Digital behavior changed drastically following global cordon sanitaire measures in the past two years. As daily activities take on new precedence in the digital and online realms, users today scour the Internet for alternatives that address their personal needs whilst still adhering to lockdown restrictions.
This caused the fast-growing e-commerce industry to blow up overnight. This popularity is not newfound, as its convenience and relative ease-of-use have made sure both users’ demands, and expectations are addressed for the long term.
Apart from that, instant gratification and the growing always-on-demand virtual landscape also influenced changes in consumer behavior. This then naturally led to expectations for meaningful interactions for users via their preferred channels. Organizations who are prepared with a well-thought customer engagement plan are poised to be ahead of the curve and will experience significant growth during this period.
As demand for contactless interaction exploded, usage for several digital channels for instant messaging, video calls, e-mails, and SMS have also grown rapidly across the world. This “everything-is-within-a-finger’s-tap” sentiment is not only reserved for social conversations as it is now a must-have expectation for all brands.
Despite technology and user interfaces taking center stage, consumers still search for a sense of human connection. This inspired businesses to scramble as they look for ways to capture the essence of a helpful in-person staff member at physical stores and re-produce in an omnichannel deployment approach.
In a 2020 Infobip survey of 6,000 consumers, titled ‘Connect like humans do: Building customer communications that matter’, Infobip discovered that:
- 74% of customers agree that they do not receive personalised communications from brands
- 54% of customers consider impersonalised communications annoying
- A further 47% ignore them altogether
With the focus on getting information out quickly and widely via automation, the importance of providing a personalized human touch will eventually slip. Apart from customer engagement, being user-centric can also be manipulated to drive strong brand building and loyalty amongst customers. The same study also revealed:
- 20% of customers switched brands because of the quality of communications
- 30% have increased brand loyalty throughout the lockdown
- 35% are now keen to engage with brands on various digital channels
This strengthens the theory that tailored messages, coupled with customer eagerness for interaction, can increase brand loyalty.
One Size Does Not Fit All
Despite having remarkable growth over customer interest in interaction with brands, its high-quality delivery is still being addressed. One customer is unlike the other, hence each interaction should be treated as unique and with equal attention. The ability to identify a customer’s preferred channel, then subsequently match and align it with the customer’s wants and needs, is now a critical need. Other insights that Infobip also unveiled include:
- 31% of customers stated their increased likeliness to engage with brands that understood their expectations when purchasing goods and/or services
- 32% said receiving communications that match their personal interests and preferences would also result in a similar sentiment
This highlights the importance of having the means to identify the proper and preferred channels and develop an official presence for effective and on-demand engagement with customers.
On the opposite side of the spectrum, brands must also be wary of excess and over-communication. The 2020 research paper also highlighted the following critical findings:
- 31% of customers would be put off following constant contact by a brand
- 49% would like relevant messages on a weekly basis
- 32% want messages related to their personal interests
- 34% do not appreciate sales-focused messages sent to smart home devices
A brand must juggle and find a balance between sending the right message, specifically at the right time and on the right channel, with the aim of establishing a successful, long-lasting transactional relationship with the customer. They must also pinpoint demographical personalities and preferences to identify customer wants and things to avoid. Here are some examples to consider:
- 53% of Generation X (aged 45 to 54) and 35% of Generation Z (aged 18-24) customers prefer social media
- 49% of Generation Y customers (aged 25-34) and 71% of Xennials (aged 35-44) opt for chat apps
- Baby Boomers (aged 55 and above) held a strong preference for in-app messaging
An omnichannel and tailored approach is evidently the keys to maintaining a customer-centric experience and driving up businesses’ bottom-lines. Therefore, a business cannot assume any one of their means of communication applies to all customers and must be flexible enough to ‘cast a bigger net’ by utilizing various platforms to engage their wide and still-growing audience profiles.
The Future for Brands in this Digital Era
Although contact via e-mail had arguably the most widespread use, often it does not guarantee a brand’s successful interactions. By understanding customers, and actively reacting to their interactions, brands are more than likely to see better results in the long term.
The future of customer engagement will be led by those who have digitalization in mind, progressing towards a virtual support ecosystem. With several new demands being commonplace, such as an always-on approach — a concept where consumers now expect to engage with a business anytime and anywhere — can prove a challenge to any growing or adapting business.
Given the fast track of internet penetration and availability of digital services, having an omnichannel approach to customer engagement is no longer a ’nice to have. It is, instead, a must-have in today’s business arena.
To put it simply, behind the screen of a smartphone or a desktop, is just another human being who wants to be properly treated as an individual.