Published: 19 June 2014 The initial drive to engage a customer and encourage them to purchase is one thing. The goal is to create long term customers, loyal customers -  advocates – customers so engaged with your brand that they will promote and recommend it to others and encourage them to buy too. There are different stages in the customer life cycle. These are: initial engagement to purchase, from purchase to repeat purchase, from repeat purchaser to advocate. The goal is always to pave the way for the next step, to prevent defection to another brand and give those customers reasons to continue to engage. Brand loyalty can be built even in a competitive retail environment, but you have to create significant points of difference for your brand to ensure it happens.  How your relationship with your customers evolves depends on the effort and investment you as a brand are willing to make to ensure the experience is positive.

Engaging customers and meeting their needs
In an ‘always on’ environment, with your on the go audience supported by their mobile devices, reaching your targets has in theory never been easier. Or has it? The amount of brand ‘noise’ and media customers are presented with daily is phenomenal. Customers are increasingly savvy and demanding when it comes to deciding how and when they want to communicate with your brand or your competitors. You as the marketer have to make sure you’re where they want you when they want you (or what you have to offer!). This does not mean always being there with your sales messages by the way! It means being there to answer questions and provide support too. It means being there with a positive experience when their previous favourite brand messes up! Reassurance is key…be clear about delivery options to suit their lifestyle, show them guarantee information for bigger purchases. Encourage them to review purchases and respond to any complaints. Cliché but true…make the customer your friend!

Stats from Click Fox’s Mobile Apps Consumer Survey (2011)  for example show that 78% of people were even then using mobile apps for customer service queries. They expect to be able to contact a brand to complain or rave about it 24/7. Hence the massive surge in the use of social media to communicate customer service queries. Eptica’s latest Customer Experience Survey however shows that whilst an increasing number of brands have a customer service Twitter profile, only 39% of queries are being answered satisfactorily. Not good enough! There is an edge to be seized here by brands that do the social customer service thing better.

Tailoring the conversation keeps customers longer
What do customers want, when do they want it and how to best deliver it? Understanding the demographics and behaviours of your customer base can provide insight into marketing strategies that activate customer spend and create incremental revenue. Customer engagement has to put the focus on the customer in order to be able to build a relationship. If we look at John Lewis – their website tailors each section to suit that part of their audience. The furnishing section of their Homes and Gardens department prominently features interest free credit offers as an option – countering the often cited objection ‘I can’t afford it at the moment’ that larger purchases can generate!

Conversely, the Electronics section at the time of writing was homing in on a ‘timed opportunity’ to capture impulse- buying football fans with World Cup imagery promoting the latest ‘smart’ large screen TV. All this is tapping into the customer’s psyche and hopefully tipping them into subsequent purchases with the mindset ‘John Lewis gets me’.

Conversations and offers need to be personalised, genuine and honest in order to gain trust with the customer. If these conversations can be prolonged and developed the customer will become more positively engaged and brands will achieve increased revenue, profit and higher customer retention. Additionally, the customer will feel valued, respected and more satisfied. It is all about knowing how to deliver the right message to the right audience at the right time.

Life Time Value
Customers want to be valued beyond an initial financial transaction. Their relationship with a brand is built through trust. The bottom line is determined by the extent to which excellent service can be delivered. The lifetime value of a customer translates into the amount of profit they will bring to a business over a lifetime of dealing with the brand. This isn’t something that just happens and it isn’t easy. It needs to be driven by a well thought through process by a brand that knows who their customers are, know what they want and know how to interact with them on a personal level to gain trust, engagement and their custom…. For the long haul!   



Image: Sitecore UK

Nick Towers

Managing Director


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