If you’re a retailer, then you’ve no doubt asked yourself this question. “What are the various customer engagement channels that I can use to drive more customers to my store?”. In today’s world, the sheer number of engagement channels is enormous. So huge, in fact, that it’s easy to feel overwhelmed at times. But fret not. I’ve created a list of some great channels here to engage customers and build a warm relationship with them.
How have customer engagement channels changed?
Customer engagement used to be pretty simple a few years back. But then again, the number of engagement channels were quite less back then. Customers and retailers mostly interacted in the store and that’s it. There weren’t smartphones or apps, online stores or e-commerce websites and social media was still a new concept. Simple face to face customer engagement was all there was at that point.
Fast forward a few years to the present, and we’re now spoilt for choice. I’m pretty sure you can’t help but feel lost sometimes, not knowing which channel to focus on and not even sure how many channels of communication there are!. Your customer probably has a million options to choose from, and that means you have to follow suit if you want to engage him/her. Retailers can no longer afford to remain strangers to their customers. Instead, you have to be a part of the customer’s journey from start to finish and participate in the buying process. You must use every channel available to forge a strong bond with your customer. Do whatever it takes to give your customers something to remember you by thus ensuring they keep coming back.
So the fact is, customer engagement channels have changed, and so have the customer’s themselves. But the good news is, you have more avenues of communication open to you for interacting with consumers. Now let’s get out there and make the most of ’em.
10 Customer engagement channels
Here’s my list of 10 customer engagement channels you can use to engage and build warm relationships with customers. I’m going to try and support why I chose each channel based on my experiences and also market research. Here they are:
Obvious choices first
Offline customer engagement channels
Let me first start with a list of customer engagement channels that would appeal to all the internet-phobic retailers here.
1. The Physical store:
The most obvious choice for a customer engagement channel is your physical store. Your store is the perfect place to interact with customers and build a rapport with them. It is perhaps the only time you’ll communicate with your customers face-face. So, how can you make the most of it?
This might sound crazy, but the best way is to TALK to them. Yes, you heard it right, TALK!. Make them feel special the moment they enter your store. A warm greeting and a genuine smile will go a long way in making the interaction comfortable and builds trust. Talk to your customers and put in a sincere effort to get to know them. Let them know you’re here to help and mean it. Try to make a personal connection with your customers since it helps them become comfortable with sharing things about themselves. For example, if both of you share a similar interest, say, a favorite movie, get them to talk about it. They’ll open up more, and your conversation would become more personal. Once you make a personal connection with a customer, you can bet that they’re coming back to your store again.
2. Text messaging:
Ok, so you had a few customers who came into your store a few months ago, purchased some stuff and seemed impressed with the overall experience. Curiously though, they haven’t been back since. Chances are, even though you made a good impression, you are not on the top of their mind. It’s like this- Your customer wants to buy from you, but he doesn’t quite remember you. How can get them to buy from you again? In other words, how can you activate and re-engage your customers? It’s during times like these that text messaging becomes one of the best customer engagement channels there is.
This is a new year greeting text message I got from my fitness center (which I had completely forgotten about). But after getting this text, I immediately realized I needed to get back and get fit! Their message rekindled my desire to be fit, and thus I joined the gym again. Also, their ” amazing offers” helped pull me in.
Text messaging can be an excellent way to continually keep in touch with your existing customer base. Simple things like greeting your customers during birthdays/festivals or even asking for feedback on their previous experience will continuously remind them about your store. It’ll keep you on top of mind and thus make them more likely to buy from you next time too.
3. Voice messaging:
Voice messaging works the same way as text messaging plus scores a few extra points for the additional effort involved. In fact, in my experience, it works better than text. Voice messaging is a powerful channel to promote new products in your store and to give out offers.
I recently got a voice call from Dominos Pizza asking me to try out their new choice of crust. On top of that, they gave me a loyalty coupon for 30% off. And you know what, it worked like a charm. I appreciated the fact that they personally called me to promote their latest addition. It made me feel important to them. And to top it off, their loyalty offer couldn’t have come at a better time. The next thing you know, I ordered a pizza from them, and I’m pretty sure I wasn’t the only one.
Voice messaging can thus convey a feeling of importance to your customer in a way that a text message can’t.
Online customer engagement channels
Offline channels are ideal for personal interaction, but their reach is limited. On the other hand, Online channels are great for personalization, and their reach is humongous too!
4. Online store:
Well, this is a no-brainer. The primary online engagement channel is undoubtedly your online store. It provides an avenue for you to understand your customers without even having to talk to them. It may not sound very revolutionary when you read it, but make no mistake, it has changed the face of marketing completely!
With the digital transformation, collecting customer data has never been easier. It’s now possible to know exactly which product your customer was looking at, from where and at what time too!. All this without a single word being exchanged. If this didn’t make you go “WOW” I don’t know what would. Armed with this data about the customer, you can now engage with them in real time. One way to do that is to send push notifications with offers specific to the item the customer is looking at. Another way is through a live chat application on your website. This can allow the customer to talk to your sales executives and get answers to any questions they might have. A live chat is also an excellent way to get the contact details of your customer for further targeted marketing
Emails are a standard form of communication, tried and tested to be awesome. Email is one of those customer engagement channels that work with just about any kind of business. There are tons of ways you can use email: send greetings, send blogs and newsletters, offer personalized discounts and promote new products. Coupled with an online-store, email can be extremely effective in making more sales by combining data analytics with email promotions.
The other day, I was browsing for trekking equipment in Amazon without any actual plans to buy stuff. A few days later I got an email from them giving me an attractive discount on the exact products I was looking at the other day. I ended up buying the tent a couple of hours later. This is just to demonstrate how powerful email can be for your store.
Suggested read: Get started with retail email marketing with these 5 steps>>
Whatsapp is one of the most widely used messaging platforms in the world. But it is also the platform least used for marketing. The best thing about Whatsapp is, it is very personalized. Your messages would sit amongst those from friends and family which gives it a sort of familiarity.
I get such messages from a tour operator. Once in a while, he sends me a promotion of his upcoming tour package which awakens my inner adventurer. If I’m interested, all I need to do is reply back, and he gets in touch with me. Quite easy right?
WhatsApp is a great way to market your product. Next time you get a customer’s number, try it out. At the very least, it will help you build a personal relationship with the customer.
7. Blogs/content marketing:
You’ve probably heard the saying ” Content is KING”. Well, it really is!. Blogging is an excellent way to grow your audience and share content worth reading. By blogging, you not only promote your store and your products but also help out your customers by writing about stuff they would like to know. A well-maintained blog is a sign that you understand your products and you care about your customers. And perhaps the best thing about blogging– It increases your visibility in search engines. Better search visibility gives your store a chance to appear in front of many more sets of eyes thus increasing your chances of making a sale.
The first thing that might pop into your mind about blogging is ” what can I write about that customers would want to read?”.
There is potentially an unlimited number of topics you can write about in retail. If you’re a fashion retailer, you can write something like ” 5 trending designs to try out this new year”. If you’re a jewelry retailer try “How the price of gold is going to change and how it will affect consumers?” etc. Really! There are a lot of questions out there that need answers, and writing blogs around them might be a great way to start.
8. Social media:
Social media is, undoubtedly, one of the best customer engagement channels out there because, its cheap, easy-to-use and effective. Many retailers set up shop on social media and run it like a real store. They use it to interact with their loyal customers, acquire new ones and even sell products online. In fact, there are a lot of groups that connect customers with retailers, and it’s something you should try too.
Paid social media ads are something that you should consider as well since it increases your visibility exponentially. Post exciting videos about your store, promote your blogs and share anything that would attract a lot of eyeballs. It’s an easy way to ensure you’re on top of mind since your customers would be interacting with you frequently. Once you set up your online presence and start posting, keep at it regularly and build your reputation.
Some off-beat channels
Enough with the boring & normally used channels, you say? As you wish. Here are some off-beat customer engagement channels you wouldn’t have thought to try. And I bet your customers wouldn’t expect these either. Nothing like a pleasant surprise to make your store unforgettable, I say.
9. Courier anyone?
Here is a quirky way to engage your customer. Set aside all the text messaging and what not. Instead, try to surprise your customers with a courier gift/card. Picture this- it’s your customer’s birthday, and she is spending it at home with friends and family. There is a knock on the door, and she receives a courier package. Everyone surrounds her, and their collective anticipation is palpable. You can almost imagine the surprise and, not to mention, the happiness she feels when she finds a gift with your store logo all over it! What a special moment it would be for her! She’ll instantly associate your store with this feeling of surprise and happiness, maybe even forever.
10. eccentric video advertisements:
Have you heard of the Dollar shave club? They’re famous for their viral video titled ” our blades are f**king great. Ask anyone who watched their video, and they would say it was nothing short of eccentric and also awesome.
This one video shot them to fame and was also responsible for driving 20,000 customers to their store in just 2 days after the video was launched. Since then, their customer base has doubled or tripled until they were acquired by Unilever corp for a billion dollars!!
This just goes to show how one video can change your business. Only, you need to be willing to take risks and be just the right amount of crazy to pull off a stunt like this.
There is a truckload of customer engagement channels out there. But not all of them are suitable for everyone. You need to cherry pick those that you think will work for your store. Try out different channels, take risks and see what works for you. Build warm relationships with your customers and try to personally connect with them. Make a sincere effort to help them out with their shopping and be a part of their experience. Make your customers feel special, and they’ll show their appreciation by coming back to your store again and again.
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