When it comes to customer engagement, when you reach out is as important as how, where and why you reach out. I hate it when I walk into a store at the local mall and not even gotten 10 feet before someone’s asking if I need any help – it makes me feel uncomfortable, and I’ve left many a store because of premature service. I do expect, however, to quickly find the product I’m seeking, and I want an associate handy if I get lost or have any questions. In a similar way, the corporate sales and service model is becoming increasingly self-service and your customers and potential clients want to get much farther down the sales and service path before they’re ready or willing to talk to a human being.
Creating an informative and engaging digital experience across several channels, then, becomes imperative for companies looking to maintain and grow their customer base. Unfortunately, many if not most companies have a digital presence that lacks the capabilities needed to support customer engagement at any but the most basic tactical level. Figure 1 below illustrates a very simple maturity model, outlining the stages through which a company’s digital presence must go in order to achieve (optimally) fully customized 1-to-1 customer conversations.
Each stage of digital maturity requires improvements in technology and in human capabilities. In the basic stage the customer is entirely responsible for finding and requesting the specific information they need (I liken this to walking into a large big box store with no associates, but there will be signs on the aisles to help them find what they’re looking for). By contrast, in the automate and engage stages intelligent suggestions are made to the customer that drastically improve their shopping experience, causing them to make decisions faster and be more pleased at the end (Imagine if the same big box store had a big display at the door with exactly what you were looking for and an associate nearby to answer your questions and guide you to associated purchases.)
In a recent webinar I gave in conjunction with Percussion Software, (Are you equipped to engage? Increasing Digital Maturity to Increase Customer Engagement) I discussed some of the technological requirements that would act as a foundation for growing in digital maturity from basic to engaged, one of the most important being a robust and scalable content management system. If we’re going to intelligently get ahead of customer’s behavior instead of constantly reacting, we need to have a tool that can help us deliver the right content to the right person at the right time and place. None of these are possible without CMS, and it’s important that you choose one that incorporates internal analytics or integrates seamlessly with analytics packages so that you can begin to add intelligence to your digital presence. Taking the need for CMS for granted, the rest of this article goes deeper into the importance of analytics to better understand the buying process and to define a digital strategy to increase customer engagement.
Analytics and Digital Maturity
In the basic stage of digital maturity, the entire message is driven by the marketing department and is usually fairly generic. In this stage you might refer to your site as “brochure-ware” in that it is a completely static representation of your company and everybody sees the same thing. As companies move along in digital maturity to the tactical stage, they may be using analytics to influence customer behavior by observing them and then matching them with appropriate content. (i.e. using simple web traffic analytics to help you identify and validate marketing-generated personas, and beginning to create specific content based on those personas – regional content might be a good example here.)
Moving from the tactical to the optimized stage of digital maturity is where the rubber really begins to meet the road (and where, I suspect, many companies are in this process). In this phase you will leverage analytics to develop better relevancy in your content to meet the needs of various customer types. Being able to track a customer’s behavior on web and mobile devices can provide helpful insights. For example, when a customer waiting in line to get their morning coffee responds to an e-mail with a mobile exclusive deal, this gives us a clue not only about who the customer is but how they make decisions across the different channels. The same applies of course to online activities like the downloading of a product spec or a white paper. Once we narrow down how specific persona types make their buying decisions, we can map those decision points to KPIs and begin to modify our communications to influence customer behavior.
Ideally this will be the beginning of a progression that will lead you to where your digital systems are able to dynamically identify and refine new user personas, delivering increasingly customized experiences based on psychographic and demographic factors, and even personal preferences as identified in previous visits. Your digital presence will know based on statistics, when to offer customers a certain promotion, and on which device or in which location it will be most effective. Using analytics to support marketing operations will shorten the buying cycle and create more transactions – otherwise you are taking a shot in the dark.
Analytics are the brain power driving this automatic persona differentiation, and statistics show that companies that apply advanced analytics to revise and refine customer profiles have 33% more profit and twelve times more profit growth than companies that don't. Ultimately, the idea is to use analytics to prioritize your marketing resources (time, money, manpower) on the things that have the most impact on customer behavior while at the same time providing a better, more personalized and more pleasing interaction with your customers.