Customer engagement in the age of mobile, social and messaging
As the lines between mobile, social and messaging become more and more blurred, contributor Rob Begg takes a look at how marketers will need to adapt to reach consumers.
From a marketer’s point of view, customer engagement is an art form you’re constantly trying to master. There’s no single formula, no correct answer, no perfect approach, and the rules of the game are frequently changing. It’s hard to figure it out, and as an industry, we’ve been at it a long time.
As the customer journey extends across mobile, social and messaging, marketing has had to adapt. Today’s marketers are focused on customer engagement across all of these channels, reaching customers where they are and in the moments that matter to them.
The goal is to create a seamless experience for the customer throughout their physical and virtual lives. But, as mobile, social and messaging become more and more integrated, the distinctions between them get blurrier, and it becomes trickier than ever to reach a single consumer in the moment with the right piece of content.
If I had to make a guess, I’d say we’ll soon see a hybrid of social and messaging conversations of a public and private nature, and it’ll happen on mobile. What won’t change though — no matter the technology, platform or channel — is that the customer is always at the center of any successful business.
Here’s how I view customer engagement in the age of mobile, social and messaging:
There’s no stopping the mobile-first customer
Mobile now accounts for 65 percent of all digital media time, according to comScore. That’s time spent checking email, engaging with friends on social media, doing work and shopping. Marketers have learned that today’s consumer is mobile-first, and they’ve figured out how to optimize content for smaller screens and new channels like apps and social media in order to improve engagement.
In part due to these efforts, people have become more comfortable with mobile, and marketers have gotten better at engaging them there. In fact, consumers have gotten so comfortable on mobile that according to our data (registration required), by the end of this year, shoppers will place more orders on phones than any other device. Now the question is, how do you add value using what makes mobile special? And how do you create a unique experience?
Mobile’s strength to marketers is in its immediacy and timeliness. A mobile device can share with a marketer the right information, at the right time, about a consumer as they engage with a brand. In return, once a marketer knows your preferences and details like your location, it can send a push notification via an app to keep you updated on the status of an order or send you a promotional offer when you’re near a favorite brand’s brick-and-mortar location.
The possibilities for targeted marketing on mobile are huge, and with the power of artificial intelligence (AI), mobile engagement can further improve. AI can make smart decisions based on a plethora of customer data it captures across all devices. Marketers can then use that information to make predictions about what kinds of offers would be ideal at any given time.
Imagine making a hotel reservation at a ski resort via a popular travel site you frequently use to plan vacations, rent cars and book excursions. Through AI, that same travel site can then recommend specific activities based on your previous purchasing behaviors and web browsing history. Just like that, you’re instantaneously given new and fun ideas of things to do while on your trip, and what’s neat is that the recommendations are so tailored to your interests that you actually do them!
Social media as the cornerstone of a brand
Over the years, headwear brand LIDS (disclosure: client) developed a strong social media fan base, but the company recognized that it needed to place its social strategy at the center of the company’s marketing efforts. In order to better understand and engage with its customer via social media, LIDS built a social media command center, which includes eight 55-inch flat screen TVs that monitor the company’s social traffic and insights.
The entire LIDS business can now see the content it’s promoting, who’s talking about its brand and what consumers are saying. The social media command center brings LIDS to life across social media and makes the conversations the marketing team is driving and monitoring understandable to anyone, rather than siloing the information. In six months since the implementation of the social media command center, LIDS went from 495,000 Facebook followers to more than 800,000. It’s no wonder that today, it’s core to the company’s marketing strategy.
As in the case with LIDS, we know that social is a public way for a brand to have a relationship with its customers. But it isn’t yet the place to have transactional conversations. You wouldn’t share credit card information on a Facebook wall or Twitter feed. As a brand, that means you’ve got to deflect to a different channel to solve certain problems. But for almost everything else, posting general questions becomes a resource for other users.
For example, an answer on a forum for one person serves many others who wonder the same thing. Meanwhile, AI powers social listening so that marketers not only can collect what’s being said about the brand online but can also extract sentiments and analyze big-picture issues like public perception.
Marketers are getting smarter about connecting their engagement tools to mobile and social media. But it raises some interesting questions: Can the social experience be enhanced by being geographically aware? The answer is yes, but how can we further personalize the digital experience?
The future of engagement and messaging
The future of digital engagement depends on figuring out how to toggle between public and private applications — something I touched on earlier. For example, consumers are unlikely to tweet their credit card number to a retailer to complete a purchase. But it’s also no longer convenient to conduct all important business over the phone or email. Messaging apps are primed to be the middle ground and will likely be the answer to this problem.
Increasingly, companies are learning to make use of apps like WhatsApp for business purposes, serving customers automatically while maintaining a one-to-one experience. KLM Royal Dutch Airlines (disclosure: client), for example, with an eye on innovative engagement, reached out to frequent flyers on WhatsApp to get feedback on things like booking and seat selection. Outside of North America, the messaging app WeChat is onto something, as well. It has become one of the most dominant platforms in China for people to connect to one another and to companies.
These apps are figuring out that they can be an all-in-one solution for users, proving that a customer doesn’t need to jump to another platform to take care of business. It’s no surprise that when I talk to marketers, they tell me they’re keeping their eye out for the all-in-one messaging platform — especially in the US. Whether that means that elements of messaging get brought into social platforms or entirely new platforms rise from messaging is anyone’s guess. But be ready, marketers!