Friday, December 19, 2014

How engaged are your customers?

As businesses in the retail industry steer toward a customer-centric model, customer engagement has been a buzzword. Social media created a fundamental shift in the way retailers engage with their customers and new solutions were created to gain better customer insights. According to Bain & Company, it costs between 6 – 7 times more to acquire a new customer than to retain existing customers. In addition, repeat customers tend to spend as much as 67% more.
However, the shrinking attention span of modern day consumers is a challenge. Retailers and marketers are finding it increasingly difficult to capture and hold customers’ attention. In fact, in 2000, the average attention span of a customer was 12 seconds. Now, it is 8 seconds; and that is lower than the attention span of a goldfish at 9 seconds.
Below we list 3 ways for retailers to effectively engage with the modern day customer.

1. Customer feedbacks
Retailers need to listen to their customers in order to deliver and build a great shopping experience. Customers hold an important wealth of information that retailers should find ways to tap on. Feedbacks allow retailers to identify problems about their company, products or services and stop reoccurring problems to arise. Such feedbacks are valuable as they give good insight about the satisfaction level toward your brand and help determine the reason for the lost in customers. Knowing if customers are satisfied also allow retailers know if overall customer service is great or needs improvements to create a better customer experience.
Additionally, retailers are able to understand their customers’ needs, wants and preferences. Customer feedbacks allow retailers to better plan future product development and assortment as well as pricing and in store marketing activities to continuously attract and retain their customers.
Although gathering customer feedbacks is a traditional method of understanding your customers to better serve them, feedbacks are a highly valuable and reliable way to gain customer insights. Feedbacks can be gathered through surveys, feedback forms, online user activity and in-store activity. Online and in-store customer activity can be integrated with surveys to achieve specific results. For example, surveys can be carried out with customers who spent a long time browsing but left without buying. There are many CRM solutions to track online browsing behaviour; while brick and mortar retailers can use solutions that tap on big data to track in-store activities. One such solution is video analytics.

2. Social media
Integrating retail technologies into your retail store would not give you full engagement with your customers without social media. The possibilities that social media provide are seemingly endless. Customers interact directly with retailers through social media and stay up to date on marketing and promotional activities. In addition, customers talk about your brand on social media. From loving their new purchases to the fast delivery or the latest promotion, social media creates a platform for customers to share directly or indirectly about your brand and overall shopping experience. Social media makes sharing and interaction easy, hence, word-of-mouth marketing happens more often than you thought.
People build relationships with people more easily than with brands. One main reason is trust. To build a good social media presence, retailers need to be aware and respond to all mentions of the brand on social media through #hashtags and @mentions. In fact, 42% of customers will tell their friends about a good shopping experience on social media, while 53% will talk about a bad one. Interestingly, more customers are resorting to social channels as a means to look for information. 12% of customer service requests originated from the social sphere and this number is estimated to increase further.
Social media boosts customer engagement and retailers who have been investing time and money into building their social media presence have seen tangible results. According to a joint study by Netbase and Edison Research, Facebook influences 30% of buying professional clothing decisions for American women while Pinterest influences 22%. Social media adds value to the purchase funnel which helps drive sales. In addition, customer satisfaction increased by 45% and customer retention increased by 39% with the integration of social media.

3. Mobile customer engagement
With the surging growth of consumers actively engaging in their mobile devices, retailers were caught off guard with this revolution and have thus taken new directions to drive and develop the mobile experience. From responsive web designs to tracking solutions such as iBeacon, mobile solutions empower the omnichannel retailing. Retailers are able to connect with customers to understand the buying trend and communicate with shoppers to understand what they are looking for and their preferences. In addition, such solutions would aid shoppers in finding specific products thus alleviating the shopping experience.
Real-time mobile customer engagement solutions foster a great 2-way communication between retailers and shoppers. Not only do they drive real-time actions, it provides instant answers to shoppers.
Mobile customer engagement gives retailers an understanding of the propensities, preferences and shopping behaviours of their customers. More so, it gives retailers tangible results as global mobile traffic now accounts for 15% of all internet traffic and 10% of all retail e-commerce dollars are spent through mobile devices. In fact, mobile transactions are expected to exceed 1 trillion dollars by 2015. As technology and customers become increasingly sophisticated, retailers need to adapt to connect with their customers.

Consumers of today are spoilt with the vast number of brand choices offering similar products and competitive pricing. As such, the need to stick to a brand diminishes. While some retailers constantly seek ways to encourage brand loyalty, good customer engagement goes beyond brand loyalty to foster a relationship. This two-way connection goes beyond brand trust to instil a sense of ownership in customers. This sense of ownership relates to customers personally, with the integration of the brand into their lifestyles and even forming habits. The benefits that great customer engagement brings to a brand might not all be measurable; but ensuring its consistency definitely leads to tangible business results. Customer engagement is not a marginal evolution of existing thinking but a seamless continuity of a brand into customers’ lifestyle.