Businesses are navigating an increasingly complex world. Consumers are more aware of their data privacy rights, and the Covid-19 pandemic has accelerated behavioral shifts that are here to stay. And in an increasingly internet-first world where information travels fast, any missteps can cause heavy damage to businesses. In this challenging and evolving business environment, it helps to know the key drivers of customer engagement.
What are some factors that will affect engagement rates going forward? What are some areas where enterprises should invest more in the coming months (and years)? Let’s take a look.
First-Party Data and a Cookieless World
Over the last decade or so, increased adoption of internet technologies, coupled with the proliferation of social channels, has meant that companies now have access to more customer data than ever before. So far, marketers have used third-party data (data gleaned from third-party sites with the help of cookies) to target consumers with relevant messaging.
However, things are changing. Consumers are increasingly more concerned about data privacy and how their data is being used. Consequently, governments have stepped in and tightened data privacy regulations. Further regulations are expected in the near future, with experts predicting a phasing out of third-party cookies.
To counter this changing data privacy landscape, high-growth brands are pivoting toward first-party data to deliver relevant marketing experiences to customers. First-party data, when used correctly, can reinstate consumer confidence, which is going to be critical for engagement and growth. But how do enterprises use data “correctly”? This brings us to the second point: making data experiences more customer-centric.
Customer-First Data Strategies
How do enterprises balance data privacy and an increasing need to deliver personalized experiences? The answer: building trust and delivering value. Consumers are not completely averse to sharing information for personalized experiences. In fact, a vast majority of internet users expect companies to deliver personalized experiences. Likewise, companies with high growth rates derive a substantial amount of their revenue from delivering personalized experiences to customers.
How do you build trust? Be transparent about how the first-party data will be used. Convince the customer on the benefits of parting with their personal information. How do you convince them? Loyalty programs, immediate tangible benefits and gamification are some paths worth exploring. The idea is to cultivate unique data insights by building complete customer profiles. And then using those unique insights to deliver hyper-personalized, contextual content for high engagement.
The world went digital almost overnight. People across demographics were forced to go online for the basics. Remote work became the norm as did telemedicine. As the world recovers from the pandemic, customers will want their choice back. Younger people (18-25) are preferring newer mediums for their purchases and engagement — Instagram, voice-assisted purchase journeys and virtual reality environments. The metaverse is a confirmation of that trend. At the same time, there are people who still prefer in-store shopping. A 50-year-old with an insurance policy, for example, will likely still be more comfortable talking to a customer service executive than with a self-help chatbot.
Brands will need to deliver hybrid experiences to offer choice to consumers. A lot of brands are planning to invest more into hybrid experiences. They are doing it for deeper customer relationships, innovation for differentiation and more inclusivity. Building more inclusive ecosystems is, in fact, one of the primary benefits of building hybrid experiences. A vast majority of websites are inaccessible to people with visual and cognitive impairments. When brands deliver additional experiences such as voice assistants, they can deliver more value to the end user.
AI-Enabled Customer Service
Customer experience impacts customer engagement. And customer service experience is one of the focal areas that can define the kind of customer experience a brand delivers. Artificial intelligence is rapidly changing how customer service is delivered. Brands are automating customer service with the help of AI. AI-enabled self-help chatbots can resolve common customer queries. Calls can automatically be routed to the most relevant agent for quick query resolution. Data is also being used for predictive maintenance in manufacturing, thereby reducing the volume of incoming customer support requests.
There are several ways brands can leverage artificial intelligence in customer service to deliver a smooth customer experience. When done consistently, it boosts trust, which ups the chances of customer engagement.
‘Data’ Is the Keyword Here
Hyper-personalization through first-party data. Hybrid experiences to meet customers’ expectations. Artificial intelligence in customer service. All of these rely on data to deliver cohesive brand experiences. And the end goal of delivering these experiences is to encourage customer engagement. So the answer to the question of what will drive customer engagement in the post-Covid world is data-driven ecosystems built with the consent of consumers that are transparent and deliver real value to end users.