What is customer engagement and how can you use it to grow your e-commerce store? In this article, we dive into six easy, affordable strategies.
Is Customer Engagement Just Another Buzzword?
Synergy. Growth hacking. Ideation. Taking it offline. The list of business buzzwords seems to grow longer by the minute. And they’re starting to bleed out of meeting rooms and into pop culture. Even 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 customer engagement? Is this another meaningless term or can it have a real effect on conversion rates? We’d say the latter. But before we explain why, let’s first define customer engagement.
The Definition of Customer Engagement
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 in order for it to be 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 customers probably saw it, read it, then did nothing. Those who replied or made a purchase represent your engaged customers.
But 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 the second one.
How Does Customer Engagement Relate to E-Commerce?
According to data from Statistia, e-commerce accounts for 17.5% of all retail sales. That’s over 2.3 trillion dollars—with a T. And this number is expected to continue to rise. 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.
PPC 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. Data from Gallup showed that fully engaged customers represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue, and relationship growth compared with the average customer.
So if you want to edge out in this highly competitive space, you need to find ways to increase customer engagement.
6 of the Best E-Commerce Customer Engagement Strategies
By investing in customer engagement, you can keep your brand top of mind and make sure your customers think of your store they moment they want to make a purchase—before they’ve even opened a computer. How? By creating opportunities for your customers to interact with you, and making those interactions memorable.
1. Personalize Your Messages with First Names and Other Data
An analysis of over 7 billion emails revealed that personalized email subject lines boost open rates by over 50%. The simplest way to do this is by including your customer’s first names 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 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 taking 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. Use data from your site to send more relevant messages to customers. Hosting a pop-up event? Let people in that city know. Notice a customer is looking at running shoes? Send them tips for finding the right one.
Take a look at the example below from Airbnb. They don’t stop interacting with customers after they’ve booked a home. They follow up with relevant information about the destination their customers are going to.
2. Talk to Your Customers in Real-Time
Have you ever been chatting with someone on the phone and there’s a short delay? It’s pretty annoying, right? Okay, well now imagine how customers feel having to wait until the next business day to get a response by email. 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.
There are a few ways of going about this. 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 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. If you’d like to add texting to your customer engagement strategy, we offer a 14-day free trial.
By opening up the opportunity for real-time communication, you’ll be able to answer questions from people on the verge of checking out and thus, increase sales.
3. Show Off Your People
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. We do 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?
Your live chat isn’t the only places 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:
4. Give Your Customers a Say in Your E-Commerce Store’s Future
Any brick-and-mortar retail store or e-commerce shop 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. One easy way to do this is to let your customers vote on future products.
This is a no-brainer. In doing this, you’ll avoid stocking inventory that will go unturned, and your customers will appreciate having a say. To do this, send out a simple email poll. Or, if you have customers who have opted-in for SMS, send out a text message survey.
5. Add In Something Extra to Delight Your Customers
This one is dead simple. 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 or a sticker with your brand’s logo. But feel free to get as creative as you’d like.
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.
View this post on Instagram
It came! My 5 pen case I expected delivered in early September! I was coming in from my walk and let the FedEx gentlemen in the door. When we got off the elevator he wanted directions to my room! Signed for it there in the hallway🧡! Thank you #galenleather for such a beautiful product! My pens feel so safe! And I love that zipper pull tab and my initials. Very pleased.🧡🤗🌿
Breaking up the monotony of the usual online shopping experience will encourage customers to post about your brand on social media, and reach out to you again in the future.
6. Consider How to Improve Each Customer Touch Point
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 we 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 fives days. Often times, customers have a hard time making a decision. 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 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 people talking to your brand. It’s also when people talk about your brand. Use this strategy to bring in user-generated content for your e-commerce website.
Final Thoughts on E-Commerce Customer Engagement
With customer retention, loyalty, and engagement all being used interchangeably, it can be a challenge to come up with the right 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.
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