customer engagement: expectation vs reality

By Scott Logie, Chair of the DMA Customer Engagement Committee and MD, Insight at REaD Group

The DMA recently published its findings from their research into marketer’s attitudes towards customer engagement (and how this compares to the perceptions of consumers). It has been fascinating to see where opinions differ in relation to brand’s engagement strategies and what genuinely engages consumers. A classic case of expectation vs reality.

From the consumer side, we have been conducting surveys since 2016 to discover how they feel about the attempts of brands to engage them, encourage them to purchase and entice them to come back!

The research reveals that marketers may be mistakenly over-valuing certain channels for engagement, such as social media, and overlooking more conventional channels that customers prefer. Additionally, while offers and price are still important, too much focus is placed on them when there are even more effective methods for gaining customer loyalty and attention.

Email and social media dominate customer engagement: 68% of marketers use email for customer engagement and 62% use social. Only 30% use post and only 17% use messenger apps.

As a prime example – supermarkets are beginning to discuss reducing the variety and selection of products available on shelves, and we are approaching a stage where technology might soon be making these decisions! However, consumers explicitly highlight ‘choice’ as being integral to their custom.

On the other hand, brands seem to be focusing their efforts on concepts such as portraying a ‘cool’ image and supporting personal development…which consumers aren’t overly fussed about. Unsurprisingly what customers are really looking for is functionality, whether that be for the product or the service being provided.

We also asked marketers which brands they believe have winning customer engagement strategies. Who came out on top? You guessed it – the omnipresent, inescapable Amazon! Nevertheless, brands seem to be underestimating the effect that the brand has had on consumers and the level of expectation it has created.

The Amazon effect is more pronounced than expected: 10% of marketers chose Amazon as the most engaging brand of the last 12 months, but the ecommerce company was selected by 14% of consumers. M&S, John Lewis and Sainsbury’s (all 4%) also fared well among consumers.

When considering acquisition and retention campaigns we addressed the key differences between them and how consumers and marketers might consider them to be successful. Once again, marketing communications seem to be mainly focused on brand awareness, whereas customers really want more and clearer information.

Engage your customers well and they will be loyal. However, those returning customers will then want to be rewarded, and this research has flagged that there are still a surprising number of brands ignoring loyalty programmes and the opportunity for additional engagement they provide.

Loyalty programmes are not universally offered: Just 49% of organisations currently offer loyalty programmes, despite 70% of marketers feeling customers enjoy and value rewards offered by such schemes. Again, consumers want more than points and discounts to feel they truly valued.

All in all, the survey provides some great insights into the current state of customer engagement and the challenges brands face to close this gap between their perception of what their customers want and what they actually want. While there is nothing wrong with making eye-catching communications, brands must not lose sight of the bigger picture and should asses their efforts today and strive for greater engagement tomorrow!

DMA members can read the full report here

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