5 Customer Engagement Trends – 2021
Updated: Apr 8
By Raviteja Dodda: Forbes Councils Member
Photo by Andras Vas on Unsplash
In many ways, our world may be changed forever by the events of 2020. Yet for marketers, the mission has remained largely the same: to provide a seamless customer experience across every digital channel. It’s true that this mission got trickier in 2020. But even before the pandemic transformed how consumers shop, travel, work, learn and interact with their favourite brands, marketers were figuring out how to use technology to offer the right content at the optimal time. The major difference they faced in 2020 was that the stakes were higher than ever.
As we enter a new year full of more adaptation and possibility, marketers would be wise to consider how consumption habits fit into the longer-term evolution of customer engagement. Many of these new consumer behaviours driven by the pandemic have now been around long enough to be considered permanent.
Drawing on my experience as co-founder and CEO of a company that built a customer engagement platform, I've identified five consumer engagement trends that emerged in 2020 that I think will stay with us well into 2021. Some are driven by consumer behaviours that came into play, while others are the result of technological innovations and new capabilities in the marketing and customer engagement sectors.
1. Insight-led customer engagement strategies are changing marketing campaigns.
This is an example of a trend driven by new advances in technologies, such as AI, personalization and unified customer data. Many marketing technology platforms offer campaign management or analytics, but they do not offer intelligent insights about your consumers for marketers to act on. Until recently, the marketer’s plan of engagement has been "plan, execute, analyse, course-correct. "Thanks to technological advancements, many marketers have flipped the order of operations to "analyse, plan, execute, measure, course-correct."
The insights provided by customer engagement platforms can inform you of critical moments in the journey. For example, which of your customers are at risk of churn? Are you sending too few messages or too many? Use these insights to build a strategy that removes much of the trial and error of marketing campaigns and helps to quickly weed out what’s working and what’s not. According to Gartner, 85% of marketing executives surveyed said that "by 2022, 'significantly more' of their organization’s marketing decisions will be based on marketing analytics."
2. Artificial intelligence is enabling more human-centric marketing.
In the early days of AI, marketers struggled to connect the dots between customer engagement channels and content. Marketers had the tools to collect relevant information on consumer behaviour but had to figure out what to do with the information. Now, marketers have access to advanced tools that enable them to move at the speed of the customer and deliver relevant, timely content in real time across every channel. When used properly, AI can make marketers more effective, minimize efforts to analyse data and automatically suggest the right tactics for the next step in the customer journey.
As AI technology becomes more mature, expect to see even more customer-facing marketing automation capabilities. Microsoft reports that by 2025, up to 95% of customer interactions will be through AI-powered channels.
3. Digital transformation is now a means of survival.
A recent survey by McKinsey & Company revealed that the pandemic has forced many companies to accelerate digital transformation initiatives by several years. Today, digital transformation is not just a competitive advantage — it’s a lifeline between the brand and the customer. Brands that have not made enough progress on their digital channels could be missing out on significant revenue opportunities. This is true across many industries, from retail to healthcare to consumer financial services.
4. Personalization is a make-or-break requirement.
Much like digital transformation, personalization was once considered a “nice to have” that helped brands differentiate themselves. The pandemic has escalated the urgency for personalisation in marketing. Consumers often expect brands to go the extra mile and anticipate their needs based on their last interaction.
Additionally, we saw in 2020 the impact on consumer confidence, driven by economic uncertainty and multiple waves of lockdown restrictions around the world. Personalization will likely become a vital investment as the economy recovers and consumers feel safe to start spending again. As the Boston Consulting Group points out, “In this environment, brands that can personalize their approach to where and how they engage customers and invest in paid media selectively will win a disproportionate share of sales in the rebound.”
5. Multichannel and omnichannel are even more critical.
With the in-store and in-person experience still uncertain in many regions, marketers will likely continue to lean on digital channels to reach consumers where they are. However, executing a successful multichannel strategy doesn’t mean distributing a campaign via every medium possible. Instead, think of your multichannel strategy as moment based. I believe this style of customer engagement is the future of marketing. Today’s consumers demand a consistent, personalized experience across channels, with content presented in context.
It’s critical to identify the moments that make up your customers’ journey so you can best plan the right engagement strategy for them. For example, what channel are your customers engaging on most often? What type of products are they viewing, or what type of content are they consuming? Are they dropping off, or are they returning visitors looking for more information? This will help you understand their preferences and behaviours so you can tailor your strategy to them.
Broadly, 2020 ignited the growing trend of a customer-centric culture. It’s no longer enough to offer your customer the best deals on the items they want. Customer expectations have evolved far beyond such tactics. To win their business and keep them coming back, be more strategic, and leverage technology to connect every corner of your business to the consumer. Demonstrate to customers that you understand their unique needs and find new ways to show them that they come first. It comes down to paying attention to the consumer, analysing the data and developing a comprehensive strategy based on those insights.
*Raviteja Dodda is the co-founder and CEO of MoEngage, an insights-led customer engagement platform.
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