Now more than ever, retailers and restaurant operators are finding themselves facing stiffer competition. But a comprehensive customer engagement strategy enables you to come out on top.
Customer engagement transcends the one-time purchase or sale of merchandise; it involves an ongoing customer/merchant relationship.
A customer engagement strategy is important because it:
Fosters repeat business and loyalty.
The higher the level of engagement with any customer, the more likely the customer will to return to your business again and again, over a longer period of time. Engaged customers are repeat customers — the heart of your business.
Generates new business.
Engaged customers influence other consumers to shop at their favorite stores or dine at their favorite restaurant. This makes building your customer base easier.
Keeps your brand top of mind.
Brand-positioning and image-building occur automatically when a customer engagement strategy is in place.
Helps you better understand customer behavior.
Everything from your merchandise assortment or menu to deals and promotions can be designed to reflect true customer preferences, enhancing their appeal to your target audience.
To help you start building your strategy, here are five customer engagement methods and practices to consider:
Avoid generic campaigns.
Generic customer engagement campaigns that don’t address the individual turn off, rather than attract and retain, an engaged base of patrons. Of respondents to a survey conducted by marketing automation solutions provider Marketo, 63 percent said they are “highly annoyed” by generic attempts to engage them, and 78.6 percent said they are only likely to engage with a brand if campaigns are directly tied in to the way they have previously interacted with it.
Take data analysis to another level.
Look at transaction data and measure it against customers’ exposure to the way in which attempts at engagement are made (e.g., mail offers, mobile messages, store associates’ use of mobile devices to share information, etc.). This makes the messages and campaigns that are part of your customer engagement strategy even more targeted, bolstering potential effectiveness.
Implement sophisticated loyalty solutions.
Loyalty solutions that permit you to offer rewards based on specific automated triggers, like birthdays, shopping or dining patterns, or individual customer preferences, encourage customer engagement far better than their generic counterparts. Also look for opportunities to leverage social media to engage customers — for example, providing rewards for social media mentions of your business and delivering digitized coupons, gift cards, and offers to consumers’ smartphones.
Move into mobile.
You can use beacons and geofencing to detect when consumers are near your establishment or standing near a specific display, then push out targeted messaging to engage with them. You can also design and communicate mobile offers based on consumers’ preferences and purchase histories.
Introduce card-linked offers.
Card-linked offers, such as cash-back deals, are connected to consumers’ debit or credit cards. To redeem them, consumers must patronize the appropriate establishment using the linked card. Not sure these offers are a good bet for your customer engagement campaign? In a survey conducted by Forrester Consulting, 61 percent of parents with children under 18, as well as 48 percent of millennials, and 40 percent of adults over age 34 stated they would stop patronizing a store without a card-linked program.
Clearly, harnessing a customer engagement strategy is a must for retailers and restaurant operators that want to grow their business. Now that you know the benefits and the key elements of such a strategy, it’s time to move forward with your own strategy that will lead to a larger base of loyal customers.