It’s no secret we live in an increasingly digital, ever-connected world.
(This is especially true at the time of writing this, as the COVID-19 shutdown has forced brands around the world to adopt a digital-first—and even digital-only—approach to serving their customers.)
Even without taking recent events into consideration, the fact is that many modern companies have begun focusing heavily on digital engagement to satisfy the needs of their target audience.
- As of January 2019, 44% of brands have shifted to a digital-first approach to customer engagement and other operations
- Similarly, 65% of organizations either plan to or currently are undergoing some form of digital transformation
The reason for this shift is pretty simple:
It’s what the modern consumer wants.
Case in point:
- 90% of consumers want a truly seamless omnichannel experience when engaging with their favourite brands
- 73% use multiple digital channels along a single path to purchase
- 83% want to be able to move from channel to channel when engaging with brands for various purposes
So, to be clear, digital engagement is all but essential for the survival of your business—both at the present moment and in the future.
The question is:
How can you ensure your digital engagement strategy meets—and exceeds—your audience’s expectations?
What is Digital Engagement?
In the broadest of terms, digital engagement refers to any moment in which a brand and a consumer connect, communicate, and/or exchange information via digital or online means.
Digital engagement can occur for a variety of purposes, from marketing and sales to customer service, support, and success initiatives. As we alluded to above, digital engagement can involve a variety of channels and platforms: As long as the communication occurs electronically, it can be considered a part of your brand’s digital engagement initiatives.
Overall, the list of ways and reasons to digitally engage with your customers is limited only by two factors:
- Your capacity to effectively use digital channels to engage with your customers and provide for their needs
- Your creative approach to using these digital means to enhance your customers’ experience and bring value to their lives
With all this in mind, let’s take a look at what you can do to refine and optimize your approach to digital engagement.
Align Your Digital Experience and Your Customer’s Journey
Every person you serve goes through a journey of some sort as they engage with your brand.
Throughout this journey, they seek to accomplish a number of things:
- They aim to learn more about the problem they’re facing, and how your product or service aims to solve said problem
- They look to make optimum use out of your product or service in order to efficiently reach their goals
- They seek out additional information and more advanced products or services to help them accomplish even more once they’ve overcome their initial challenges
…and the list goes on.
It’s crucial, then, that your digital experience is designed in such a way as to cater to these needs as they move through their individual customer lifecycle. This means having a clear, customer-centric reason for using the digital channels you use at various points along the buyer’s journey.
(Looking at this another way, you want to avoid using certain digital channels just for the sake of using them. This isn’t to say you avoid using these channels altogether—but more that you need to solidify your purpose for using a given channel before you dive in head first.)
Now, it’s likely that you already use a number of digital channels to engage with your customers at different stages of their individual journeys.
So, your first order of business will be to audit your current customer journey to gain a better understanding of:
- The digital channels they use most often—and the ones they don’t necessarily flock to
- Their reasons and purposes for using specific channels along their journey
- Your ability to deliver value to your customers on each channel you use
Hubspot has created a template to help you map out your customer journey and nail down your goals for digital engagement at each stage.
Overall, your goal is to ensure you’re taking full advantage of the features and functions offered by each digital channel you operate on—and are using these channels to both enhance your customer’s experience with your brand and nurture them toward further engagement moving forward.
It’s also vital to ensure your audience knows what to expect when they engage with your brand on specific channels. This will showcase to your audience the benefits of connecting with your brand on the channels you operate on.
While omnichannel digital engagement is your ultimate goal, the fact is that some channels are best used for specific purposes—and may not be your customer’s best option in other situations.
As a simple example, if your brand typically uses Twitter to engage with your audience for marketing purposes, and provides an on-site chatbot or live chat for customer service and support requests, you’d want your customers to use each of these channels for their respective purposes.
To be sure, not taking such precautions could lead to instances such as the following:
In this example, it’s clear that Twitter is not the best option for British Airways in terms of providing customer service—but the company still decided to use it, anyway. Unfortunately, this ended up making a subpar experience even worse for the customer in question.
Had the company made clear that there were more efficient channels to use for customer service purposes from the get-go, this entire issue could have been taken care of almost immediately.
Here’s a hypothetical example of an airline providing chatbot services to help customers in need of quick assistance:
That said, you do want to keep your various channels as connected as possible in order to provide a streamlined omnichannel digital experience to your customers. Using the hypothetical example from above, you might then follow up with those who engage with your chatbot via email to ensure they’ve gotten exactly what they’d hope to receive from your brand.
The goal here is to use each of your channels to “bounce off” one another in order to provide a synergistic digital experience to your customers. That way, even when a customer uses a less-than-optimal channel for a specific purpose, they’ll easily be able to switch gears and continue on their journey using the most efficient channel possible.
(Again, this goes for all stages of the buyer’s journey, and all potential touchpoints that exist along this journey. We’ll take a closer look at all this in the next section.)
Regardless of what channels your customers frequently utilize, or their purposes for engaging digitally with your brand, you need to create a single source of truth to operate on.
A centralized CRM, knowledge management system and document management system is essential, here, as it will ensure your customers will always be able to pick up right where they left off in their journey—no matter how they choose to engage with your brand at a given moment.
Deliver a Personalized, Authentic, and Empowering Digital Experience
We’ve established that you need to be present and active on a variety of channels to enhance your digital engagement strategy.
But, simply being on a specific channel isn’t enough to make this happen. The old “if you build it, they will come” approach just isn’t going to work in terms of getting your audience engaged in a way that actually matters to them.
(Sure, you might generate some engagement by simply “being there.” More than likely, though, you’ll end up missing out on a ton of additional opportunities to engage and provide value to your customers.)
So, in looking to really supercharge your customers’ digital experiences with your brand, you need to take a much more proactive approach. That is, you need to identify moments along the buyer’s journey in which you should be engaging with your customers (as opposed to sitting back and waiting for them to reach out to you).
Often, this involves delivering content, offers, and promotional messages based on the individual customer’s needs and behaviours.
A few examples:
- Delivering a Welcome email drip campaign to prospects who sign up for your mailing list
- Using retargeting ads and emails to keep new leads interested (and moving toward conversion)
- Sending follow-up messages with requests for feedback after a customer takes a specific action, or reaches a certain milestone
In creating these automated, behaviour-based messages (and pairing them with the right content, offers, etc.), you’ll be able to get laser-focused on your individual customer’s needs at almost any given point along their buyer’s journey.
Which brings us to personalization.
While identifying these optimum moments for digital engagement is vital to keep your customers active, it’s important to inject personalization into these instances in order to truly provide value to each customer you serve.
Depending on the products or services you provide, personalization can take a variety of forms.
For example, you might provide a look back at your customer’s experiences with your brand thus far:
You might provide recommendations for further engagement based on the customer’s preferences and engagement history:
Or, you may simply check in with your customers to get a refresher on their preferences for engagement moving forward:
While these examples are, of course, focused on email, you certainly can inject personalization—and hyper-personalization—into your customers’ digital engagements on each channel you operate on.
Now, the more you know and learn about your individual customers, the easier it will be to tell a story that intertwines their specific circumstances and goals with your brand’s overall mission. Here, the idea is to position your customer as the hero of their own personal journey—with your brand acting as their trusty sidekick along their path to success.
This allows you to empower your customers in a way that simply wouldn’t happen if you were to take a less personal (and personable) approach to engage with them. Instead of just helping the customer succeed, storytelling enables you to truly showcase exactly what this success will mean to the individual.
Take Warby Parker’s story, for example:
Instead of simply saying, “Hey, you need affordable glasses, we offer affordable glasses, buy from us!”, WP explains that their founders have actually experienced the exact same problem their target audience faces—and follows it up with an offer that many vision-impaired individuals would find difficult to refuse.
Of course, the goal of storytelling isn’t to convince your target audience to engage further with your brand.
(Or, at least, that’s not the whole point of doing so.)
As we said, weaving an empathetic, customer-focused story is about empowering your target audience.
This is where social proof comes in—and it works in two ways.
On one side, you can bring your current customers deeper into the fold by asking them to share the story of their journey with your brand.
Not only will this enhance the customer’s digital experience with your brand, but it will allow your successful customers to really take stock of their experiences with your brand. In turn, they’ll likely become even more appreciative of the value you’ve brought to their lives.
The other side of this is that you’ll then be able to use this social proof to engage with prospective customers, as well. This will go a long way in terms of solidifying your brand’s story in the eyes of your target audience—and will give you more “ammunition” as far as digital engagement goes.
Going back to the importance of omnichannel operations, your story—and your individual customers’ stories—should, in some way, be woven throughout each of your digital touchpoints.
Whether providing a simple and quick answer to a customer’s question or helping them solve a more deep-seated issue, it’s important to tie the engagement back to their overarching story and journey with your brand.
The idea here is to gain a more holistic view of your customers—and to show them that you see them in this way (and not just as a means to making more sales and revenues). While you obviously do want to continue generating revenues from your customers via digital engagement, this should always be secondary to providing for their needs as people first, and customers second.
In leveraging digital engagement to showcase your dedication to your customers’ success, you’ll be able to forge a more authentic and mutually-beneficial relationship with each customer you serve. In turn, you’ll all but guarantee your customers will continue engaging with your brand—digitally or otherwise—for a long time to come.