In an attention-starved world, customer engagement is crucial to commerce success. But, the term “engagement” can mean anything and everything—making it a vague goal to chase.

Defining concrete strategies across touchpoints and metrics is the first step toward leveraging the power of engagement to lift sales and loyalty. 

Why Businesses Care About Engagement

From social media ads to billboards, consumers today receive upwards of 10,000 messages per day. Increasingly, those messages arrive online. And they can come in form of emails or pop-up ads in apps. 

Due to this stream of input, it’s now harder than ever to focus. As a result, we’re now said to have a shorter attention span than goldfish. After dropping by a third since 2000, our attention span now clocks in at eight seconds. The fish makes it to nine.

But, unlike our finned friends, humans are fighting back. In order to manage information streams and make meaningful connections, consumers are using email filters and ad blockers. In fact, a quarter of U.S. online users have deployed these tools.  To earn the right to appear in consumer channels, retailers need a successful engagement strategy. 

In short, online engagement encompasses the interactions with brands consumers choose. Brands that demonstrate relevance and authenticity earn those interactions. In turn, they realize benefits throughout the customer lifecycle.

social proof marketing customer engagement
  • They say the customer you’ve got is gold, and successful engagement strategies win repeat business. Replenishment email and other tactics can help reconnect customers with brands.

Customer Engagement Metrics 

With such a vast menu of tactic to engage shoppers, retailers must take a disciplined approach. This includes planning for accountability and measurement from the outset.

Among the dimensions that matter most for quantifying engagement performance are:

Time

By tracking how long shoppers linger to interact with ecommerce site offerings, retailers can gauge which products and content are most compelling. Specific metrics include:

  • Time on site
  • Watch time for videos
  • Visit frequency
  • Duration of live chat sessions

Clicks and Traffic

Tracking paths to and through an ecommerce site allow merchants to illuminate which offers and campaigns can motivate shoppers to act. Among the metrics:

  • Open and click rates for emails
  • Visits and site paths
  • On-site search activity
  • Bounce rates, top exit pages

Transactions

Understanding which features drive revenue is crucial to assigning value to engagement tactics. Among the ways to track the effect on the bottom line:

  • Add-to-cart rate and cart abandonment rate
  • Wish list and saved cart behaviors
  • Account creation pre- and post-purchase
  • Promo code redemption

Loyalty

Engagement tactics that drive repeat business can significantly boost bottom lines. This is especially true given that loyal customers cost less to lure back and tend to spend more. Retailers should track:

  • Return visits
  • Repeat purchases
  • Loyalty club logins and redemptions
  • Referrals

Examples of Great Customer Engagement 

Ultimately, how companies set out to engage consumers depends on their unique value proposition and target audience. There’s no single right way to go about developing an engagement strategy, as three brand stories show.

For more than 30 years, Kibo customer Sun and Ski Sports has maintained a tight focus on outfitting customers for a range of outdoor activities. Demonstrating expertise in those activities through value-added content aligns with this specialist approach. Video footage featuring marquee athletes, dispatches from local store experts, and user-generated photos have earned Sun and Ski a robust social following of nearly 100,000 followers. Plus, the likes and shares of those followers help attract new shoppers to the brand.

An interactive customization process draws shoppers into Kibo customer MyMMs.com’s site. On the site, shoppers can select colors and graphics for their candies, save designs for later, and share their assortments with friends prior to adding to the cart. 

ecommerce site types of customer engagement

Sephora’s Beauty Insider club drives high levels of re-engagement, thanks to targeted perks. A constantly-updated selection of rewards, exclusive early access to products, members-only events, birthday gifts, and more incentivize repeat business.

Types of Customer Engagement 

Shopper engagement can occur via almost any brand touchpoint. And it can vary by degree, with some interactions requiring more commitment and attention than others. As brands craft their engagement strategies, they may want to consider these user actions:

  • Consume. As shoppers browse through ecommerce, they take in branded and user-generated content.  
  • Interact. Consumers move from clicking through brand offerings to taking action. This could be in the form of “liking” a post, saving an item to a wish list, or starting a live chat session. 
  • Subscribe. Shoppers commit to ongoing interaction with the brand, whether by signing up to receive email or SMS updates, following social media pages or profiles, or downloading the brand’s app. 
  • Purchase. Shoppers on the verge of ordering boost engagement with every click,  from studying shipping or return policies to adding items to the cart and redeeming promotional coupons. 
  • Re-engage. Post-purchase, actions such as clicking on offers in transactional emails, interacting with customer service for how-to help, and setting up a loyalty club account are all opportunities for brands to entice shoppers to consider another order. 
  • Advocate. Creation of customer reviews, sharing and endorsing brands via social media, and participating in referral programs signal a high degree of commitment from enthusiastic brand supporters. 

How to Develop a Customer Engagement Strategy

Given the options, brands who want to develop their customer engagement strategy need to adopt a customer-centric approach. With customers in mind, companies can choose the right tools to deliver the most relevant experiences.

Key elements include:

  • Customer research. Sellers should delve into existing analytics, survey existing shoppers and new target audiences, and study competitors to understand what motivates engagement and purchasing.
  • Authenticity. Generally speaking, shoppers respond to messages that resonate emotionally. Therefore, brands should use humor or a candid voice to develop a distinct voice that fits their product category. Subsequently, they should use it consistently with their audience across touchpoints.
  • Expertise. Content that demonstrates expertise and in-depth product knowledge not only helps shoppers make informed purchase decisions, but boosts overall brand reputation.
  • Personalization. The right mix of products, content, and offers served at the right time can boost engagement significantly. Therefore, merchants should invest in robust personalization tools to deliver one-to-one relevance.
  • Fluency. Seamless transitions across touchpoints and between in-store and online experiences help foster sustained engagement. Thus, order management and universal inventory should integrate with ecommerce functions to ensure a smooth user experience.

Define the Terms of Engagement for Success

In brief, customer engagement can look different from company to company. But brands who’ve built successful engagement strategies share a commitment to customer-centricity and rigorous measurement. By prioritizing customers and consistently tracking actionable metrics, companies can develop relevant experiences that encourage new and repeat business.