By Dr. Glenn Omura
Earlier this year I spoke with Manoj Saxena, General Manager of Watson Solutions at IBM, about developing a scale-to-measure customer engagement. We agreed that as businesses look for ways to retain existing customers and attract new ones, the question of what resonates with consumers and makes them loyal customers is increasingly top of mind.
In my research and work as a marketing professor, I’ve seen how organizations have succeeded in marketing to various population segments, and also how they’ve fallen short of their customers’ expectations.
The traditional way of marketing is no longer sufficient, particularly when dealing with a younger, tech-savvy digital consumer – the Millennial. Research shows that Millennials are optimistic, confident and pragmatic, are seeking more personalized attention and engagement. Smart businesses need to make sure they’re meeting those needs. As companies increasingly apply technology to satisfy the daily consumer demand for greater individual productivity and immediacy, they may be giving up relationship-building for the sake of efficiency.
Can companies have both?
At MichiganStateUniversity, we are developing a measure of engagement that we will use to evaluate whether technology can deliver a desired level of engagement and secure the company-customer relationship. Our customer engagement scale measures three dimensions of customer engagement – the degree to which a company/brand energizes or excites a consumer; builds enthusiasm for the brand; and enmeshes, or captures, the attention of the consumer with the brand or company.
With smartphones and tablets never out of arm’s reach, Millennials are leading the trend toward increased digital engagement. It is estimated that there will be more than 10 billion mobile devices by 2016, outpacing the human population. Numbers like these indicate that the digital consumer is here to stay and businesses would be well advised to adapt quickly. Given the demand for immediacy, and the sheer volume of online information, it is crucial to be able to measure customer engagement, pinpoint how and where engagement can be improved, and deliver a better engaged experience.
Whereas “traditional” consumers might see an advertisement on TV or in a magazine and visit a store to seek out information and make an in-person purchase decision, Millennials operate a little differently. They may see an ad on TV, grab their smartphone off the couch next to them, surf the Web for more information and make an on-the-fly online purchase. How can retailers increase their chances that these digital, Millennial consumers will make a purchase and, better yet, become a return customer?
One of the things we’ve seen in our research is a strong correlation between social media and customer engagement. Those who are more engaged with a brand, also interact more about the brand via multiple social media. Millennials are very active online and looking for ways to engage.
Have a question for your brand? You can send a tweet saying exactly what you want in 140 characters — but there’s still a wait time and the response may be limited in context.
Need advice on the best product for your unique needs? You can perform a search, but there’s no one to guide you towards the most evidence-based recommendation, amidst a sea of forums, blogs and online opinions.
Successfully engaging consumers can have multiplicative positive effects in the social net.
Now is the perfect time to discuss new ways of understanding and reaching today’s digital consumers.
The Millennial consumers that marketers seek to engage may be tech savvy, and may have a range of devices at their disposal, but even in the age of all things digital, they could still benefit from an insightful, easy to access guide to ensure their decisions are well-informed and on the trajectory towards optimizing their consumption choices.
In related news, this week IBM unveiled the IBM Watson Engagement Advisor, a technology designed to crunch big data and help brands deepen their engagement with customers who want fast personalized and mobile experiences.