In the world of ecommerce, making a sale can seem pretty transactional. But as most experienced merchants will tell you, success is about way more than just getting shoppers through the buying process. According to research, 80 percent of customers say the experience a company provides to them is as important as the company's products and services. This growing focus on customer experience (CX) means that taking a customer-centric approach can be your competitive edge.

What is customer engagement?

The term customer engagement refers to a consumer's relationship with a business or brand. Customer engagement is the process of building connections with customers across the phases of the customer lifecycle: from how you acquire them to the moment they purchase to encouraging their advocacy of your products. There are many ways of engaging customers across multiple channels: from email campaigns and SMS texting to social media and loyalty programs.

Customer engagement tells you how a buyer interacts with your site, how they like your products, and how likely they are to remain loyal to your brand. Customer engagement metrics are key for measuring ecommerce success: they can be a leading indicator of sales and revenue, business development, and customer retention. So if you want to learn more about your target audience, grow your brand loyalty, retain customers, increase average order value, increase customer lifetime value, improve customer satisfaction, and meet your business goals, then you need to create and implement an effective customer engagement strategy.

What is a customer engagement strategy?

Driving shoppers to your ecommerce store is just the first step in successful customer engagement. You need a strong customer engagement strategy that builds relationships with shoppers across the entire customer journey. 

Customer engagement strategies describe how, where, and when you interact with potential customers; the language and tone you use in your interactions; your approach to cultivating post-purchase customer satisfaction; and metrics for measuring customer engagement.

An effective customer engagement strategy will define specific tactics you can implement to improve customer engagement. It should encompass your entire customer journey, from awareness to referrals. Your strategy should also include appropriate metrics to help you calculate customer engagement, so you can know what's working and what's not. The best customer engagement strategies are owned by everyone in your organization, from marketing and sales teams to product specialists and customer support reps.

9 customer engagement strategies to apply to your business

Wondering where to start with your customer engagement marketing? Try out the following best practices and engagement examples to help you consistently engage customers.

1. Personalize your customer interactions

Personalized customer relationship marketing treats each customer as a unique individual. When you personalize your customer experiences, you make each of your customers feel like you're talking just to them. You may already practice this technique — for example, by addressing customers by name in emails or texts. Companies that personalize customer experiences give the impression that each purchase isn't just a transaction, but a touchpoint in a long-term relationship.

How to do it

Take your personalization to the next level by using customer data to create tailored customer experiences. Examples of this customer engagement strategy might include abandoned cart communications that contain images of the products they left in their carts; offers or coupons customized based on past buying behavior; or promotions that align to their demographic or customer segments, such as age, gender, or region.

2. Use multiple channels to engage customers

Customer engagement marketing is most successful when you meet customers where they are. That means making sure you're connecting with them in all the places where they spend time, across the customer lifecycle, and investing in relationships with them both before and after they become customers.

How To Do It 

Paying attention to your customers' user behavior is the first step: do they spend more time on Twitter or Facebook? Do they hang out on YouTube or Twitch? Are they more responsive to email, or texting? You also want to be attentive to them on the platforms where they're asking questions or soliciting input, whether those platforms are your own or a third party's. This might seem time-consuming, but when the responsibility is shared across your team it can be key to building strong customer relationships.

3. Create a customer loyalty program

Customer loyalty programs can be the gift that keeps on giving. Rewarding your customers for their brand loyalty not only inspires them to come back again and again, it builds credibility among new shoppers who aren't yet familiar with your products or reputation. Customer loyalty programs are most effective when they help raise customers' average order value, or leverage "social proof," such as first-hand reviews of your store or products.

How To Do It

You can set up your customer loyalty program based on the criteria that work best for you: a points system that correlates to dollars spent; leaving a review on your site or a public platform; or driving referral traffic by sharing a coupon code with friends and family. You can even automatically opt in customers based on the qualifications you choose. Making shoppers feel like they're part of an elite group can increase customer satisfaction, which further drives customer engagement.

4. Check in with your past and existing customers

Sometimes customers get busy and forget that your store exists, or they forget how happy they were to shop from you. To keep customers engaged you need to be proactive and break the silence. Thank them for doing business with you, tell them you miss them, and invite them to come back and visit you. Keep the interaction short and meaningful so they feel remembered, but not bothered.

How To Do It

You can automate customer engagement campaigns based on time parameters or other customer behavior: for example, if it's been three months since the customer clicked pages on your site or made a purchase, you can reach out to them with marketing campaigns that invite them back. Using customer data here can be helpful: you might remind them about the last purchase they made and similar products you have available, or you might offer them a special incentive if they make a purchase in the next 24 hours.

5. Activate your fan club

If you're fortunate enough to have die-hard fans of your products or brand, you can drive customer engagement by harnessing their enthusiasm and sharing it far and wide. This kind of advocacy can increase customer engagement by sending new shoppers to your website and stoking enthusiasm among your audience.

How To Do It

Whether they're just happy with their customer experience or they tie their use of your product to their very identity, give your highly engaged customers a way to share that passion. One super easy way to do this is to invite customers to record videos of themselves with your products on social media. You can make them official "brand ambassadors,"reward those who participate in your customer loyalty program, or just re-share their content across your own platform.

6. Respond to customer feedback

Sometimes the most loyal shoppers are the ones who register a customer complaint or make a suggestion to improve your customer experience. How you respond to this feedback helps to define your brand: do you show that you heard them, that you're sorry if they're dissatisfied, that you'll consider their idea, and that you'll do whatever you can to make improvements? Listening to and addressing customer concerns is a vital part of customer engagement. 

How To Do It 

The simplest way to address feedback on your product is to circulate a survey and look into the results. Surveys are a highly effective way to measure customer engagement and can "take the temperature" of both your loyal customers and the disgruntled ones. Then, you'll want to respond to the results as a way to show you take this feedback seriously. Another way to manage customer engagement feedback is to monitor social media channels and review websites to address feedback there. This also communicates to audiences that aren't yet customers that you care about what your consumers think of you.

7. Use customer data wisely

There's growing concern about how companies collect and use personal data. You want to make sure your company employs data about customers in a way that seems smart, not creepy. The best way to do this is to understand the difference between personal information (address, phone number, credit card) and behavioral data (pages visited, products purchased, reviews left.) You're legally obligated to treat customers' personal information with utmost confidence and security. But you can apply their behavioral data in ways that are not only appreciated, but improve customer engagement.

How To Do It

Your marketing efforts may already group customers based on their demographic data, like where they live or whether they're male or female. But by using patterns in their behavioral data, you can  segment customers based on the products they buy, the accessories they browse, which ads they click on and which emails they ignore. You can even implement text message automation for your communications with the customer segments so that you're following up with customers in a timely way, signaling that you understand their desires, and encouraging them to revisit your site.

8. Follow through on your promises

Businesses make many promises to get people to buy from them. And that's fine. The trouble starts when they don't stand by their promises after the purchase is made.Following through on your promises isn't just an ethical issue; it makes good business sense as well.  Customers usually have no trouble complaining about you if that's the case. They might leave bad reviews and ensure others know that your store should not be trusted. Once your brand is harmed, it can take twice as long to rebuild trust.

How To Do It

This one's simple: just deliver on your promises, and avoid making promises you can't fulfill. If something goes wrong and you accidentally let a customer down, let them know you'll do everything in your power to make it right. And use surveys and feedback to find out what your customers want next from your brand. When you commit to developing new products, be reasonable about what your budget, technology, and time will allow.

9. Stand for something

A study from communications firm Porter Novelli found that more than two-thirds of consumers are more likely to remember, buy from, be loyal to, and even forgive a brand that has a strong purpose. Purpose-driven companies are associated with better ethics, responsibility, and compassion. Ecommerce may rest on the foundation of capitalism, but most of us want to feel good (or at least not feel bad) about the purchases we make. Do you know your company's purpose, and are you being explicit in how you communicate it to customers?

How To Do It 

Even if you're a small store with a small budget, you can still let your customers know what your values are and how you're living them through your business. Make social responsibility part of your business plan by donating a reasonable percentage of profits to philanthropy. Or look for ways to reduce your carbon footprint or share your products with people who need but can't afford them. Give your staff time off to volunteer with a charity of their choice. Then make sure that your customers know that their purchases power your ability to do good in the world.

Up-level your customer engagement marketing  

What's that? You're feeling overwhelmed by all these things you should be doing? Don't. You don't have to embrace all these customer engagement strategies at once, and you don't have to focus on the entire customer experience at once. Pick one or two where you want to apply your effort and set some realistic goals. Then look for improvements in revenue, retention, and satisfaction. Your customers will thank you.

Emotive can help you improve customer acquisition and retention with SMS marketing engagement strategies. Get a free demo today.