customerWhile engagement is a popular buzzword today, it is often misunderstood in commerce as an event rather than a state of being, Andy O’Dell explains in his article Buzzwords defined: 4 forms of customer engagement. He believes that “this traditional way of thinking about engagement is driven by lack of insight about what’s happening across a company’s consumer base regardless of time, channel or segment.”

When in the past the only way an organization could define engagement was though transactions, new technologies provide marketers today with an array of options on how they can understand, predict and monitor engagement levels – not just transactions.  Rather, engagement has more to do with interactions before and after an actual purchase.

In this context, Andy O’Dell points out four ways on how brands can define engagement.

1. Contextual engagement which is possible through technology that helps marketers understand what an individual consumer’s behaviors  say about them, both historically and in real time. Marketers can use this understanding to accomplish their goals - in context to the brand, the time of day, their location, their history and other aspects of their profile that allows a more successful individual experience.

2. Engagement of Convenience means making a consumer’s live as easy as possible. Any type of interaction that increases convenience allows the brand or retailer’s systems as well to gain a better understanding of each consumer’s individual needs, buying cycles, triggers and price points, which can in turn be used to maximize value of that transaction (emotionally, financially, contextually) to reinforce the desire to buy.

3. Emotional Engagement requires contextual relevance to reinforce emotional values that make customers unconsciously invest in a brand. Today’s consumer management technology allows for understanding on a 1:1 basis, because a good system tracks millions of data points that together paint a very specific picture of an individual’s own ideal environment for making decisions on what to buy, when and how often.

4. Social Engagement kind of includes all of the above, aligned in real-time.  If a consumer had a good experience with a brand, it’s easy for him to share it via social channels, which in turn influences others to seek out the experience.
The emphasis is on having the right technology in place to create a more personal engagement experience and to be able to nurture customer relationships, Jeffrey Kaplan confirms.

In his article Modern customer engagement: It’s a numbers game, published as well recently posted on the future of commerce portal, he claims that  “one of the most significant trends in business today is the shift of power from the suppliers of goods and services to the consumers who are making the purchasing decision. (…) Consumers are better educated, have more choices, and can switch suppliers more easily. Suppliers must respond to rising consumer expectations and declining loyalty with more effective customer engagement methodologies and customer lifecycle management technologies that utilize more powerful analytic capabilities.”

Both experts are clearly pointing out that the concept and practice of online customer engagement allows marketers to respond to growing ineffectiveness of the traditional 'interrupt and repeat' advertising model. In fact, it is obvious that due to the fragmentation of media and audiences, as well as the proliferation of community- and user generated content, businesses are increasingly losing the power to dictate the communications agenda. The huge Internet market and the vast choice of content, services and products available online have weakened customer loyalty, pushing customer engagement into the spotlight.

By Daniela La Marca