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The Retailer’s Guide to Customer Engagement

The Retailer’s Guide to Customer Engagement

Learn everything you need to know about customer engagement and how retailers can drive success in the "new normal".

With the world moving past the pandemic and life returning to a more familiar normal, customers are not willing to return to the pre-pandemic days of shopping.

The last two years have forced many retail businesses to adopt digital transformation strategies and create engagement strategies to keep a human touch to distanced interactions. This has advanced digital interactions by several years, according to McKinsey.  

Digital communication and engagement are a must-have for retailers to stay competitive. But what is customer engagement, and how do you implement successful engagement in your business practices? This blog will walk you through all you need to know to make your retail business thrive off relevant engagement.   

Read on to learn about:

What is customer engagement?

Simply put, customer engagement is how businesses strategically interact with their customers. These two-way interactions are meant to build relationships and brand loyalty to ensure businesses can easily retain customers.   

With new digitalized interactions, retailers can reach out to customers on various channels, using personalized content to grab their attention. This kind of engagement stands out to customers. It entices them to purchase from a retailer who understands their needs and their preferred communication channel.   

Customer engagement vs. customer service   

Customer engagement often gets confused with customer service. So, how do they differ? While customer service is the actual help or support customers get from retail representatives, engagement is the connection a retailer builds through their communication with a customer.   

Customer service is a way of engaging with customers and ensuring they receive the support they are looking for. Still, it is not the only way to interact with customers. Engagement can take many forms and occurs throughout the customer journey, not just when they seek support.   

  • Send push notifications through your app to notify customers of promotions
  • Bring customers back to their abandoned cart with an SMS or Email reminder
  • Help customers shop channels other than your website, such as through WhatsApp or RCS
  • Invite customer feedback through surveys on their favorite chat app

Why is customer engagement important?  

When dealing with changed habits and expectations post-pandemic, retailers need to rethink how they interact with customers. 80% of customers say that the experience retailers provide is as important as the product they purchase. There is no doubt that relevant engagement can help boost sales and reduce churn.  

Customer engagement statistics to consider:   

Meeting customers’ expectations can be challenging, but it will give retailers a competitive advantage against others who are slower to adapt to such practices.  

Our Enterprise Team Lead, James Stokes, gives insight on how the pandemic has impacted customer expectations and how retailers engage with their customers: 

Watch video Pause

Customer engagement framework  

A customer engagement framework will help define the approach retailers will take in making sure their customers are engaged. Let’s break down an engagement framework that will help retailers get started:  

Research and prepare: use user behavior and collect data to build buyer personas. Get to know your customers’ needs and intent when interacting with your brand.  

Customer journey mapping: build a customer journey for each persona. Identify the pain points and touchpoints and how they currently interact with your brand. This can help identify potential touchpoints to improve engagement.   

Engagement strategy: Use the customer journey to determine the highs and lows of your current engagement. To build a plan, use customer data to find their preferred communication channels and how they want to interact with your brand.  

Platforms and technology: Integrate an omnichannel platform that helps implement your engagement plan and offers various channels to boost communication. Create workflows and automated messaging and campaigns to improve overall engagement.  

Metrics: Measure ROI, customer satisfaction, churn rate, net promoter score, and more to determine how well your engagement plan works and how to adjust for future engagement.   

Customer engagement matrix  

Successful engagement will turn customers into brand advocates. They will recommend your business to others, be more inclined to try new products, and continually return to repurchase.

Pansari and Kumar created four customer engagement matrix categories to better understand how different customer relationships work. Retailers can determine where customer relationships can be categorized based on their engagement. The matrix categorizes customers based on their satisfaction in relation to the emotions they associate with a particular brand. 

Customer engagement matrix
Source: Pansari & Kumar, 2017

“True love” should be the target goal for every retailer. When a customer is highly satisfied and associates positive emotions with a brand, their brand advocacy, loyalty, and engagement go up, making them easier to retain.   

What is a customer engagement platform?  

A customer engagement platform is software that helps retailers target, engage, and retain customers. Integrating an engagement platform will increase customer engagement.

Infobip Moments is an all-encompassing omnichannel engagement solution. It allows retailers to build engaging communication flows and automate engagement based on event-triggered or behavior-triggered situations.   

customer engagement platform

Retailers get a full view of who their customers are and how they communicated with the brand in the past. This will help retailers know what campaigns are relevant to customers and which channels they should use to maximize engagement. Retailers can ensure that every message and every moment is meaningful and relevant for the customer.   

Customer engagement goals   

Setting measurable customer engagement goals will help retailers create a clear understanding of what they want to achieve. Let’s walk through insights and objects that will help you set the right goals for your business.

Customer engagement insights  

What should you learn about your customers before interacting with them? Everything you possibly can. With the looming death of cookies, retailers need to learn about customers from the insights they collect in their interactions. Get to know your customers and understand what they are doing and why they are doing it to offer them the best engagement.   

Here are a few characteristics and insights to consider as you build your customer engagement goals:   

  1. Demographic 
  2. Purchasing behaviors
  3. Feedback they provide
  4. Campaign clicks
  5. Campaign purchases
  6. Cart abandonment
  7. Spending range
  8. Pain points in the customer journey  

Customer engagement objectives  

Before constructing your engagement strategy, carefully define your objectives. What do you want to accomplish and why? Some common objectives include:  

Improve brand image  

Positive engagement will lead to an overall positive image for your business. Retailers should think of every customer interaction as a conversation with a friend and use their tone of voice to convey their company persona. Use what you know about customer likes, beliefs, and past behaviors to build conversations that will carry meaning for them. It’s a great way to add a human touch to digital interactions and will help you build a positive image for your brand.  

Boost overall experience  

Every interaction contributes to the overall experience. Retailers can make the most of engagement by doing their due diligence and finding pain points and ways to optimize every touchpoint in the customer journey. By doing this, they can gain insight into how engagement can help improve customer experience and entice them to return in the future.   

Make it personal  

You’ve established your persona and determined how and when to connect with customers. It’s time to make every interaction personal and about them. Since you’ve collected data, you know enough to add greater value to the conversation. Use birthdays or anniversaries to send special discounts just for them, showing them that you know more than their name and value their business.   

Online customer engagement metrics  

Retailers can measure the success of their engagement by using a variety of different calculations:  

Net Promoter Score (NPS):

  • Survey used to measure trust in your products or services
  • On a scale from 1 to 10, how likely are you to recommend this service?
  • Open-ended questions about recommendations

Churn rate:

  • The number of customers lost during a period divided by the number of customers retailers began with and acquired  

Customer Satisfaction Score (CSAT):

  • Survey used to measure overall satisfaction
  • Usually using a scale of numbers or rating emotions 

Web metrics:  

  • Pages per session  
  • Click rate on campaigns   
  • Duration of activities   

Customer engagement plan   

Addressing your customers’ needs is key to customer engagement strategies in our “new” or “never” normal”:  

  • Be empathetic and supportive: showcase your brand’s values by caring for your customers.  
  • Be where your customers are: adopt an omnichannel engagement strategy and expand home delivery options and contactless options.  
  • Be mobile-first: migrate customers to digital channels to stay safe and on-trend.  
  • Be agile: react to customer sentiment and proactively engage.  

Here are some tactical steps you can take using customer data to build an engagement plan:  

Segment based on lockdown behavior  

Your customers’ shopping habits have changed. It’s time to revisit your customer data and identify those segments. This will help retailers identify critical attributes and behavior of customers to serve their changing needs better.   

stats on changed shopping behaviors
Source: Kantar UK

Personalize your communication  

Retailers should pivot towards a more empathetic communication tactic that acknowledges customers’ shift to online environments over the past two years.   

During the pandemic, the importance of relevance, personalization, and content value significantly increased. Many brands have excelled with the personalization and relevancy of their content, making the competition greater.  

But personalization is more than just knowing a customer’s first name. Utilizing the data you’ve collected and segmented on customers can help you understand their intent and needs.   

Personalize your message as per changed shopping habits. For each channel and segment identified, know the best channel and, furthermore best time to send your messaging campaign to add relevance to each interaction.   

React and adapt with insights  

You know the importance of having real-time reporting and analytics. Understanding customer behavior lets you know which channels are generating the highest ROI and which are underperforming.     

Set campaign goals and analyze customer behavior and sentiment to ensure empowered marketing communications. Understanding the brand journey and buying process for each customer will help you support them with the appropriate messaging in the future.  

Without real-time information with easy-to-navigate and customizable dashboards, you are missing out on sales growth from 8-25%.    

Tracking the success of your campaigns allows you to create personalized offers over the best-performing channels for the quickest engagement and conversion while providing you with the best ROI.   

insights for engagement conversions

Customer engagement tips and techniques  

Customer engagement in retail is more important than ever before. To succeed, retailers must adjust how they communicate with their customers. Here are some engagement tips and techniques to help retailers succeed with engagement.   

Mobile and chat apps: the key to omnichannel strategies  

You currently have one or several digital channels to communicate directly with your customers. But how well do these channels work together? An omnichannel approach combines multiple digital channels into a single customer engagement channel. It improves direct communication with your customers – a must-have for retail and e-commerce companies. In fact, 87% of retailers find omnichannel critical to their success.   

This is the smartphone era, and with nearly 75% of consumers shopping on more than one channel, you need to be prepared to engage them over as many of these channels as you can.    

Twenty-six percent of retailers do not have an omnichannel integration strategy. According to Harvard Business Review, this is leaving money on the table. Targeting customers with omnichannel marketing results in a 10% increase in customer spending.    

Messaging apps, with SMS and email as failover options, enabled richer customer engagement during a turbulent 12 months.  

Many messaging apps offer design “carousels,” prebuilt smartphone layouts for displaying retail products. Most importantly, some messaging apps enabled customers to purchase goods from menus and make secure digital payments

customer engagement carousel

SMS has been the staple, lightweight communications tool for quickly connecting to customers. The value of SMS (relative to voicemail and email) has been a combination of high open rates, quick responses, and ease of use across smartphones. However, such information tends to be basic, usually constricted to one-way notifications consisting of texts and URL links.  

But when used alongside chat apps, retailers can engage customers using emojis, pictures, videos, QR codes, and menus.  

The top must-have chat apps and channels to help boost customer engagement during the pandemic included:  

  • WhatsApp: This is the most widely deployed messaging app across the globe. In many markets such as India, Brazil, Mexico, the UK, and Italy, up to 95% of smartphone users install WhatsApp.  
  • Apple Business Chat: This app allows rich, private conversations between customers and businesses via the native Messages app. Many brands indicate that most of their best customers have Apple devices. Overall usage of Apple Business Chat increased in 2020 as more customers used virtual means to communicate.  
  • RCS Business Messaging: If you’re looking to reach android smartphone users, the value of RCS is that you reach roughly 70% of the global market share.  
  • WeChat: This messaging app is largely confined to users with a Chinese affiliation and supports payments linked to Chinese banks. WeChat is viewed as the global leader of conversational commerce messaging apps for retail relative to functionality.  

Time-sensitive messaging: Fast Authentication for Faster Conversions   

Many customers who visit your site over the holiday shopping season may not have an account with you. In the race to get the best deals before everyone else, you want this to be a quick process for your customers.    

At least 53% of Millennials will be browsing deals this shopping season on their mobile and then later buy on desktop. Wouldn’t it be better if you could get the conversion while they’re on their phones? Authenticating their accounts via SMS without abandoning the checkout process results in faster conversions while also improving the customer experience.   

Don’t forget that security gives shoppers and businesses peace of mind. Two-factor authentication over SMS is a fast way to keep customer accounts safe. It combines two factors: something only your customers know with something only they have. For example, they can use their password and mobile phone for secure checkout on mobile and desktop.   

Streamline Checkout for Mobile Shoppers: Instant Conversions on Mobile   

A recent survey shows that 28% of shoppers abandon their purchases during checkout, citing “too long or complicated checkout processes.” Couple this with the fact that at least 53% of millennials will be browsing deals over their mobiles this shopping holiday season. It would be best if you considered how streamlined your mobile checkout is.   

To improve customer experience and drive revenue, there are ways you can boost security and user experience at the same time.    

Mobile Identity is the quickest verification solution. Mobile identity will help you streamline your entire mobile checkout process with personal data verification and instant form filling. Now, customers can complete their purchases on their mobile devices without getting interrupted, increasing the likelihood of completing the purchase and not abandoning their cart.  

mobile identity verification

Customer Care Messaging: Customer Happiness Still Matters (A Lot)   

As a retailer, you’re aware of the importance of customer care. After all, you know it costs less to retain an existing customer than to acquire a new one. By adopting an omnichannel approach, you’re on course to retaining 89% of your customers.   

And it gets even better for companies who engage customers across all channels with personalized messaging. These retailers see a 30% increase in life-time values. Part of the reason for this increase is that companies with omnichannel strategies notice 23% higher customer satisfaction rates.   

On the other hand, 82% of customers have taken their business elsewhere thanks to a poor customer experience. Customer care works both ways – if you aren’t careful around the shopping season, you risk losing the customers you’ve tried so hard to convert throughout the year.  

Find out how personalized Viber messages led to a 4x increase in orders for ShoeBeDo.  

Improving customer engagement in retail’s new normal  

So, while in-person communication has reduced, retail brands need to empower themselves to humanize their digital interactions to navigate the new normal.  

While it may seem like a lot to do – researching, strategizing, collecting data, segmentation, personalization and omnichannel automation will help marketers easily navigate through the retail landscape with an omnichannel powered customer engagement hub such as Moments. Empowering and enabling you to create digital connections at the right moment, with the right message on the right channel. 

This post was last modified on June 30, 2022 and originally published on June 24, 2020.

Give Your Customers the Experiences They Want with Meaningful Engagement