What is customer engagement and how can you use it to grow your e-commerce store? Check out these easy, affordable strategies.
Synergy. Growth hacking. Ideation. 10X. The list of business buzzwords seems to grow longer by the minute.
They’re even starting to bleed out of meeting rooms and into pop culture. The Onion has poked fun at this kind of jargon with the headline, “Never-Before-Heard Buzzword Flying Around Office Can’t Be Good.”
But what about the term “customer engagement”? Is this another meaningless bit of jargon, or can it have a real effect on conversion rates, brand reputation, and customer satisfaction?
You guessed it — it’s the latter. But before I explain why, let’s first define customer engagement.
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Customer engagement is anytime a customer chooses to interact with your brand. The key here is the word “choose.”
This doesn’t necessarily mean your company can’t be the one initiating the interaction. But for it to be a meaningful interaction, they have to take action too.
Think of it this way: If you run an e-commerce store, you’ve likely sent out a promotion or two in the past. Some of your customers probably saw it, read it, then did nothing. Those who replied or made a purchase represent your engaged customers.
Why does this matter? Well, think of your relationship with customers as a personal friendship. Which one seems healthier — a friendship where one person reaches out all the time or one in which both people regularly make the effort to connect?
Hopefully, you’re thinking of the second one.
Before I dive into the strategies, I do want to point out that customer engagement takes on a lot of different forms, all of which fall under either online engagement or offline engagement.
Online engagement, as the name suggests, is any way your customers interact with your brand online, whether that’s through social media, ads, emails, your website, and so on.
Offline engagement defines any interaction your customers have with your store off the net. While this isn’t as relevant a concept for e-commerce stores, keep it in mind if you host a pop-up shop or head to a trade show.
That means two things: There’s an opportunity for e-commerce stores to make serious money, and competition among these stores is going to ramp up.
Pay-per-click ads, retargeting, e-mail promotions, and other bottom-of-the-funnel tactics are useful, there’s no doubt about that.
But without customer engagement, all of these fall short. If you want to gain an edge in the highly competitive e-commerce space, you need to find ways to increase customer engagement.
By investing in customer engagement, you can keep your brand top-of-mind and ensure that your customers think of your store the second they want to make a purchase.
How? By creating opportunities for your customers to interact with you, and by making those interactions positive and memorable.
Personalized email subject lines have been proven to boost open rates, and email isn’t the only place this principle applies. SimpleTexting (that’s us!) found that the average click-through rate for messages that included a contact’s first name was 71%.
But what if you don’t have that info?
Well, all you have to do is ask! If you use a web form to collect emails or text contacts, it’s well worth the time to add an optional field for first and last name.
This small change can seriously boost your engagement rates by making your customers feel like you’re talking to them instead of at them.
Of course, using first names in your subject lines isn’t the only way of personalizing your messages. It’s just the tip of the iceberg.
You can also use data from your site to send more relevant messages to customers. Hosting a pop-up event? Let people in that city know. Notice that a customer is looking at your running shoes category page? Send them tips for finding the right one.
Take a look at the example below from Airbnb. After customers book their rentals, Airbnb follows up with relevant information about the destination their customers are going to.
Have you ever been stuck in a long line at a store’s customer service desk though you just have a quick question? It’s annoying, right?
Okay, now imagine how customers feel having to wait until the next business day to get a response from a brand. If people know they can speak to someone on your team right away, and hear back quickly, they’ll be more likely to engage with your brand.
In fact, 90% of customers consider an “immediate” response (that’s 10 minutes or less according to 60% of those customers) as important or very important to them.
There are a couple of ways to set up better, faster customer service. You could use a service like Intercom to add live chat to your website, or you could add a text-enabled number to your website.
At SimpleTexting, we recommend you do both. But based on your budget and how many humans you have on your team, you may want to focus on just one of these.
Many e-commerce stores use SMS because it’s the channel preferred by customers. After all, people always have their phones with them, and every phone can receive texts.
By opening up the opportunity for real-time communication, you’ll be able to answer questions from people who are still on the fence and move them closer to making a purchase.
The A/B testing platform VWO found that replacing a contact icon with a photo of a human face increased conversions by 48%.
It makes sense. Humans want to talk to humans. SimpleTexting does the same thing on our site, and we get around 200 unique chats per day. After all, who wouldn’t want to talk to these friendly faces?
But your live chat isn’t the only place where you can show off the people behind your products.
Post photos of your team on your “about” page, or have a dedicated “meet the team” section on your website. Here’s an example from RealThread.com:
This strategy doesn’t have to stop with your team page, either. In the daily shuffle, businesses often forget to really humanize their brand as a whole.
You can easily give your brand a more approachable feel with social media posts and videos that feature your team so customers can connect a human face with you and your business.
In the long term, this can even help your audience connect with a favorite team member and build a stronger relationship with your brand.
Any retailer can exchange a product for money. That’s easy. Strong brands know how to make their customers feel like they’re a part of something and they invest in improving their product and service offerings over time.
One easy way to do this is to let your customers vote on future products. In doing this, you’ll avoid stocking inventory that will go unturned, and your customers will appreciate having a say.
Amazon puts this tip into practice with its “Build It” feature which allows customers to vote on products they’d like to see offered in the future.
To do this, you can send out a simple email poll that asks them to choose which product they’d like to see next in your store. Or, if you have customers who have opted in for SMS messages, send out a text message survey.
Consider what’s inside the box that most e-commerce stores deliver: the receipt and the product. That’s it.
Adding in an inexpensive extra gift can go a long way. This can be as easy as a handwritten thank-you note, a sticker with your brand’s logo, or a coupon for their next purchase (on a personal note, the activewear brand Popfit does this last technique, and I’ve taken advantage multiple times).
For example, Galen Leather sells handcrafted leather notebooks made in Turkey. They surprise customers with a few gifts from Turkey to show off the country where their products come from.
Breaking up the monotony of the usual online shopping experience will encourage customers to post about your brand on social media and visit your store again in the future.
Put yourself in your customers’ shoes, then walk through the entire customer journey from discovery to purchase.
Ask yourself if there are any opportunities to either a) reduce friction or b) create opportunities for your customers to engage with you. To illustrate what I mean, let’s look at an example from the e-commerce site Warby Parker.
Warby Parker offers an at-home try-on option for their glasses, meaning they’ll send customers five frames to test out for five days, as customers often have a hard time deciding. They used what would normally be a point of friction and turned it into a fun opportunity for customer engagement with the hashtag #warbyhometryon.
Thousands of customers use this hashtag to post photos of themselves to Instagram and Twitter in all five pairs of glasses. Both the team at Warby Parker and the customers’ followers reply with a vote for their favorite pair.
This goes to show that customer engagement isn’t just about people talking to your brand. It’s also when people talk about your brand. Use strategies like this to bring in user-generated content for your e-commerce website.
I’m sure you’re absolutely brimming with inspiration by now and ready to start making changes, but I want to give you a few key pointers to keep in mind before you get started.
Let’s be real: It can be a challenge to come up with the right customer engagement strategy for your e-commerce business.
As long as you remember to listen to your customers and make it easy for them to contact you, you’ll already be ahead of most retailers. And if you follow the six strategies above, then you’re even better off.
Alfredo leads the marketing team at SimpleTexting. In addition to writing about SMS, he also talks about it—literally. He narrates our how-to videos.More Posts from Alfredo Salkeld
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