7 Smart Strategies for Engaging with Customers Online
The best ways to engage customers online for ecommerce and retail in 2023. Read our strategies on how to engage with customers online with pros and cons.
We often talk about how building trust with customers is the gold standard for earning loyalty and increasing conversions for any brand. But the road to earning that customer loyalty is a long and steady one, bolstered by having the right strategies in place.
Meaningfully engaging customers online–consistently–is part of a successful ecommerce sales plan. Having clear ecommerce goals and a customer engagement strategy in place is a strong position for ecommerce brands looking to become, or continue to be, leaders in customer experience (CX) in their industry. Before we take a closer look at the top 7 ways brands can engage customers online in 2023, let’s cover what we mean by an overall “customer engagement strategy” and why every brand should have one.
A customer engagement strategy is exactly what it sounds like, an official written strategy that acts as a roadmap for how a brand will meaningfully engage with customers online. It should be part of an overall digital marketing plan or similar strategic document. The strategy is driven by a brand’s customer experience goals and should include activities before and after the sale, plus have benchmarks and measurable outcomes. Only by having a formal strategy in place with the right KPIs can a brand measure its success. (A friendly reminder.)
One of the biggest benefits is what we just touched on – measuring success. Aside from that, there are several other benefits, including:
Establishing accountability. Knowing who is responsible for customer engagement and setting standards helps to keep the team accountable for their actions. This helps to secure a rock-solid CX plan with everyone on board–whether they work in sales, marketing or digital strategy directly.
Better brand fluidity across all customer touchpoints. Building on the last benefit, having a clear strategy in place for online customer engagement that everyone feels accountable for helps ensure all the messaging and interactions are on-brand, at every customer touchpoint. This helps to build a strong brand to which customers will feel more loyal. After all, it’s awkward for customers to have confusing or disappointing interactions with a brand that they thought they understood.
Building trust. When a customer knows what to expect from a brand in both level of customer service and quality of product, plus during other interactions (i.e. commenting on a social media post) they start to trust that brand. When customers trust a brand they feel more comfortable interacting and purchasing from that ecommerce retailer.
Improved customer relationships. Customers should feel good about the nature of interactions that they have with an online brand. The goal here is for the company to always be in good standing with the customer, whether they’ve needed to make an exchange, return, or had another problem to solve. Having a customer engagement strategy in place guides all interactions and improves, overall, the relationships a brand has with its customers.
Increased customer satisfaction. When a brand feels unapproachable sometimes customers won’t even bother to come to a customer service rep with their problem. And we all know that customer recovery is impossible when no one knew there was an issue to solve in the first place. Developing effective customer engagement through a strong strategy ensures that customers feel comfortable interacting with the brand, whether that’s asking a product question or initiating a return.
Improving competitive edge. We all know that when a customer feels slighted by a brand or ignored, they probably will just go somewhere else next time. Executing and maintaining an excellent customer engagement strategy ensures a much better chance of retaining customers, and, when a brand gets known for having a stellar CX they attract more customers who are shopping around. (On a side note, brands who adopt new and cutting-edge technology to step up their customer experience game become industry leaders!)
Increased conversions/revenue. All of these benefits combined lead to one thing: higher conversion rates. Which means more revenue. Of course, when a brand builds that trust and earns loyalty, increases customer satisfaction and establishes itself as highly competitive they are going to see an increase in sales. That’s the dream!
All the benefits outlined above are super valuable. Once an ecommerce brand has its customer engagement strategy in place, it's time to develop and execute the tactics that are going to help reap those benefits. We’ve rounded up 7 specific strategies for effectively engaging with customers online, including customer engagement examples to inspire the creation of your own consumer engagement strategy.
Offering interactive video immediately helps brands humanize the online shopping experience. Through tools like one-to-one live shopping and one-to-many live streaming events, for example, customers are spending time online with a real person. In the one-to-many setting, they may be watching a product launch or demo and are able to ask questions in real-time. In the one-to-one setting, also called video co-shopping, they are interacting with a live associate who is helping them through the sales journey.
There's also an opportunity to take a content marketing approach to interactive video; leveraging associates or staff members to produce video content (ideally shoppable video) as a strategy for engaging customers and encouraging them to spend more time on your site, and less time on a social media platform consuming similar content.
Bringing video to ecommerce personalizes the online retail experience on a whole new level. Connecting with customers online through interactive video is a cutting-edge way for brands to improve CX and their overall customer engagement strategy, by getting to know the customers in a more meaningful way, therefore staying ahead of the competition.
Pros: More personalized customer service, humanizing online shopping, better purchase decisions, higher conversions, higher AOV, lower rate of returns
Cons: Cost of setup, training required
A tried and true strategy for retaining shoppers, loyalty programs reward customers online who continually make purchases. It’s a no-brainer that ecommerce businesses that sell consumable products (something that needs to be continually repurchased) should set up a loyalty program. These programs are part of an overall customer retention strategy, help build brand loyalty and foster ongoing relationships with customers–all goals that would be outlined in an effective customer engagement strategy.
Pros: Earns repeat business, builds customer loyalty, customer retention
Cons: Isn’t super personalized
Personalized product recommendations based on other retail purchases on ecommerce websites are a great example of effective cross-selling, but it is also a smart way to engage with customers online. Sometimes the customer is unaware there may be a complementary item to what’s already in the cart or past purchase, or oftentimes the recommendation is just so spot-on that they feel like the brand is really getting to know their unique tastes. Either way, it helps build that trust that is the ultimate goal.
Pros: Makes customers feel understood, builds brand loyalty, increases AOV
Cons: Can feel pushy if not done thoughtfully, sometimes comes off as sales-y, and personalization is based on at scale predictions, not individual preferences
There are a number of ways to incorporate promotions into a customer engagement strategy. What’s important for brands to remember is to stay true to the brand and serve customers well by creating authentic promotions that build loyalty. Whether that’s running a traditional timed sale but with a twist, or offering a discount on a customer’s birthday, it needs to feel genuine.
Pros: Increases AOV, stay top-of-mind for customers, increases brand loyalty
Cons: Can feel too sales-y, can feel not genuine or on-brand if not designed properly
Social media is a two-way street, so brands must engage with their audiences in meaningful ways in order to build that sought-after trust. In order to engage with customers online through social media, brands should consider a content strategy like educational resources, behind-the-scenes experiences, product demos, or Q&A sessions.
Pros: A place to engage with customers away from the brand website, a place to establish an open dialogue, a place for customer support, customer-generated content act as testimonials
Cons: Not owning the audience, a black box of data, low conversion rates, the brand is at the mercy of the platform for which features are in and out
To truly engage with customers online in a meaningful way, ecommerce brands need to have the best customer support tools out there. It’s great getting people to a website, but additional, intuitive support from that point on is needed in order to help customers hit the checkout. For ecommerce businesses to increase AOV they must look at how helpful they are in guiding customers to make purchases. Certain indicators like conversion rate and cart abandonment, along with AOV, can give a clearer picture of where online shoppers are dropping off. Businesses looking to improve customer support may consider tools like live chatbots, live video co-shopping, better help or FAQ pages, and contact phone numbers or emails.
Keep in mind customer support isn’t exclusively about interacting with a support channel. It can also be just providing more information–user-generated content, videos, product comparisons, buying guides, and more can all be useful tools in supporting customers. It's also critical to not think of customer feedback as a series of one-off scenarios to be handled. Instead, regular reviews of customer data should be looked at to identify problem areas that may be keeping your existing customer base from converting into a more loyal customer base.
Pros: Builds trust, a better quality of customer relationships, increases conversions, increases AOV, gives the opportunity to directly interact with customers
Cons: Some tools may be costly to set up, training
This one comes down to authenticity and beliefs. To start, the brand should ensure that its mission, vision and story are clearly communicated on the website. A brand has many touchpoints with its customers and it’s super important to deliver on your brand promise at every one of these touchpoints. Without being authentic during every interaction, there’s no real way to build trust with customers.
Statistics are showing that because of factors like job loss, inflation and an impending recession, consumers are going to have less money to spend on online shopping. This means that they’ll be researching more, and putting time into their purchases. Making sure they support businesses with which their own priorities align will take more space than it used to (i.e. sustainability, inclusion, diversity, etc). So brands will need to be more mindful of how they communicate their beliefs to customers on a day-to-day basis.
Remember these interactions go beyond the website or the sale. A brand’s beliefs should be part of every decision that they make, every email strategy or content strategy you deploy, and even any investment or sponsorship made —your engaged customers are watching. In our recent guide to ecommerce trends in 2023 we talk about how beliefs matter. There we outline the signs a brand’s values and actions are just as important as its products.
Pros: reaffirms brand vision and beliefs, earns trust, a better quality of customer relationships, builds customer loyalty, earns respect from the broader public
Cons: If brands aren’t able to tangibly back up their brand promise, potential customer backlash
With the many new ways to engage customers online in 2023 and beyond, it’s important for retailers to consider new technology. Of course, brands should first review their needs and use cases before taking on a new piece of marketing tech, including the comfort level of different types of technology for your target audience. A brand that primarily caters to seniors for example, probably doesn't need to worry too much about user engagement and generating brand awareness in the metaverse.
Depending on the level of customer support a brand needs or wants to offer and if this tech will support their overall goals, adopting a new way to engage customers online can make all the difference in earning repeat customers and staying competitive. For brands looking to become leaders in CX in their industry, it’s particularly important to stay current on what customers are looking for and what’s possible through new tools.
With a live video co-shopping tool like GhostRetail, any new customer or existing customer can jump on a call with a live shopping associate when browsing a retailer’s website. While they wait to get connected, shoppers can browse the entire brand website, maximizing user engagement. Once a live shopping associate is available, the associate / customer interaction journey begins: They can co-shop together, answering any specific questions a customer has. Live shopping associates can zap products over to a customer, including the specific variants they may want, and even add them to the cart.
GhostRetail is a great fit for brands looking to bring an in-store experience to their ecommerce customer journey, retailers of any size with an existing, rich ecommerce experience, and customer-focused merchants looking to provide the best possible CX. If your brand is considering offering live video co-shopping for your customers connect with the GhostRetail team today and we'll show you what it’s all about.