4 Crucial Capabilities for Consumer Engagement Success

Consumer Engagement
Crucial Capabilities for Consumer Engagement

A battle is raging in the consumer goods and retail world for our hearts, minds, loyalty, clicks and ultimately hard earned cash.  Consumer or customer engagement programs regularly feature in the most strategic programs in consumer goods and retail organisations.

A quick glance at my ‘noise’ email account[i] shows how many companies are participating – but largely failing – in the scramble to grab my attention.  Unfortunately for marketers, the results of their efforts frequently end up gathering digital dust in the world’s collective noise email accounts.  Consumer engagement strategies will not be successful if outbound messages get no more attention than the average pfishing scam.

So how can your marketing messages rise out of the noise?  I believe there are 4 capabilities which will increase your chances of success in engaging consumers.  Together these capabilities will help you understand when and how to engage individual consumers as well as what offers will be most appealing.  Whilst there is no particular order to implement these capabilities, I see the first two capabilities as foundational.  Without these two, efforts in the second two may flounder and fail to deliver the expected returns.

1) Know your consumers

Understanding exactly who you are trying to engage is a fundamental requirement of successful consumer engagement programs.  An email address and some sketchy details about gender, income and previous engagement is no longer enough.  Today, there are fewer excuses for not knowing who consumers are.  Digital transformations increase the amount of data available, and consumers are willing to share data with organisations if they see personal benefit.

However, many organisations are traditionally product-oriented.  Internal processes are focused on internal activities and classifications:  brands, categories, sales or distribution channels.  Legacy processes and systems are implemented along the same divisions, limiting the ability to build a complete picture of consumers.  Consumers have no visibility to internal organisation divisions.  They struggle to understand why their information (and hence experience) is not consistent across the ever-increasing number of channels they interact with brands on.

True consumer knowledge comes from a single view of consumers, integrating data across all channels and points of engagement.

2) Ensure product data is highly accessible

Big data and it’s promised returns has caused many marketers to lose focus on an equally important building block:  The accessibility of high quality product data.

Successful consumer engagement is not possible if the consumer does not know what they are asked to engage with.

The physical world is no longer the only way to research a product or service.  Most purchasing decisions are now aided by online research.  Unfortunately, legacy approaches to distributing product data are often fragmented. Different departments (often using different tools) curate data for the channels or touch points they support.  This inefficiency leads to the publication of inconsistent data, and an inability to provide the expected richness of data on all products across all channels.  Organisations should enable rapid distribution of product data across all consumer touch-points by consolidating and streamlining their product marketing data processes and tools.

3) Understand the consumer

Not to be confused with the first capability of knowing consumers.  I draw a distinct difference between knowing and understanding people.  Much like in the real world, the set of people we understand (i.e. what drives their decisions & responses) is a sub-set of those we know (i.e. who we can recognise in the street).  Engaging people you merely know is not much better than a shot in the dark – you will get a few hits, but you are more likely to miss.  Organisations typically make up for this by increasing the number of targets.  Despite being relatively cheap, this approach contributes to even lower response rates by helping classify all messages from the organisation as spam, noise or simply irrelevant.

Consumer understanding stems from the gathering of data, including brand and product interaction.  This includes interaction both online and off, social networks & influence, previous purchases & product usage.

For complete understanding of consumers, behavioral data should be merged with what is known about individual consumers, and the products they are interacting with.

Examples of understanding include:

  • What does a complete, cross-channel purchase journey look like?
  • How does this vary by shopping purpose?
  • Where are purchasing journeys interrupted, and why?
  • What individual attributes of a product are attracting which customers?
  • Whose product interaction (reviews, videos, blogs) should we be encouraging and promoting?

Marketing contacts can be focused only once you understand individual consumers:  What motivates them, preferences for interaction,  and periods when they are most open to engagement.  Focused and relevant marketing messages will lead to higher success rates.

4) Embrace the responsibility associated with personal data

Increasingly the use of personal data comes with a responsibility to safeguard this data, and respect consent given for the use of this data.  This responsibility could either be legislated or adopted due to calculated brand damage should personal data or consent be compromised.

To build relationships with consumers over an extended period, you must show them that you can be trusted with their personal data.

This implies securing personal data AND respecting individual’s consent for data usage and marketing contact preferences.  If your organisation is not perceived to be trusted with personal data, this vital ingredient for success will be withdrawn – condemning your efforts to failure regardless of investments in technology or people.

Scaling to Enterprise Level

The need for the capabilities described here should not be a surprise to anyone involved in consumer engagement programs.  However, it is surprising how few retailers and consumer goods companies (outside the club of digital natives) have successfully scaled these capabilities to enterprise level.  There are many reasons why success has not been widely achieved[ii] outside pockets of excellence.  Consumers are unlikely to be understanding of these internal challenges, and will flock to the companies and brands that understand them best.

Leaders are already seeing success from deploying one or more of these four consumer engagement capabilities at enterprise level.  Many of these leaders will be gathered at Informatica World in San Francisco from May 15th to 19th 2017 to network, share experiences and successes.  Informatica will also be announcing the winner of the Data Powers Engagement Innovation Award.  I am certain all the finalists will be demonstrating that hurdles can be overcome, and the rewards of enterprise level engagement are well worth the investment.

[i] You know – the one you give away when you think you will be added to a mailing list you don’t care about.

[ii] These include lack of focus on data, poor data quality, inability to scale tools used in smaller implementations, lack of sponsorship from the C-suite, internal political pressure, inability to fund data infrastructure projects.