Digital Marketing
6 min

Retail in 2021: How to Drive Customer Engagement in a Channel-Less World

Elisha Hahm Senior Content Strategist

Today’s customers don’t care about channels: they care about having a consistent experience across every touchpoint and interaction with your brand. And they expect an integrated, frictionless, channel-less path that enables them to shop when, where, and how they please.

In fact, 87% of consumers find it frustrating when needing to engage in multiple channels and having to repeat themselves in every new channel, according to a recent Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) Council report.

To stay agile and relevant in 2021, retail and ecommerce brands must stop viewing their channels in silos, but rather think about how they’re working together to help you better understand and respond to customers’ needs. In other words, you need to focus on bringing information from all your different teams and channels to close the customer experience gap and drive a seamless brand experience across the customer journey.

What does a channel-less digital customer experience look like?

Unlike an omnichannel marketing strategy, which takes the blanket approach of being present on every possible channel and touchpoint, the channel-less strategy is all about designing a seamless experience that meets customers where they are and focuses on delivering consistent brand interactions irrespective of the channel.

Your customers should be able to engage with you along any part of their journey, during any point in time, and from any device—without hindrance or limitations. Giving customers options and convenience not only improves customer satisfaction, it also drives brand loyalty and customer lifetime value (LTV): key factors for reaching sustainable growth in the long-term.

Top customer engagement strategies for 2021

Here are some of the ways brands can deepen their customer relationships and drive engagement through a channel-less approach to CX:

Humanize your brand

Traditionally, marketers considered demographics such as gender, age, and location as key inputs while segmenting audiences and crafting relevant messages. But demographics are only a “best guess” at meeting people’s needs and spurring action.

On the contrary, by speaking directly to what people care about and value, marketers can inform their entire organization of a more meaningful way to address customers’ changing needs.

Remember, people don’t see your channels, they see your brand. Invest in learning and understanding what truly resonates with your audience: ask questions, initiate conversations, and engage with your audience on a human level. The fact is that 64% of consumers want brands to connect with them, so the more connected a customer feels to a brand, the more likely they are to be loyal to that brand and recommend it to others.

Lean on customer participation

Customer engagement is quickly becoming a two-way street, with more and more consumers participating with brands as ambassadors, influencers, collaborators, and innovators. One way marketers can differentiate themselves from the competition is by crafting an engagement strategy that leans on facilitating audience participation.

Consumers are more likely to trust fellow consumers than they are to trust brands, with 51% of them being more likely to trust user images of a product because they’re more authentic and trustworthy than brand-owned creative. As every retailer knows, in order to earn customer loyalty, you must first earn their trust—which is why user-generated content (UGC) has become one of the most popular retail marketing trends in recent years. 

UGC is exactly what it sounds like: content promoting a brand that is created by an external contributor rather than the brand itself. UGC can come in a wide variety of formats, from text and audio to images and videos, and it offers a wide range of benefits:

  • Takes advantage of content curation: builds brand awareness, establishes brand credibility, and streamlines the lead nurturing process
  • Leverages social channels in clever and innovative ways to boost social media reach and growth
  • Generates audience insights to help you better understand your customers and what they find engaging
  • Humanizes the brand experience by building a layer of trust and transparency with consumers

Engagement is a two-way street and now marketers have more opportunities than ever to invite their customers to participate in—and bring life to—their strategy, products, and services. 

Deliver curated, personalized customer experiences

In today’s digital age, retailers have access to a wealth of customer data. But in order to unlock the full potential of your customer insights, you need to ensure your data is fully integrated and unified: speaking to each other and speaking the same language. Automation is key to understanding your customer landscape and delivering hyper-personalized experiences across all channels.

Over the past few years, Google has stepped up its efforts in this arena by offering automated solutions—from smart bidding tools to responsive ads—to help marketers avoid manual work and focus on high-level.

For instance, Smart Bidding gives marketers more flexible performance controls, allowing you to set device-specific performance targets and quickly move budget based on real-time changes in consumer behavior and growth opportunities. Smart Shopping uses machine learning to not only reduce the amount of man hours needed to optimize campaigns, it also enables brands to maximize conversion value and expand reach quickly and strategically.

Your engagement strategy requires a holistic digital customer experience

When you really come down to it, customer engagement is all about enhancing the overall customer experience, whether that’s by providing seamless experiences, anticipating your customers’ needs, leveraging those insights to adapt quickly, or all of the above.

For the first time, the tools to successfully execute agile, flexible, and fluid marketing are readily available to organizations. Now, it’s upon marketers to articulate a vision that brings these tools to life to create authentic, meaningful relationships with your customers—and ultimately unlock the full customer experience in both digital channels and for your brand as a whole. 

Learn more about how to expand customer insights to elevate the brand experience by downloading, New Customers for a New Year: How Retailers Can Cultivate Rapid Loyalty while Building an Agile Brand.

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