5 Top Trends for Client Engagement in 2012
by Rob Wolfe – Connected Places Global
Engagement is the Journey, Loyalty is the Destination. Engagement drives loyalty, and empowered consumers expect it when interacting with brands today. Marketers should plan with engagement methods that provide the appropriate level of interaction and experience.
Customer loyalty has been identified as the top non-financial business challenge facing companies in 2012, according to business consulting firm Protiviti. As Mark Johnson of Loyalty360 puts it, customer loyalty is a much bigger, broader, richer, and complex idea than it had been in the past. Loyalty is no longer just about points, discounts, miles, and rewards; it is about the way processes, technologies, ideas, and interactions engage individuals with the brand. The only way to achieve loyalty is through deeper engagement.
I’ve compiled my list of 5 top trends in customer engagement based on common/recurring themes among the research and predictions provided in late 2011 by several sources with expertise and influence in the areas of customer engagement, customer loyalty, and marketing and brand strategy, including:
- Loyalty 360, the Loyalty Marketer’s Association: 12 Consumer Loyalty Trends for 2012
- Brand Keys: Brand Keys 12 for 12: Brand and Marketing Trends for 2012
- CRMTrends: Top 5 CRM Trends for 2012
- BBB Systems, Creative Web Solutions: 4 Ways to Wow Your Customers in 2012
- Geehan Group, Customer Program Strategy and Planning: 2012 B2B Market Trends to Watch
(Note: In some cases, I’ve shared the content exactly as it was presented in the source article. Click on the links above to access the articles and the detail they provide.)
While these trends are not new for 2012, I believe that these areas have become more relevant in 2012. If you keep up with news on customer engagement, customer loyalty, marketing, and social media, there’s no denying the prevalence of these topics in discussions on brand management and business success today.
Technology & Innovation
Marketers must recognize that all companies–your customers–are technology companies who need your products or services to differentiate them in the market. Every industry today is experiencing technology innovations and access to development tools that impact how products are made, how they are used, and how they are delivered. More rapid development cycles for customer specific solutions must be implemented to enable an organization to respond to demands of customers when they arise.
- First, make sure your website leaves a great impression and supports your brand essence. Give your business a professional and credible image with a website that provides engaging content to draw customers in, provides an exceptional and differentiated experience for them, and provides the reliability needed to build their trust.
- Stay abreast of and embrace new technology. This is a must in order to reach a broader audience and engage your customers. QR codes, for example, aren’t exactly new but they might be to you. Using them in your marketing efforts can help you reach customers in a unique and exciting way. Whether it’s a new social networking site that pops up, a change to Google’s search algorithm, or new software that can enhance a users’ site experience, you must adapt with changing and emerging technology so your business will stay current and relevant to your target audience.
- Don’t deny consumers’ hungering for cutting-edge innovations and enhanced experiences, and their devouring of the latest and greatest. Innovative and creative response to ever-changing consumer expectations is critical for brand leaders. For example, more and more, smartphone and tablet apps will create an interactive nexus to increase consumer engagement and brand differentiation.
- Anticipate the escalating consumer desire for coolness and beauty in your products and services. Apple, for example, leverages engagement and loyalty not by delivering “communication” or “entertainment” devices, but by delivering products that are beautifully, creatively and organically designed.
- Recognize increased consumer desire for simplicity as complexity pushes on people. This will result in the convergence of complex services and products into simple, expectation-exceeding solutions, but only if brands know where to look in their own categories for the “wow” button to press. Look for trends in smaller, higher-quality products, and ease-of-service delivery methods.
- Consider “gamification”: the integration of game mechanics into marketing activities to drive customer engagement and participation, and potentially improve the effectiveness of your social media marketing. Increasingly, companies are strategically looking at how to capitalize on the growing gamification trend. “Gamification is about providing sustained user engagement,” says Sam Laird.
According to the SocialMedia Today article “3 Secrets to Mobile Marketing Success for any Business” (by Brett Relander ), mobile marketing software is more important than ever in today’s world and mobile marketing is on the rise. Fortunately for you, most businesses aren’t doing it effectively (at least not yet) and are largely just flailing around in the dark.
- Optimize your website for mobile phone use to satisfy customer demands. Of course, a mobile site is much different than your standard website. If a prospective customer pulls up your website on their cell phone and it hasn’t been optimized for mobile phone use, it will be hard to navigate and a frustrating experience overall. This alone can make you lose out on mobile customers and, with over 70% of all mobile searches resulting in action within one hour, you definitely want a piece of the mobile shopping/experience pie.
- Offer flexibility for efficient mobile monetary transactions, as consumers’ growing use of handheld technology and smarter smartphones for mobile transactions increases. Mobile digital wallets will mark a big shift in retail payments. With the value of transactions made via mobile devices estimated to be $240 billion last year (according to Juniper Research) and predicted to triple that size over the next five years, and with prospects that consumers might be able to leave their physical wallets at home and pay for most of their shopping via their handsets by 2016 (according to Forrester Research), retailers need to think about the impact of mobile wallets as they build out their loyalty programs. Brands that do not facilitate and customize the experience for small screen transactions may lose formerly loyal consumers.
- Take advantage of mainstreaming of mobile coupons. Juniper Research forecasts that the total redemption value of mobile coupons worldwide will be more than $43 billion by 2016, representing an eightfold increase from $5.4 billion in 2011. Cost-effective mobile coupon campaigns provide merchants with an easy way to build customer loyalty.
Added Value & Consistency
Customers have more choices than ever, and are more frugal in the current economy. This affords them the luxury of demanding more. Offering your customer base value-adding information and sharing tips about products and services will be expected by consumers.
- Recognize customers at all touch points to deliver a consistent quality customer experience. A 2011 poll by Loyalty 360 found that 78 percent of respondents believe that a great customer experience makes them loyal. This requires the delivery of brand-differentiating customer service across all touch points, including integration of the call center into the overall customer experience. (This is not a new concept, but needs ongoing attention.) Smart marketers will identify and capitalize on unmet consumer expectations. Those companies that understand where the strongest expectations and gaps exist will be the companies that survive and prosper.
- Address the critical constraint and value of peoples’ time in your business interactions. Today, one of the most precious elements we struggle with is the time we have to spend and balance the demands on our lives and to keep up with the world around us. The more time you seek, the stronger the value proposition of your encounter must be. Take Michael Petrisko, CIO at Hill International: “What’s important to me is that a discussion with a vendor has purpose and is relevant to my business – anything short of this is a waste of my time.” Realize that every encounter must have a compelling business cause and provide reason to engage with you and your business. Make sure your contact leaves the encounter with the sense that time spent with you and your organization was a valuable use of their time.
- Accept that the consumer gets to say how “valuable” is actually defined. Employ effective systems to listen to them and then figure out ways to tune in the consumer’s frequency. Differentiated and believable brand meaning – emotional, rational, functional, and experiential – will increasingly become a more effective and profitable surrogate for value than low-lower-lowest pricing strategies.
Personalization / Customization
According to SAP leadership: Ideally, we aim to meet customers with precisely the right offer, delivered at precisely the right time, and at precisely the right price and conditions. CRM solutions can facilitate this, but only if it can sort through and connect all that information and expose the opportunities that you seek.
- Look at a mix of location-based behavioral data and attitudinal and preference data. Use data gathered from loyalty programs about buying patterns to help marketers with segmentation and messaging. Brands will want to have this data in order to control personalization of their messages rather than offer the same promotions, discounts, or specialized products/services to everyone. The information on customer transactions, likes, dislikes, and preferences gives brands the deep level of customer intelligence needed to deliver the most relevant, highest-quality customer experience and drive long-term loyalty.
- Talk, engage and interact with customers more often and more meaningfully in new and innovative ways (such as via dynamic content, interactive blogs, and emerging social networks and apps). To create a more loyal customer base, businesses need to offer what the customer needs, and this determination should be based on their actions and interactions, which you need to monitor.
Feedback / Recommendations
Social media and review sites are changing the game of how businesses need to respond to customer needs and, with acceptance of that, the time has come to become more proactive in encouraging reviews and persuading customers and prospects to follow their friends’ leads (e.g., refer-a-friend programs). Glean intelligence from social media feedback and harness the power of recommendations and referrals.
- Embrace connected consumers’ growing use of social network streams to talk about brands, as peer-to-peer feedback will have more and more influence on purchase habits than ever before. Consumers are looking for reliable information when making decisions on products and services, and are looking for experiential feedback. What do people like me actually think? How did they rate the experience or the product? Businesses must develop effective approaches to mining and analyzing this data to derive valuable insights, actionable intelligence, and an overall deeper understanding of what drives the success of the brand in the social world.
- Actively develop evangelists for your product or service for a competitive edge. According to Alex Goldfayn, CEO of Evangelist Marketing Institute and author of the book Evangelist Marketing, when you have evangelists for your product or service, you have the best possible kind of customer. Your evangelists are passionate, loyal, and thrilled to recommend you. They are your public defenders when times are difficult. Evangelists are also forgiving; they assume your mistakes are honest and believe you have their best interests at heart. No matter what business you are in – large or small, product or service, public or private – you should be doing everything humanly possible to develop and retain these kinds of customers.
- Invest in measuring social media, understanding customer value and modeling customer behavior. Marketers that have loyalty and engagement metrics in place will have a handle on emerging trends and be more prepared to provide the value consumers are seeking. Examining relevant data carefully and identifying changes in customer trends tied to your brand early on will enable you provide meaningful customer experience at just the right time. If you do not use your data to talk to your customers, others will.
To meet all of these challenges and trends head on, demand more out of the tools that track and improve marketing return on investment as you become more sophisticated and skilled at navigating changes in marketing-related technology and social media. The 2011 IBM Global CMO Study found that 63 percent of chief marketing officers believe ROI on marketing spend will be the most important measure of their success by 2015. However, only 44 percent feel fully prepared to be held accountable for marketing ROI.
JOIN THE DISCUSSION: What is your reaction to my list of 5 top trends in customer engagement for the current year—do you agree or disagree with any of them? Are there any other major engagement/loyalty trends that you think are missing from the list? Do you have any success stories (or lessons learned) to share about your company’s initiatives in any of the areas listed in this article?