When you walk into your average retail store, you're likely greeted by a sales associate as you walk in, asked if you need help finding anything, and maybe even told about a sale or promotion going on that day.
As a store owner, if your customer engagement ends there, then you're missing out on a big opportunity to build relationships with your buyers and retain them long-term.
So what else is there to customer engagement than a friendly greeting? Read on for the tips you need to build a solid customer engagement strategy.
What is customer engagement?
Customer engagement has to do with the interaction between a business and its customers. In retail, this can include sales associates talking to customers on the sales floor, business owners responding to feedback or complaints, or providing personalized services or deals to loyal customers.
The goal of any customer engagement strategy is to make it so every interaction you and your team have is a positive one. That way, you'll increase customer satisfaction, enhance your in-store experience, and, ultimately, increase sales by earning repeat customers.
Why is engaging with your customers important in retail?
Investing in customer engagement efforts is certainly a lot of work for both you and your sales team, but it's well worth it for more reasons than one.
- Customers will pay more for a better experience: Data from a PwC report found that U.S. consumers are willing to pay up to 16% more for a product or service if the business offers a great customer experience.
- Disengaged customers can cost you: Forbes reported that businesses lose up to $75 billion in revenue due to poor customer service. What's more, 67% of consumers are willing to switch brands because of a poor customer experience.
- Engaging with customers is the best way to learn about them: If you want to learn more about your target audience—what motivates them to buy, any emotional connections they have, or people in their life they shop for—there's no better way to find out then by directly engaging with your current customers.
How to start your first customer engagement strategy
Building better customer relationships starts with a solid customer engagement strategy. These tips will help you turn your average customer into a regular buyer with your brand.
Tip #1: Set a formal business goal around customer engagement
The best way to turn a nice idea into an actionable plan is by tying goals to it. By setting a business goal for your customer engagement, your sales team is far more likely to invest the time and effort into making it happen.
While goals related to sales and customer acquisition are important, dedicating goals to customer relations also goes a long way financially. Data from Bain & Company found that increasing customer retention rates by 5% increases profits by 25%.
Setting specific customer engagement metrics—more on those further down—that make sense for your business and target customer is key.
For example, setting online customer engagement metrics around how many people subscribe to your customer newsletter with links to your site could make sense if you're looking to increase your web traffic.
Or, you may set a goal for a certain number of five-star customer reviews you get in a given month on your channel of choice, such as Google or G2.
Tip #2: Make it personal
Once you have a goal in place, creating personalized experiences for your shoppers should be the first step of your customer engagement plan. It's what today's consumers expect from retailers—and they'll likely spend more than they would have otherwise if they find it at your store.
According to the Business Impact of Personalization study, people are 40% more likely to spend more than planned when they identify the shopping experience to be highly personalized.
Let's say you own a fashion boutique with special occasion dresses. After talking to a customer who comes into your store, you learn she has a daughter who's in high school. A great way to personalize this parent's shopping experience is by letting her know a special deal you have on prom dresses during prom season.
This customer is far more likely to engage with you than she would otherwise because the deal is personalized to exactly what she's likely to purchase.
Tip #3: Engage both in and outside the store
While it's natural to engage with customers when they're in your store, it's easy to forget that customer engagement shouldn't end there. After all, customer retention is all about staying in touch with past customers on their channel of choice to make sure they keep coming back.
What's more, customer feedback often doesn't come to you when you're with a customer face-to-face. Instead, online review platforms and social media channels are where you'll find this insight. That's why online engagement is just as important as in-store interactions.
Utilizing the online channels your target customers are already on is the best place to share relevant content with current and potential customers. For example, if you have a younger customer base, posting on social platforms like Instagram, YouTube, or TikTok is a great way to engage with your audience and earn customer loyalty.
However, online customer engagement isn't the only way to reach your customers when they aren't in your store. Sending an email or text message is a great way to follow up with customers personally—especially if you sweeten the deal with a special offer or discount that's just for them.
You can even send customer surveys via email after a shopper comes into your store to see if your customer service meets shoppers' expectations.
Tip #4: Get the timing right
Next, it's important to get the timing right when engaging or reengaging with customers so you don't communicate too much, or too little. A survey from Emarsys found that a lot of retailers haven't quite figured out how often customers want to hear from them.
The survey found that 61% of retailers surveyed think their customers want to hear from them multiple times a week. However, only 31% of consumers agree with that schedule. Most prefer to be contacted once a week or less.
Paying close attention to the open and unsubscribe/unfollow rates on your emails and other digital channels will help give you an idea if your customer engagement marketing strategy is in line with your customers' expectations.
If a retailer is looking to build their customer base, setting up an email campaign to reach out once at every stage of the customer journey is a good place to start. For example, if a customer visits your website, has an abandoned cart, or makes a purchase are all milestones that could merit an email.
An engaged customer will open the email and take the actions you're hoping they will—whether that's heading to checkout, writing out a customer review, or coming back to your store.
But again, keep an eye on those click through rates and unsubscribes. If you're noticing a lot of customers actively avoiding your content, it's time to slow down.
How do you measure customer engagement?
Once you've got a customer engagement platform or strategy in place, how do you know if it's working?
Below are a few common customer engagement metrics you can use as a measuring stick to see how your team is doing on both your in-store and online customer engagement efforts:
- Conversion rates: How many of your customers completed an action you have tied to your campaign goal, like signing up for an email newsletter?
- Social media metrics: How many of your customers are following you on your social media channel of choice, or better yet, commenting on and sharing your posts with their friends?
- Customer reviews: How many five-star reviews have you received in a given month or quarter?
Launching an effective customer engagement plan can seem like a big undertaking, but it's well worth the effort—especially if you utilize a tool like Clientbook to make it that much easier.
With Clientbook, our software makes it easy to keep track of your key customers, note their product preferences, and even get automated reminders to follow up with a shopper so you can nail your communication cadence.