We currently live in an always-on digital world where the lights are never dim. Consumers expect that brands and companies will predict and also meet their needs in real time. That is why marketers must understand the importance of customer engagement. If you’re a marketer, be informed that engaged customers spend more and are willing to remain loyal so long as the brand continues to provide value to them. Nurturing your current customers is just as important as attending to leads, if not more. Customer retention says a lot about a brand or company, and we can all agree that keeping customers happy is one of the main goals of any business.
Want proof? Here is an Apple story. When the iPhone 5 S/C was released in 2013, more than 1400 people queued up in front of the Manhattan Apple store. Some even pitched their tents weeks before the release just to be the first to get an iPhone 5. Now, that is the power of customer engagement and strong brand loyalty!
For marketers, customer engagement is one of the most powerful weapons in their arsenal. If you have a website, mobile app, or a subscription-based service, customer engagement, if carried out correctly, can turn the tables in your favor. However, it’s not an easy task to obtain consumers and then keep their interest vested in your product, service, or brand. This is especially true within the saturated digital space where modern marketers compete. That being said, customer engagement and internal collaboration go hand in hand. Without a cohesive and organized collaboration effort internally, you may struggle communicating a consistent message outwardly to the market. While these tools will help cultivate individualized digital relationships with consumers, they also present an opportunity to be leveraged in-house, to foster more collaboration, organization and creative dialogue between teams.
What makes customer engagement difficult?
In the olden days, when customers walked into a physical store, store owners could greet them in person, shake hands, and immediately begin to cultivate a personal relationship through rapport building. There were only so many customers to take care of at once, and they were all in the same physical space, so things felt natural. Today, websites and mobile apps are usually the first point of interaction between consumers and brands at the very beginning of the buyer’s journey. With customers coming in the tens of thousands, there is no face-to-face interaction or personal connection on which to build a rapport. That makes providing specific and personalized attention to each consumer next to impossible. Unless, of course, you allow technology to lend a helping hand. Leveraging the power of technology will allow you to create a personal relationship with consumers without ever even meeting them face-to-face. At the end of the day, all buyers want to feel cared about, and reassured that they’re spending their money with a company who puts them first. It’s true that a digital relationship will be a different experience than an in-person one, but there are still many ways to create that individualized experience that buyers long for. The same can be said about the modern workplace and relationship building within teams. With the increase of more flexible work arrangements, and the steady rise of remote employees, internal team dynamics are shifting as well. Taking advantage of these engagement technologies inside of your company can have lasting positive effects.
There are customer engagement technologies available these days that can make marketers lives easier when tackling such issues. These technologies automate previously manual tasks such as attending to customer queries and serving them the right information, and ensure that they remain loyal to the business. In many ways, these tools help to deliver a personalized experience at scale. From website chatbots that mimic a human response, to personalization tokens for email campaigns, the main thing these engagement technologies aim to do is make the consumer feel as though each interaction with a company is personal and important. This is extremely beneficial for the marketer, who may have to interact with thousands of customers a day. The use of technologies such as those mentioned below will also encourage collaboration within teams to ensure that a brand’s interaction with the market is with one united voice.
So what are these technologies, and how do they really help marketers? We’ve identified six engagement technologies that save time, energy and money as well as shared some examples of how they can be leveraged for continued synergy both internally, and externally.
1. Digital Asset Management (DAM)
The world today is highly digital, and marketers have had to adapt by quickly learning to leverage the most recent technologies in order to reach their target audiences. Most, if not all companies have an arsenal of digital assets, but not all companies have somewhere to house them. Digital assets are an important part of every stage of the modern buyer’s journey, from awareness through purchase and onto brand loyalty. A digital asset management solution or DAM, may be necessary when it becomes difficult or impossible to manage large volumes of digital assets. Old-school folder-filing practices lead to assets being stored on any number of desktops or shared drives. While this may be sufficient for a small library of assets, your collection will grow and as it does folders will get cluttered and sooner or later things will get lost or misused. A DAM system is a centralized repository of assets which saves users time by organizing its contents granularly through robust metadata and taxonomy structures. When assets are stored in a DAM they are organized, tagged, and preserved for later use. The time users would have spent searching or asking team members for what they need can now be used for more creative tasks.
One of the greatest benefits of implementing a DAM solution is the power to collaborate internally, in real-time. Many digital asset management solutions have built-in collaboration tools which foster communication between teams who are working on the same content within the DAM. These collaboration tools make the editing and approvals process profoundly easier. Editing a piece of content can be such a tedious process, one which likely sends the draft on a journey back and forth through the hands of many people before it ends up in front of the target audience as a final product. The back and forth of the editing process can be eliminated when leveraging a DAM system’s tools such as versioning and user permissions.
For example, MerlinOne‘s digital asset management solution MerlinX includes a versioning tool. In this case, versioning allows for multiple versions of the same asset to be saved together. However, each version will be accompanied by its own information and metadata which allows for a complete record of that asset’s activity beginning with when it entered the system. This not only allows for draft comparison and internal a/b testing, but will also serve as a tangible record of progress for content creators and creative teams. The Merlin DAM also has the capability for deadlines to be set on certain assets, helping teams stay on task and giving a broad view of who should be doing what, at what time. Teams will also be able to see where, when and how each asset what used to track asset performance.
The DAM will be the cornerstone for all teams to come together, and with customizations and the use of user permissions, individuals will only have access to what they need. For example, if an intern only needs to see final drafts of social media assets that are ready for posting, but should not have access to raw images or editable versions, an administrator can tailor their user permissions as such. The personalization possibilities are endless within a digital asset management system. The ability to modify user permissions at an individual level mitigates the risk of assets being misused or ending up in the wrong hands. Mistakes like the aforementioned can be very expensive but can be prevented.
What’s in it for marketers?
As a marketer who creates content, you have to involve a lot of different people at every step of the content lifecycle. The infinite collaboration opportunities within your DAM will significantly speed up content creation, editing, and approvals. Take advantage of the DAM’s built-in collaboration tools to communicate in real-time about assets that are being developed, edited, and used.
2. Artificial Intelligence (AI)
There are two things that marketers are always deprived off:
We all have the same 24 hours to serve customers in the best way possible. And, there’s only so much motivation that can coffee can lend you. Thankfully, this particular customer engagement technology can save both time and energy.
Artificial Intelligence is touching base across all industries where automation has a scope. One of the biggest resources its equipping marketers with is chatbots. Chatbots are computer programs that can simulate human conversations. AI’s subset technologies like Natural Language Processing (NLP), Machine Learning (ML), and Sentiment Analysis enable chatbots to converse with website visitors or mobile app users like a real human agent would.
Chat tools very similar to those used for customer engagement can also be used in-house for real-time communication between employees. Instant messaging applications such as Slack and Chatter have proven to be the most convenient way to connect with colleagues, brainstorm ideas, or quickly send a note to everyone in real-time. The benefits are simple; these applications offer communication that is faster than email, and more convenient than a phone call, offering teams the ability to collaborate in real-time without ever leaving their desks. These tools are especially useful with the recent increase in remote workers because teams are able to access most of these tools anywhere using a web browser, desktop client, or mobile app. These platforms not only offer instant messaging; within these tools, users can hold video and audio meetings, share their screens with one another, and can easily integrate with calendar applications if they do not provide their own.
What’s in it for marketers?
Chatbots can direct users straight to the product/service or the landing page that contains information that the user is searching for. The need for a human agent talking to visitors and the ensuing delay in providing information is reduced, as is the additional cost of paying an employee to act as online support for consumers. The chatbot technologies are able to mimic a human response, essentially delivering a personal conversation without the added cost of paying for an additional support employee. Also, the chat log of a chatbot provides an insight into what visitors are really looking for, which can later be analyzed and used in market research.
Uber, Pizza Hut, Spotify, Sephora, Mastercard, and The Wall Street Journal are some popular brands who have adopted this technology and are keeping their customers engaged with the power of chatbots, however, they are not alone. It’s rare that you come across a company website that sells a product or service and doesn’t offer immediate online support in the form of a chatbot or chat window. After all, consumers need the nurturing feeling of a personal relationship from start to finish of their buyer’s journey and chatbots can be a great place to start.
Here’s a screenshot from Pizza Hut’s chatbot which helps users order their favorite pizzas.
Artificial Intelligence also has a place within digital asset management. The manual process of attaching metadata and keyword descriptors to digital assets requires a substantial investment of both time and money. The integration of Artificial Intelligence (AI) will not only improve the functionality of the DAM for the user, but also will significantly increase the quality of search. When asset tagging is coupled with machine learning and AI tools, all processes within the DAM will get smarter, saving users time and money, and speeding up content’s time to market.
3. Voice Search
Unless you have been living under a rock, you must have heard that voice search has become the standard way of running online searches. From asking Google Maps for directions to running a quick local search, voice search has made it convenient for users to get things done without having to touch a screen. The skyrocketing sales numbers of Amazon Alexa, Google Home, and Apple’s Siri are a testament to the popularity of hands-free voice search methods.
Marketing technologies and software are also adopting this rising trend and finding innovative ways to use it within their programs. For example, MerlinOne’s digital asset management solution offers the capability for voice to text transcoding, a seemingly antithetical action of voice search, but actually very much so related. You see, within the Merlin DAM, if you were to upload a video or audio file, you could have Merlin transcode that file and create what is often called a “script” of the file. This script is then essentially saved as metadata and can be used in search queries within the DAM to offer the most accurate results. Essentially, this means that if the keyword you’re searching for within your DAM was ever once said on a video or audio files that also lives in your DAM, you’ll be able to find it just with one simple search.
Gartner, the global think tank predicts that by 2021, early adopter brands that redesign their websites to support visual and voice search will increase digital commerce revenue by 30%. That’s very reassuring for marketers and tells them that voice search is the future and it has arrived.
What’s in it for marketers?
Voice search gives deep insights about the user psychology behind each search. The key phrases that are used for running the search gives information about how they perceive a product or service. Capitalizing on that data can help marketers redesign their website, product, brand voice, or brand image for better engagement. Voice search gaining popularity and traction offers a unique opportunity to the modern marketer and that is the ability to connect with older consumers who may not have the same comprehension power that us millennials do, no offense anyone.
4. Real-Time Support
While chatbots and voice search helps customers find information quicker, there are instances when human intervention is really necessary. Chatbots use machine learning to mimic a human response for real-time questions that website visitors may have, but the capabilities of a chatbot only go so far. It’s important for businesses to provide both human and bot support to ensure that there are multiple points of contact between consumers and the brand. For instance, a customer who needs to know the claim settlement process of an insurance policy would want to talk to a human agent.
In such scenarios, live chat enabled customer support can prove to be the ideal communication system. They help your support team provide information to customers in real-time. The human touch also ensures that the support representative can empathize with the user’s predicament — a must-have for customer support.
Not all customer queries can be handled by chatbots. There are times when human intervention is needed. A live chat system can provide that on a real-time basis. It helps narrow down specific instances where an agent’s expertise can serve the customer better. Live chat can also be leveraged to practice behavior-based messaging. Chatbots not only offer real time support but also have the ability to observe a website visitor’s on-site (or in-app) behavior. In turn, the responses are catered to that specific consumer’s actions further personalizing the experience.
5. Facial Recognition
For a very long time, facial recognition was regarded to be science fiction. Today, it’s used to unlock smartphones, home security systems, and even to try on the best piece of eyewear for one’s face virtually. The scope for facial recognition is so high that the market is estimated to touch $7 billion by 2024.
The chart below shows the market has been growing and will continue to grow until 2024.
What’s in it for marketers?
Facial recognition combined with Machine Learning and Deep Learning algorithms can detect a user’s facial expressions. It can be used to gauge a user’s response to advertisements or even help customers find products that suit their facial structure, like cosmetics, eyewear, etc. That’s how Sephora’s app works.
In fact, MerlinOne’s Facial Recognition technology helps detect, match, and tag millions of faces within a database of digital assets. Merlin Facial Recognition uses machine learning and biometrics to quickly identify a person’s face within an image – even if the face is in a large crowd, or partially hidden.
6. Augmented Reality (AR)
Augmented Reality is such a profound technology that Apple’s CEO Tim Cook considers it to be the future of the iPhone. Augmented Reality forms part of immersive reality technologies that blend both the physical and the digital world. AR works by embedding data snippets on physical objects.
For example, you can point your phone camera at a restaurant and get real-time rich data like its star rating, peak busy times, menu pricing, and so on.
What’s in it for marketers?
What makes AR so important is that it’s extremely easy to use and provides contextual information that users can consume right away. Marketers can create AR-based immersive experiences that will not only engage customers but will also create a high recall value for the brand. Through the use of Augmented Reality, marketers can offer consumers the ability to visualize the product or service in their own personal context.
It’s no surprise that big brands like IKEA, Hyundai, Audi, Wayfair, etc. have already poured in billions to fund AR use cases for their mobile apps. In the image below, you can see how the AR-enabled IKEA app allows users to place virtual furniture in their physical space to determine if the piece of furniture in question is suited to them or not. This interactive experience takes the guesswork out of many components of the buyer’s decision.
Bringing It All Together
Customer engagement can make or break a business. In fact, for a business that’s working in a highly competitive market, customer engagement can be a serious differentiator. Businesses who focus on value creation rather than revenue production will provide a phenomenal end-to-end customer experience, likely leading to higher brand loyalty and customer retention. Technology can help marketers deliver highly engaging experiences that will attract and retain customers for a lifetime. Leveraging these technologies to further cultivate enhanced personalization and collaboration will not only save time, energy and money in the mean time, but also will prove their ROI as time goes by.
So, which technology (or combination of technologies) are you going to leverage to engage your customers and internal teams?