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Engaging Interaction with Your Customers
By Julia Tsai, Associate Editor, Internet Journal

On the last day of SES 2013 in San Francisco, I attended two interesting sessions, both touched upon some fundamental principles rather than the latest technologies and buzz. One is about how to effectively communicate and engage with your customers. The other is about how to sift through mountains of data to find relevant and actionable insights.

In this article, I will talk about "Engagement Through Email Marketing" by Sundeep Kapur, Digital Evangelist at NCR. The main takeaway is that you should take a step back and think about how your customers would want to interact with you first rather than just mindlessly use tools and technologies. If you interact with your customers with thoughtless and irrelevant contents, technology will only alienate more of your customers much faster.

The three fundamental principles to engage customers are:

    1. Know your customers' preferences
    2. Send relevant and personalized messages
    3. Capitalize on recency

The best way to start is by asking the following questions:

    How well do you know your customer?
    How do you capitalize on their preferences?
    How do you communicate with them with empathy?

Do you know your customers' preferences?
Here is a good summary of what is important to a business and to a consumer:
Important to a Business:

    Identify audience
    Capture preferences
    Start dialogue
    Grow network

Important to a Consumer

    Get an answer
    Relevant conversations
    Ease of use

Here are a couple of surveys on consumer preference that offers actionable insights:
What do multi-channel shoppers want?

– Quick recognition (73%)
– Discounts or "insider" rates (65%)
– Resolve service issues quickly (44%)
– Two clicks to find information (35%)
– Privacy and security of data (28%)

Quick recognition is analogous to a neighborhood store where the owner greets the customer by their first name and converse on something relevant and personal to the customer. Make the customer feel that she is special, that she is getting a deal because she is a loyal customer, and that if there is any problem with the items purchase she is confident that the owner will take care of it. In short, that personal human touch.

Do consumers look at their smart phone?
– 54% of consumers look for real time offers
– 49% compare prices
– 38% of consumers check their email
– 63% interact on social media–
– 12% remember to go back to an offer

This survey result indicates that if you offer consumers products that are of interest to them at the right time at the right place, they do take actions on their smart phones.

Send Personalized Messages
How to be personal and relevant? Personalization can be based on user's demographics, preferences, browsing history, and purchasing history. Here are a few concepts you can use:

    Show them you know them by recognizing a past message or action.
    Turn receipts into valuable information and transactional acknowledgements into meaningful customer interaction.
    Let the consumer choose between offers, they feel empowered
    Use empathy – speak a real language

Case Study: Savvy retailer – If you remember what people want, you will get them to act. Human beings act in a predictable way.
Here is a simple example of relevance and timing:

A couple announced their wedding date on their Facebook page. The retailer "liked" their page and got the message through its newsfeed. After the wedding, the retailer sends an email "Didn't get everything you wanted for your wedding?" and shows pictures of china set, coffee maker, and throw pillows.
The couple bought the china set because they didn't get it as a wedding gift.
A few months later, the retailer sent another notice: "Save 25% while supplies last!" "Dear Bill and Lisa, There's still time to add or replace pieces from your china pattern before they are discontinued. Visit www.store.com or print this email and present to a store associate to receive 25% off while supplies last!"
The couple ordered additional pieces and were grateful that the retailer reminded them that the china will be discontinued.
Capitalize on Recency
Studies show that if you just talked with a customer on the phone, and said that you would send her an email, the open rate is highest if you send it out after 3 minutes. If it is sent too soon, the open rate is actually lower. The reason is that people perceive that it must be done by machine and is not authentic. However, if it is sent 30 minutes later, the open rate is markedly lower. This is understandable because people's attention span is short and they are likely to move on to do other things.

Deliver in near real time

    3 minutes – 98.5% open rates
    10 minutes – 96% open rates
    30 minutes – 87% open rates

Move from random acts of messaging to communicating across all communication channels.
In the case of a bank, communication channels include

    branch office
    call center

To converse and communicate thoughtfully with customers, messages need to be personal, relevant, and consistent across all these channels to make the customers feel that they are interacting with caring human beings rather than machines and robots.

About The Author
Julia Tsai is the Associate Editor of the
Internet Journal http://www.intnetjournal.com. Internet Journal provides the insights and analysis on Internet marketing, eCommerce, mobile communications, eSecurity, and global e-Business. If you have any comments about Internet Journal, please send email to julia@intnetjournal.com.


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