Imagine the perfect customers. They visit or participate often, have high average order values when they buy and openly promote your company to each person they meet. That's the ideal, but how did those users get so digitally (and ment ally) "engaged" with your brand in the first place? Fortunately, there are plent y of opportunities to make it happen, from marketing techniques to software and technology.
Is it simply a matter of chance, or can you, an Internet professional or Web business owner, take steps to ensure they stay engaged in the future, and that others are brought into the virtual fold as loyal customers? Of course you can, but you'll need to think about the virtual laws of attraction to achieve a true state of digital engagement. Fortunately, there are plenty of opportunities to make it happen, from marketing techniques to software and technology.
Worldwide, revenue for customer relationship management (CRM) software totaled $18 billion in 2012, up 12.5 percent from 2011 according to IT research and advisory company Gartner.
"Competition among CRM software vendors really heated up in 2012, as major players continued to vie for broader market penetration internationally and more widespread adoption within midsize to large enterprises," said Joanne Correia, vice-president at Gartner, in a recent company statement.
Gartner indicated that the top-five CRM vendors accounted for nearly 50 percent of CRM software revenue in 2012. CRM is obviously a big and booming market but don't lose sight of the fact that CRM is but one mechanism (a software solution really) that can be used to increase and improve user-engagement rates. The presence of those solutions alone won't move the virtual engagement needle. For that, you need to get strategic.
Website Magazine will delve into the complex world of CRM in its Aug. 2013 issue, but this month let's focus on the end game of engagement, and the actual strategies and solutions that can be employed to fill a CRM database with quality leads that will benefit your digital enterprise now and in the future.
An Engaging Tech Presence
Cloud-managed networking solution Cisco Meraki recently launched Presence, a service that provides automatic login to wireless hotspots using a person's Facebook credentials. The service will be of particular interest to retailers who can gather data about users mobile behaviors and correlate that activity to revenue and third-party CRM data. Discover more cool retailer-friendly technology in Website Magazine's Ecommerce Express channel.
Unlike campaign specific return on advertising spend (ROAS) or site-wide conversion rates, engagement is loosely defined, and is thus a far more "flexible" (e.g. hard to consistently grasp) metric. This means it can be challenging for an enterprise to formalize a definition, much less a strategy. But engagement should not be seen as a single event or individual metric (as it often is), but rather as a collection of positive, experience-driven moments/interactions that, through some digital magic, ultimately lead to loyalty and continued high-value use.
So what metrics should you use to track engagement? Arguably the most valuable indicator for the majority of Website Magazine readers is that of "new versus returning visitors." What better immediately available indicator exists to show whether a brand is engaging enough to bring digital users back to a website or application repeatedly? Of course, that's not the only way to understand how engagement initiatives are performing. Page depth (average pages viewed per session) and visit duration are two other valuable indicators that you've created an immersive experience from the virtual ground up. Are you measuring these key performance indicators over time? If not, you should be.
To increase engagement with a digital audience, and in turn improve engagement metrics important to your enterprise (which tend to vary per industry), it is imperative for you to address the lifecycle of users and identify opportunities where your brand can play a supporting role. And it starts at the very beginning.
5 Barriers to Engaging Web Design
Web pages that have been specifically targeted and skillfully developed and designed should not prevent users from converting, but sometimes they do. To ensure that each page published on your Web property is meeting customers' high standards, avoid the 5 Barriers to Engaging Web Design.
The goal of a digital enterprise should be to create the optimal user experience. Consider for a moment the best product you have ever used. What made it that way? Chances are it wasn't luck; it likely required a fair amount of testing to ensure that it offered an ideal and seamless user experience.
The role of digital product testing and available solutions are covered frequently at Website Magazine (check out the "Master List of Testing Tools" at wsm.co/sitetestinglist). Failure to test websites in general, and more specifically new features, could ultimately result in a poorer overall experience. The smartest and savviest brands know this and leverage solutions to ensure that the experience they create for users is the best one.
Web and mobile application Evernote provides a good example. The company's customer adoption and retention efforts rely heavily on the popular app's user experience across multiple devices, OS versions and platforms. "Our goal is to provide the best user experience possible on every platform, from mobile to desktop to browsers," said VP of Product at Evernote, Philip Constantinou. "It's critical that our product teams are independent, can iterate quickly and can build natively."
In order to understand how customers interact with the service, and to remove any potential stumbling blocks their users encountered, Evernote turned to UserTesting.com to ensure its user-experience teams have the data and insights they need to improve the discoverability of functionality for its users, as well as to deepen engagement.
"In the past, we used beta testing together with forums to gather early feedback, but UserTesting.com gives us highfidelity audio/video feedback much more quickly. Also, UserTesting.com lets us try out experimental versions of our applications, which is something we could not do with traditional beta testers," said Constantinou. "The end result of leveraging UserTesting.com panels for Evernote is improved user retention at a rate of over 15 percent, along with an increase in user engagement."
Most Web professionals will have a difficult time understanding how something as seemingly mundane as keyword research can play a role in engagement, but when you consider just how long the customer lifecycle can be in some instances, it starts to become clear.
Content marketing has been the digital term du jour for some time now, but how to leverage it - particularly as a means to deepen engagement - is still a relative mystery. If that sounds like your marketing team, remember that engagement is about the whole lifecycle of customer relationships, of which can potentially influence the return on investment, but only over time.
Keyword research is clearly important to the success of an SEO campaign, as you need to know what content will attract users. But those prospects aren't static (they don't search the same things repeatedly). They're dynamic and your brand's approach to keyword research, as well as content development strategies should match that.
Bing suggested a rather unique approach to keyword research recently that search engine optimization professionals may seriously want to consider. It suggests supplementing the keyword research you're currently engaged in and enhance it with what it's calling "session-based keyword research" (instead of query-based). While Bing repetitively (if not aggressively) suggested that no keyword tool exists (from any search engine) that enables marketers and advertisers to do this. It doesn't take a visionary to see that Bing is obviously working on something for this implicit purpose.
Bing provided the example of a user who on one day searches for "adopt a dog" and the next day queries "puppy training." This example presents an obvious progression in user behavior. The question is, does your keyword research inform your content marketing in this way? When marketers can expand their vision about the broader and longer experiences of users, they'll be better able to position their products, content and services to users when and how they might want them. The suggestion also has advertising ramifications. Brands that fit quite neatly in a particular category, a pet store for example, might soon see a tool (a Bing Ads keyword tool) that suggests a more comprehensive keyword flow for advertisers to consider advertising upon.
The Most Engaging Advertising‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨‚àÇEver
Thanks to brand's near insatiable appetite for engagement, there is an immense amount of demand for retargeting/remarketing solutions. There are many advertising and technology solutions on the market today capable of driving huge increases in engagement, while resulting in more efficient campaigns for advertisers. Rakuten MediaForge provides one of the best examples. Its dynamically retargeted ads serve as a personalized extension of the shopping experience on a merchant's site for visitors that have had previous interactions with the brand. What makes the ads so appealing is that by their very nature, they're interactive (users can search, scroll product lists, participate in games, watch videos and more). It's a smarter and savvier display ad that's driving engagement and garnering the attention of Internet professionals. See more examples of interactive digital advertising in Website Magazine's "Guide to the Most Engaging Ads‚Äö√Ñ√∂‚àö√ë¬¨‚àÇ Ever," available at wsm.co/engagingads.
Companies, whether they know it or not, give cues to consumers about their viability. Imagine you're in a tavern and you see a good looking person across the room. The cues you pick up there are not unlike the cues consumers use to know whether you're an ideal candidate to serve their needs. Having a website that builds trust provides the digital property (and supporting company) with the ability to improve the visitor's attitude and leave him or her with a level of comfort that its site (and products or services) can indeed be trusted.
There are, of course, numerous ways to position a brand as an "ideal" candidate. While the most important element is to obviously have a professional website designed for an engaging and immersive consumers just won't drive visitors away. The next opportunity, but arguably a more essential one, is to highlight the business's credibility. The best way to do that is to avoid some things and showcase others. Let's call it digital peacocking, emphasizing the brand's expertise and experience, profiling relationships and associations that convey a positive image that consumers associate with ideal candidates.
Trustmarks and Web privacy seals are essentially small images or logos that show a guarantee of sorts by an external party, which indicate to consumers that it is safe to shop and use the site, in general. Some of the more popular trustmarks come from Network solutions, McAfee, Verisign, BBB, TRUSTe, GeoTrust, etc - see
There are likely diminishing returns from trustmarks, particularly in the case when returning visitors far outweigh new visitors. These sites don't need to pass security and privacy tests to confirm reliability or security, because they already have a good reputation. Consider trustmarks for your website only should engagement metrics reveal that trust in products, services or information is low and needs improving. Apart from trustmarks, a clear design, convenient menus, detailed product descriptions and user reviews are also important for creating a better online reputation. Trust plays an important role in a customer's willingness to part with their money. One mistake and you're out. For that reason, making the most of the time consumers spend on (and near) your website is the next law of digital engagement to consider.
MASTER LIST of Retargeting & Remarketing Solutions
Advertisers looking to jump into the retargeting space would be wise to understand the varied and diverse landscape of providers. Some vendors offer email retargeting, some offer search and display retargeting and some just do it all. Which is right for your digital enterprise? Find out with Website Magazine's Master List of Retargeting Solutions for the Modern Digital Business.
If there's one group of Internet professionals that are real believers in digital engagement, it's e-commerce merchants.
In a recent report from Econsultancy and Monetate, more than nine out of 10 marketers agreed that personalization is critical to their brands' success. However, 47 percent of surveyed respondents say IT roadblocks prevent them from improving the user experience on their sites. Website personalization is a pathway to higher revenue streams and long-term customer loyalty, but why aren't more Web workers actively exploring the possibilities? Perhaps it's because there is some confusion about what it all means.
Internet retailers were the first adopters of recommendation technologies, but those e-commerce features alone (which are now quite ubiquitous among popular e-commerce platforms) were only the gateways to the far more personalized digital experience of today. Vendors, including RichRelevance and Strands, have produced solutions that are used by brands across the globe to increase conversions, reduce cart abandonment, increase average order size, improve customer retention and create new occasions to purchase - but more can be done.
These recommendation services were excellent additions for those merchants looking to upsell consumers based on the behaviors of others (for example, Amazon's "People that bought that, also bought this" feature), or clear out their inventory by profiling popular items. But these approaches stopped short of selling directly upon the activities of individual users. For that, merchants needed to turn to personalization solutions that weave into the customer experience. Today, that's most often achieved through remarketing and retargeting users. For example, EmailVision's Campaign Commander offering empowers marketers to reach audiences with messages leveraging customer data across email, search and social channels.
Even with all the advancement in personalization and recommendations based upon user behavior, sometimes what brands really need is a few perks and incentives to keep the engagement flowing.
You might be confident that your prospective and current users are receiving the best experiences and all your existing feedback mechanisms indicate you're the market leader, but it's often necessary to take a few extra steps. Consider implementing technology solutions and marketing practices that will guarantee your brand stays top-of-mind when it matters most - when users are ready to buy.
Today's most competitive enterprises are exploring and leveraging loyalty, incentive and gamification solutions to kick up digital engagement a few additional notches. Make no mistake, without products people actually want to consume, these solutions can prove quite wasteful. But if you're confident your goods are in demand and services are exceptional, programs of this nature are quite a powerful way to keep users coming back.
Information publishers likely have the toughest go when it comes to deploying loyalty and engagement campaigns, but over the past few years gamification has emerged to help keep interested users involved. Publishers need to keep their users in mind when deploying these solutions, understanding which game mechanics in particular can drive users toward the things they already value or educate them on sections of your site that will more fully satisfy their requirements and your own. Essentially, gamification needs to encourage particular pre-defined behaviors.
Users who we want to engage aren't always positioned firmly in front of their desktops, often, they're on the go and if you can get in front of them, the rewards can be immense. Mobile loyalty programs, including those provided by Perka, are the solutions for those that want to bridge the gap and leverage technology in the offline world. Perka, for example, lets its business users create offers and send them directly to their customers' phones. If you're anything like your average modern consumer, it's not hard to see how this practice can be used to increase engagement over and over again.
DON'T MISS: Top 50 Engagement & Loyalty Solutions
Website Magazine featured 50 leading engagement and loyalty solutions in different categories that warrant exploration by Internet professionals.
Most of the queries conducted on popular search engines aren't transaction or navigation focused, but rather information- based. Essentially, users aren't necessarily looking to go to your website (unless they actually enter in your company name into the search box) or buy something immediately from your particular brand, but rather to research products and services so they can make prudent decisions when the time comes. That quest for information however doesn't, and shouldn't stop at the search engines. It's the brand's responsibility to educate their users.
Self-defined guidance and engagement platform WalkMe, for example, enables its customers to guide and engage prospects, customers, employees or partners through any Web experiences, such as the release of a new software feature. WalkMe client PlanetSoho, which boasts more than 1 million users, previously supported clients with service tickets, but turned to WalkMe to create virtual walkthroughs of the service. It's not just service providers that can use the service. Retailers, such as Element Bar, use it to enable users to customize their own health bars with a step-by-step guide.
The information that companies can gather from WalkMe includes how many people started the walkthroughs, how many completed their goals and the number of faulty walkthroughs. But that's not even remotely the most interesting aspect, that honor is given to WalkMe's condition builder. While it's not right for every implementation, the feature enables advanced system users to understand parameters on the page or in an account, and serve up customized prompts that support users' specific needs, presenting information personalized to them.
WalkMe's service can help reduce bounce rates and increase conversions and average revenue per user by directing them to higher value areas. The basic WalkMe package is free (three walkthroughs and used up to 300 times) and the more views, the more expensive the service is.
There's no single approach an enterprise can take to deepen engagement. It's a commitment that you must make to creating positive design experiences, acknowledging just how important consumer perception is, serving users content and displaying advertising that is both appealing and immersive, motivating them when necessary and supporting them throughout the digital lifecycle. Engagement, for the digital enterprise, is a way of life - make yours count.