Adventures in the Engagement Economy: Who’s Getting It Right?

Customer Marketing


Within a very short period of time, the business world has been flipped on its head. It used to be marketers who defined the customer journey. Now, thanks to the digital technology that informs every part of our lives, it’s buyers who set the experience and determine how they want to be engaged. And this has changed everything.

Experience and engagement are the yin and the yang of the Engagement Economy. Joined at the hip, engagement adds to and strengthens the customer experience, while an increasingly positive customer experience provides more and better opportunities for engagement. Some companies are hyper-focused on engaging the customer but haven’t nailed the customer experience part. Others are all about the experience but are scattershot when it comes to engaging. The rare few that get both sides of the equation exactly right tend to be the disruptors and dominant players in their markets.

As marketers, it is vital to be mindful of this powerful dialectic while recognizing the immense control that customers now possess. People want—in fact, they expect—personalized and authentic relationships with the companies they do business with. The same technologies that make it easier to reach customers also make it ridiculously easy for them to walk away from a brand or a service that does not align to their wants or values.

Pressure to Engage Meaningfully

The pressure is on for marketers to find ways to engage that are personally meaningful in the context of a buyer’s life and that consequently enhance the customer experience. According to new independent research sponsored by Marketo and conducted by Illuminas (out later this year), consumers think marketers could be more innovative in their approaches to engagement. In fact, 68 percent of B2C consumers surveyed felt that their engagements with a brand were relevant to them, but were still transactional in nature. Tellingly, only 17 percent of B2C consumers felt that brands took the time to really understand them and develop a deeper and more meaningful relationship. This percentage rose to 36 percent in B2B engagements—better, yes, but still lots of room for improvement.

Getting It Right

It comes down to being able to listen, learn, and engage personally and authentically across all points of contact – TV, mobile, web, social, in-store, kiosk, etc.—to drive a consistently engaging experience. Saying this doesn’t mean that it is easy, but it is eminently possible. Here are some companies that are making it happen to the benefit of themselves and the delight of their customers:

  • Lyft—Lyft is able to share the ride space with Uber by providing its own twists. Lyft knows a lot about its customers and their values and understands how to engage and create a sense of community. A recent email alerted Lyft riders to an upcoming feature dubbed “Round Up and Donate.” Says Lyft, “Opt in, and we’ll automatically round up your total fare to the nearest whole dollar and push the difference towards issues impacting everyone everywhere.” Nice.
  • Netflix—Netflix did not stop with disrupting the video rental business; it kept itself relevant by championing the digital delivery of movies and made-for-TV series. It knows its customers, perhaps sometimes better than we know ourselves, and it knows how to engage us. Netflix “listens,” gathering data from each transaction, and uses that knowledge to drive relevant recommendations delivered on screen, and via email in the form of movie trailers. Should you ever close your account, Netflix still engages in a meaningful and non-aggravating way by offering free trial periods to lure you back. I suspect there are a lot of takers.
  • Jewelry Television (JTV)—On-air hosts on JTV’s home shopping channel receive real-time feeds from predictive analytic programs that collect a wealth of data, including social and website data, to help them gear their sales pitches to viewer demand. The engagement factor here is enormous and contributes to a formidable customer experience.
  • Charles Schwab—The financial services provider for so many individuals also serves independent investment advisors, championing innovative ways for them to deliver an exceptional experience to their clients. To do this, Schwab works to understand where advisors are in the lifecycle of their business and supports them by delivering relevant content, tips, best practices, and advice to help them get their practice off the ground, run their back office efficiently, and grow their assets under management. It’s essentially engagement at every-step-of-the-way, providing a significant benefit to financial advisors, their clientele, and Schwab itself.

Each one of these companies invested in initiatives that would engage their customers instead of incrementally increasing marketing programs to their customers.  All of these examples break the bounds of traditional marketing; they’re not just sending an email; they’re extending into a broader vision for engagement.  It undeniably takes investment, but the payoff can be staggering.

Where Does Your Company Stand?

There is a simple question that marketers ought to ask themselves every day: “Do our customers want to be marketed to or engaged with?” While we don’t have to look any further than our own personal preferences to know the answer, it’s always useful to have a mantra to help you stay focused.

A company is never too small or too large to learn from and engage consistently, creatively, and successfully with their customers and other constituents.

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