In my opinion: improving retail customer engagement requires a mobile mindshift, says MoEngage

By Mike Barclay, senior director of European operations for MoEngage, an insights-driven customer engagement platform

Barclay: mobile shift required

To succeed at digital customer engagement, brand marketers must shift their approach to mobile. When done thoughtfully and strategically, mobile marketing has the power to connect with customers or potential customers via their smartphones with highly personalised, time- and location-sensitive information. Personalised messages empower customers with information that helps them get what they need, exactly when they need it, even when they’re on the go. 

It’s not enough to simply optimise your e-commerce website or create a branded mobile app for shoppers. The modern smartphone is more than a single channel; it’s the portal to all of the various ways consumers engage with brands. Email, in-app push notifications, SMS messaging, social media marketing–all of these and more reside on your customer’s phone. Smartphone users are savvy and flip between different content channels constantly, every single day. The winners will be those brand marketers who can unify the experience across all channels whilst remembering how the content is consumed – on a smartphone. When you think from the perspective of the available real estate of a smartphone vs. a desktop computer or a TV screen, you will think differently about everything.  

Come together

A unified, consistent customer experience can make or break a brand. More than the price or quality of goods, customer experience is emerging as a leading factor in brand loyalty. A May 2020 survey revealed that 54% of UK consumers would change from a favoured brand or retailer to a competitor if the overall digital experience did not meet their expectations. But with more engagement channels coming online constantly, the ability to provide a unified customer experience becomes even more complex. At the core, this mindshift in mobile marketing is about how every experience is consumed in the same place. That’s why it’s essential for a brand’s customer-facing website, branded mobile app, email campaigns, SMS/text messaging, and a whole host of social media properties to have this front of mind. It’s a mistake to think, “This is what we do for mobile.” Instead, the thought process should be, “Customers will consume content for all of these channels via mobile.” 

It’s about recognising that mobile is the delivery mechanism for your brand’s entire customer engagement strategy. How many times have you struggled to fill a form, input a card number, read a product’s details on your phone? Those seemingly minor details are the same ones that can send a customer to a competitor’s website if overlooked.

The right message, channel, and time

Which channels should marketers prioritise, and when? That depends on several factors, starting with the customer’s location and purchase history. For example, WhatsApp has become one of the most popular messaging apps, with more than 2 billion active users worldwide. In the UK alone, at least 80% of adults aged 18 to 24 use WhatsApp as their primary messaging tool because it’s free (SMS text messaging is not). In the first three months of 2020, at least 65% of UK citizens said they use WhatsApp many times a day. 

A platform like WhatsApp can directly send marketing messages to customers, win their trust, and create brand loyalty. Therefore, it becomes vital that WhatsApp messages are consistent with what shoppers see everywhere else and that the brand remembers how seamlessly the customers can swipe from one medium to another and back.  

Consider each message you send an opportunity to demonstrate that you know who your customer is, what they love (and as importantly, what they don’t love), and how they interacted with your brand the last time. Was it a positive experience, or if the experience was less than ideal, what can you do at this moment to make it right?

Technology has advanced to the point that marketers have the power to achieve a 360-degree view of their customers. This is no longer a complex, competitive edge for only the prominent top retail players; it’s a means of survival for retailers and accessible through technology regardless of business size.

The journey to becoming a customer-obsessed brand is long and riddled with challenges. Brand marketing involves understanding user behaviour, personalising recommendations, dissolving silos between analytics, engagement, automation, and an integrated strategy across offline, web, and mobile touchpoints. How many times have you checked a review, compared prices, read an email, or responded to a text on your mobile while standing in the store? There is no separation.  

In a recent Amazon Web Services report, 81% of UK brands said they leveraged visibility into the customer journey through digital channels such as their e-commerce website, branded app, paid search, display ads, social media, and email marketing. It’s clear then that your customers expect you to understand their data and act on it for their benefit. At the same time, many business silos exist for a reason, so don’t re-engineer your whole business; instead, choose a partner that can unify them for you. For many brands, implementing a customer engagement platform built for mobile is the best or even only way to truly manage it all. Brand marketers can leverage a customer engagement platform’s analytics capabilities to derive insights and then craft beautifully personalized, consistent customer messages that show they care. This is how you win, by capitalising on the mobile moments.

Consumers have never had so many ways to communicate with brands. But now, brands must break out of their siloed way of thinking about mobile and create holistic, connected experiences across the entire digital portal.

About the author

Mike Barclay is the senior director of European operations for MoEngage, an insights-driven customer engagement platform. He is based in the UK. Barclay has spent the last 20 years helping some of the world’s biggest brands optimise the way they connect with their customers. He is passionate about increasing conversion, improving customer satisfaction, and building loyalty throughout the marketing funnel. Barclay believes that by utilising the data that martech delivers, brands can make intelligent decisions that provide value and deliver an excellent experience at every stage of the customer journey. 

(A Retail Times’ sponsored post)