Ensuring that every customer has a positive experience should be a priority. A brand’s worst nightmare is customers forgetting they exist and never returning to make a second purchase. This is why making a great impression through your customer experience is so important to create real customer engagement. When your customers are engaged they are getting the content they want, finding value in their experience, and feeling a connection to your brand.
“Customer engagement is the degree and depth of brand-focused interactions a customer chooses to perform.”
The Smile Team
As such an important topic in the ecommerce world, there are many different variations of this definition. We think that customer engagement relates to both the frequency and significance of the interactions that customers are choosing to partake in with your brand. Simply put, it’s not just responses to your marketing efforts, but continued and meaningful engagement that matters.
With this in mind, customer engagement becomes all about the experiences your brand creates that make your customers want to stick around.
Why is customer engagement important?
Starting an ecommerce brand is now easier than ever for entrepreneurs with the multitude of platforms available like Shopify, Bigcommerce, WooCommerce, and Wix. While this is great when you’re just starting out, it quickly means that you have to compete against hundreds of brands to capture loyal customers.
In the beginning, we bet that all of your focus is on acquiring customers to make sales. But with so many competitors, it’s actually more profitable to attract repeat customers with high purchase frequencies. Customer engagement then becomes an important part of your business in order to build this type of loyalty. Getting this crucial element right, consequently builds emotional connections that drive consumer behavior.
“84% of customers say the experience a company provides is as important as its products and services.”
Furthermore, traditional customer acquisition strategies like advertising are expensive and only accomplish one part of the customer loyalty journey. A more sustainable strategy lies in creating meaningful customer engagement that lasts the entire customer lifetime.
Learn how with these seven strategies best-suited for your small business.
Reward programs build customer engagement
One of the best ways to build engagement is through a rewards program. This gives your customers an incentive to interact and shop with you by offering them valuable rewards.
With so many different ecommerce businesses popping up, getting lost in the sea of brands is easy, but becoming a go-to brand is hard. Loyalty programs help by creating a switching barrier when customers start earning points with your brand. Shopping with a competitor means giving up a chance to earn and redeem rewards with your brand.
"71% of consumers who are members of loyalty programs say membership is a meaningful part of their relationships with brands.”
Rewarding customers for making a purchase with your brand separates you from your competitors because they are getting additional value from shopping with you. In order to capture the most engagement out of your rewards program, giving points for things like social media interactions, or birthdays are great ways to show your customers how much you value their engagement.
Referrals are another great way to keep your customers engaged. Once they’ve already shopped with you and had a great customer experience, chances are they’re going to want to share it with others. So why not reward them for this? Customer referrals are the perfect way to allow your engaged customers to do the work for you because people trust their friends more than they trust even the most authentic brands, so you would be wise to leverage that.
Reward programs motivate customers to keep engaging with your brand leading to your ultimate goal - customer loyalty.
Let customers tell your brand story with user-generated content
In today’s mobile-first world, social media needs to be a part of your customer engagement strategy. This is where your customers are spending a lot of their time so you should put considerable effort into connecting with them here.
One of the most important things you should be doing on social media is looking out for customer posts that involve your products. When customers take time out of their day to share your brand, it’s the least you can do to return the favor. Reposting customer photos on your own social media accounts or website allows you to leverage this type of user-generated content to build authenticity and trust for your brand.
Not only does leveraging user-generated content help your brand engagement; it excites your customers. Offering rewards for these types of actions such as photo reviews or social media interactions are a few ways to motivate them to engage in this type of behavior.
To your best customers, the best incentive is the chance to be acknowledged by the brand they love.
Emails bring engagement right to their inbox
Email marketing has always been a tool that small businesses rely on because it’s cheap, easy, and effective. Despite the claims that email marketing is dying, it still remains one of the best ways to interact with your customers with 91% of marketers considering it important.
The purpose of your email needs to be clear in order to create customer engagement. There are several types of emails you can send to encourage loyalty like points reminder emails, personalized product recommendations, or abandoned cart emails. Thank you emails are another great strategy that builds an emotional connection driving that desired engagement.
"Adding videos to your email can increase click rates by 300%.”
The key to success with all of these though is to make them interactive. Interactive content like videos, sliders, collapsible menus or GIFs create an exciting email that keeps customers locked in.
You want to deliver an email that your customers are actually excited to open and read!
Give customers a reason to engage with you with value-add marketing
What is your favorite brand? The first one that comes to mind likely has some set of values that resonate with you. A lot of brands have high-quality products, but your favorite brand often has a little something extra.
Extra value is something that customers are craving with every interaction. Value-add marketing is more valuable than advertisements because it’s more cost-effective and builds better relationships. Value-add marketing can serve several purposes from educating your customers to providing advice or entertainment. It allows you to give your customers the information they actually want by delivering content like blogs, videos, podcasts, webinars and more.
For some customers, this type of content is what keeps them coming back and for others, it might be how they discover you in the first place. Either way, there’s no doubt that value-add marketing can separate a brand a customer likes from a brand they love.
Ask customers for their feedback
One of the most engaging actions you can take with your customers is asking for their opinions. Everyone feels important when asked for their opinion, and your customers are the most important people to you so you should treat them that way!
“40.8% of customers claim to reference reviews before buying something online.”
eMarketer Ecommerce Insights Report
Rewarding your customers for things like written reviews or testimonials also benefits you by building an authentic brand. Several customers consider this type of social proof extremely important when making purchases online since they can’t physically touch or feel the products. It’s this level of dedication to your customers’ feedback that makes them feel truly connected and engaged with your brand.
Some brands have even taken it one step further and modeled their entire brand around customer feedback. Smart light manufacturer Nanoleaf took an innovative approach to use their rewards program to leverage customer feedback before launching their actual product. By making their customers feel so involved in the product testing process with their beta product, they sparked an investment with their brand.
Create a strong customer experience to build emotional connections
It’s not your products or prices that build relationships with customers, it’s your brand that does. This can start with a strong experience that resonates with your customers. Having a consistent brand image communicated in every channel you use from your website to your social media is so important.
Once you identify your core values, you need to make sure that everything you do also communicates these values. This is a combination of everything including the language you use in your copy, the colors in your logo, and your website design.
“Repeat customers are responsible for generating 40% of a store’s revenue.”
Adobe Digital Index Report
Putting thought into your brand position can have a significant ROI when considering the amount of design time it takes compared to the profitability of repeat customers.
With an ecommerce store, you miss out on the ability to connect with your customers face-to-face so you have to let your customer experience humanize your brand.
Make interacting with your band fun through gamification
No matter how old we get, everybody loves to play a good game once in a while. Adding gamification to your loyalty program is a great way to make the customer experience fun!
With the average worker receiving 121 emails per day, it can be hard to stand out. But a customer is way more likely to remember the brand that made them spin a wheel to receive their discount, over the one that simply wrote it in black and white.
These fun experiences are unique in your customers’ minds and will cause them to share your brand with other people.
Keep your customers engaged long after they confirm their order
Gone are the days where focusing on the number of customers you acquire was enough. If your customers are making a purchase once and then never even thinking about you again, there’s a huge problem.
Your goal should be to cultivate a community of customers who are excited to be shopping with you and counting down the seconds until they can interact with you again. There are several different engagement-building strategies that will help you get here and build your loyal customer base.
The key is determining which strategy will work best for you based on your customers.