tactic to consider revolves around gauging your current situation in relation to addressing the need for enhanced digital customer engagement. Specifically, Tom French, Laura LaBerge, and Paul Magill of McKinsey & Company point to holding a customer engagement summit as the best way to go about this process.
“The focus of such a summit is customer engagement, which should not be confused with the customer experience; engagement goes beyond managing the experience at touch points to include all the ways companies motivate customers to invest in an ongoing relationship with a product or brand.” – Tom French, Laura LaBerge, and Paul Magill, McKinsey & Company
The summit should offer up an honest channel for the discussion of how your brand currently engages customers in the digital landscape, as well as what plans or strategies can be implemented to bolster this position in the future. In some cases, appointing a team of managers and employees to a permanent engagement “council” can ensure that future ideas and topics related to this process remain at the forefront of the company’s decisions and planning.
Remaster and Simplify Your Mobile and Desktop Design
Recrafting your digital experience – either via your branded apps or your current on-site design – is the perfect way to put the concepts discussed at your customer engagement session into motion. In addition to boosting engagement thanks to a better customer experience via these portals, taking the time to implement changes on this front also allows your brand to embed features and functionality that help track customer engagement. This in turn leads to future opportunities for site and app optimization and refinement.
Embrace Customer Feedback at All Levels of the Process
“A complete product lifecycle can only be tested by regularly using customer feedback during all stages of product development.” – Ilie Ghiciuc, Co-founder and COO of Thinslices
The above quote from app development expert Ilie Ghicicuc in a post for LinkedIn helps drive home the need for feedback at all levels of the digital customer engagement process. If you’re not willing to listen to in-house employees, consumer focus groups, and the conversation on social channels, you run a substantial risk of wasting your time, effort, and the potential found within your developing digital products and strategies.
Support Your Customer-Facing Employees with Strong IT Solutions
Speaking of your staff, having a strong IT solution that supports these professionals – be it a mobile app or web portal – allows for higher quality engagement and a better custom experience. Your employees can only provide as much support as what’s held within your app or other IT solution, so honing in on the features and functionality that support their interaction with customers is essential to the success of this asset.
Be Willing to Work with a Team of Dedicated Designers and Digital Product Specialists
Finally, don’t be afraid to reach out to a team of trusted design experts as you begin to optimize and improve the assets that play into your digital customer engagement approach. Even if it doesn’t seem necessary initially, consulting with these professionals opens up the opportunity for outside critiquing and candid conversations with seasoned veterans of this industry – something that can highlight previously overlooked areas that are in need of improvement, as well as bring to light new and exciting ideas for bolstering your audience’s digital customer experience.
Bringing These Findings Together Into One Cohesive Outlook
By now the message should be clear; brand adaptability and awareness of the need for a quality plan for digital customer engagement is essential to survival during this age of digital transformation. The following trends prove this point, while also serving to instill a sense of urgency in brands like your own:
- Failing to meet the standards of modern consumers leads to disinterested and disengaged customers.
- New and impactful technologies also augment the expectations that surround customer engagement.
- Understand that your employee experience is also part of the customer engagement process.
- The rising trend of digital transformation and increased customer engagement is not a passing fad.
Once you’re on board with these realizations, your brand needs to build and implement a sound strategy for driving increased customer engagement. Considering these tactics and methods can help develop and optimize an effective take on this digital customer engagement process for your brand:
- Hold a customer engagement summit.
- Remaster and simplify your mobile and desktop design.
- Embrace customer feedback at all levels of the process.
- Support your customer-facing employees with strong IT solutions.
- Be willing to work with a team of dedicated web designers and digital product specialists.
If your brand is able to understand and embrace these solutions, then there’s no reason why digital customer engagement has to be a point of weakness for your organization moving forward. The only question left to answer now is whether or not you’re ready to take this new-found understanding to heart and develop a winning take on this piece of the digital outreach process.