Customer Engagement In 2022 & How Your Brand Can Keep Up

Customer Engagement In 2022 & How Your Brand Can Keep Up

In an era where brands and consumers have more digital connections and platforms than ever, it seems customer engagement is more important than ever. But what exactly is customer engagement? And how is it used, and used effectively?

First off, customer engagement refers to the full set of activities that companies use to build direct relationships with their customers. Those activities can leverage multiple channels—from email and SMS to social media—and can take advantage of a wide range of different marketing strategies and tools. The question is, how do you make sure that your customer engagement efforts succeed?

Effective and up-to-date software is a must, and nobody provides better customer engagement software than Braze.

Throughout its 11-year history, Braze has helped numerous businesses embrace best-in-class customer engagement strategies, which in turn helped those companies to achieve powerful results. Their noted clientele includes Canva, REA Group, and The Coffee Club.

Canva’s Product Lead – MarTech, Emily Stewart, said Braze had helped them serve their customer base in the global design community “quickly and at scale”.

“The capabilities of the platform enables our flexible and creative messaging strategy, enabling us to evolve with our diverse set of users,” she added.

REA Group’s executive manager of consumer marketing, Sarah Myers, also applauded Braze’s services, saying it had been a “powerful” platform for REA. “The Lifecycle marketing team are empowered to deliver real time personalised campaigns, without relying on other teams to deliver the data,” she said. “Braze has also created huge efficiencies, saving at least two hours on every single campaign. We are very lucky to have such a strong mar-tech stack at REA and Braze is at the heart of this.”

However, customer engagement strategies are only effective provided they keep pace with a rapidly changing market. So, according to Braze, where is the world of customer engagement headed in the year ahead?

The 2022 Global Customer Engagement Review

According to the Braze 2022 Global Customer Engagement Review – in which over 1500 marketing executives at consumer-facing brands were surveyed – three main trends will characterise the coming year.

Firstly, brands are more confident than ever about customer engagement, and it’s paying off for them. Secondly, with cookies and third-party data increasingly going the way of the dodo, zero-party and first-party data will soon dominate, becoming essential to brands’ customer engagement programs. And lastly, above all else, data management will become the top challenge for brands.

Regarding the first trend, brands have been steadily regaining their confidence, particularly as the impacts of the pandemic continue to wane. This year, 94 per cent of brands rated their practices as good or excellent, up from 88 per cent the previous year.

Confidence is certainly key, considering that of those brands which ranked their practices as good or excellent, 98 per cent exceeded their revenue goals. Of those who didn’t rank their practices as such, only 65 per cent exceeded revenue goals.

For brands to maintain confidence in their customer engagement, Braze recommends maintaining a cross-channel engagement strategy. This year, both in-product (e.g. in-app message) and out-of-product (e.g. email, SMS) messages will make users’ almost three-times more likely to buy. In fact, given the impact of using messaging channels in tandem, you could argue that brands should treat leveraging two channels as the minimum. Adopting just one, or more channels of customer engagement can make the likelihood of user purchase increase even further.

In the year ahead, we will also see brands ditching third-party cookies in favour of zero-party and first-party alternatives. With Google retiring third-party cookies and Apple announcing new privacy measures for users, brands are speeding ahead, with 96 per cent increasing their marketing budgets, and a further 38 per cent embracing zero-party and first-party data.

This means brands will have to make meaningful impacts on consumers through other means. “Anonymous Users” – those who engage with websites and apps without officially logging in, and who comprised 57 per cent of new users in 2021 – represent a bountiful, untapped audience. First-party data and the use of in-app surveys can help brands learn more about these anonymous users.

Brands must also formulate new ways to collect, integrate, and manage data. With more consumer touchpoints than ever, data management may become an overwhelming task for brands to manage.

32 per cent of brands listed cellecting, integrating and managing data as their top concern in 2022 (last year the top concern was standing out in a swamped market).

Braze recommends brands’ tech stacks be replete with real-time streaming data and data agility (that is, the ability to move data across your technology stack at the speed of your business), in which data silos and batched data can be avoided, as well as the accompanying tears and frustration and broken keyboards.

The Braze Customer Engagement Index

Drawing on their customer engagement expertise, Braze developed its Customer Engagement Index to discern the maturity of a brand’s customer engagement practices. The framework revolved around two central themes; organisational (or, ‘Teams’) and Technological, which, under each, are 6 key competencies against which brands are measured.

The competencies for Teams are culture, metrics, experimentation, objectives, staffing and strategy. Whereas for Tech, the competencies are channels, classification, data ingestion, orchestration, performance, and personalisation.

From this Framework, Braze were able to rank brands and the maturity of their customer engagement practices under three categories: Activate (least mature), Accelerate (mature enough, but with room for improvement), and Ace (most mature).

Clearly, Ace is where you want your brand to be. In fact, 77 per cent of “Ace” brands said they’d exceeded their revenue goals over the past year. In the Teams category, these brands tended to excel with experimentation, meaning they tinkered with and pushed new channels, campaigns, or messaging strategies.

These experiments are often complex and simultaneous, which meant cross-departmental collaboration was an absolute necessity for a brand’s success.

Ace brands in Teams also excelled – and grew – in culture, meaning these brands often allowed multiple roles and departments to collaborate effectively, whether that be multiple times a week or continuously.

Meanwhile in Tech, Ace brands excelled in the classification competency for the second year in a row. Classification refers to how customer segments are sorted. In Tech, 35 per cent of Ace brands segmented users based on customer information and behaviour, while 33 per cent segmented users based on real-time data, and another 33 per cent captured real-time engagement data.

These same brands also showed proficiency in personalisation. Last year, 53 per cent of brands utilised real-time data to personalise their messaging, which helped them avoid sending out-of-date and potentially frustrating messages.

Financial Services & Customer Engagement

Financial services brands can generally be categorised into two types: long-standing services and the newer “challenger” services, which offer bespoke, personalised customer experiences.

While the former tend to enjoy having stronger awareness among consumers and therefore a larger audience, they can also be slightly weighed down by higher expenses and slower services due to having more information silos. On the other hand, challenger brands have grown over the previous decade, despite facing challenges such as building awareness and trust among consumers when their brand is still so new and relatively untested. That said, challenger brands still represent a growing force, with 38 per cent of businesses polled by Braze having only been operating for less than a decade.

Ranked on maturity levels, 29 per cent of financial services brands had reached an Activate status, while 53 per cent and 18 per cent achieved Accelerate and Ace, respectively.

For long-standing financial services, their areas of improvement included data, tech, and organisational aspects which can potentially inhibit the service from providing customers with an updated and efficient engagement experience.

As for the newer, challenger services, experimentation, strategy, and performance remained their biggest challenges, especially considering the brand’s need to convince potential consumers to adopt newer and more innovative services.

When it comes to Ace financial service brands, they’re more likely to assess results from customer engagement activities, train new employees on customer engagement tech and approaches, individualise their personalised messages at send time, and use automated systems and in-app messaging to their benefit.

With these tactics, Ace financial services brands saw a 72 per cent increase in session time and a 35 per cent increase in average user lifetime.

Retail & eCommerce Customer Engagement

While the retail and eCommerce sector is typically an early adopter of innovative digital platforms, the pandemic still presented challenges. Huge supply chain issues made efficient business practices increasingly difficult.

These conditions made it essential for retail and eCommerce businesses to adopt a meaningful customer engagement strategy to keep users involved and loyal.

However, despite the sector’s reputation for innovation and adaptability, its maturity levels were below what Braze originally expected. Only 20 per cent of brands achieved Ace status, with 54 per cent falling outside in Accelerate, and 27 per cent bottoming out in Activate.

Regarding Teams, Braze recommends retail and eCommerce brands focus on experimentation, staffing, and strategy in order to improve relationships with customers and address an upcoming future without the ability to leverage third-party cookies.

As for Tech, consistent with one of the major predicted trends for 2022, it’s strongly recommended brands embrace zero- and first-party data in order to improve personalised messaging. In fact, 35 per cent of companies said they will begin financially prioritising zero-party and first-party data.

Retail and eCommerce brands which achieved Ace status saw an 8.8 times increase in buyer-conversion rate, a 38 per cent increase in repeat buyer-conversion, and an 8.6 times increase in purchases per user.

The State of Customer Engagement in the APAC Region

Online growth has exploded in APAC. In fact, in Southeast Asia alone, 60 million new consumers have joined the online marketplace since the global pandemic. Furthermore, based on survey responses, APAC has the most mature businesses of any region when it comes to customer engagement, with many championing a strong focus on experimentation, measurement, channels, and performance.

The Coffee Club is a perfect example of this. As Australia’s largest cafe franchise, The Coffee Club realised it would need to improve its customer loyalty program by growing its in-app presence and attracting a younger consumer base.

The brand utilised Content Cards, which delivered consistent and dynamic content through the brand’s app. The Coffee Club then sent personalised barcoded coupons – which had been integrated into the brand’s point-of-sales system – to certain customers based on attributes and purchase history. Six months after integrating this new strategy and campaign, The Coffee Club saw a 35 per cent increase in loyalty member sales, and a 62 per cent jump in paid VIP program conversions.

The Coffee Club’s CRM and digital manager, Jimmy O’Brien, said the Braze customer engagement platform had been “hugely transformational” for the business, particularly when it came to growing their custom loyalty program. “It has allowed us to build an app from the ground up with customer engagement at its core,” he added.

Regarding Tech, The Coffee Club’s campaign was the perfect synthesis of classification, orchestration, and personalisation, while for Teams, the brand seamlessly embraced objectives, metrics, and staffing to its clear benefit.

The Customer Engagement Review

The Braze 2022 Global Customer Engagement Review is brimming with even more insights on how customer engagement has changed, been adopted and utilised, and how brands can continue embracing in the future. It’s also an incredibly handy guidebook on how to avoid the inevitable challenges brands – including yours – will encounter when grappling with new platforms and a shifting market.

To download the 2022 Global Customer Engagement Review click HERE. And to learn where your brand falls on the customer engagement index click HERE.

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