Tuesday, 7 July 2009

The Importance Of Customer Engagement.

It’s what we all aspire to – grabbing the customer’s attention and establishing a relationship. Whether you are Blur, Tesco, BMW, a radio station, an author, a freelancer, a small business, or the corner shop you need to engage with the customer. It could be via a download, it could be a TV commercial, it could be a print ad, an email, a video on YouTube, a website, a meeting or a shop window; but whatever the platform, it’s about communicating and connecting with an audience.

Take the shop analogy: you have your shop window to sell your wares but the real potential for engagement comes from when you walk in the shop and connect with the person behind the counter. When they attempt to build a relationship. Whatever the economic challenges of the marketplace in 2009, this is where the independent shopkeepers and boutiques have the potential for the upper hand over the big stores and supermarkets. It’s that personal intimate service that you could rarely get in a huge hypermarket. In a small shop where the proprietor might be in the store herself, and with a constant and small number of staff, meaningful relationships can be established with the customer. The kind of connection that will make you a loyal customer, coming back for more.

Last week I went in to two – very different – (very small) independent shops. The first, to buy some swimwear. I walked in, the shopkeeper was at the till pouring over some paperwork. I attempted to make a connection but he didn’t look up; zero acknowledgement, no hello. There was a rack of items I wanted to browse but a stepladder had been left against it and it was too difficult to look. Sure, I could have asked for help, but there’d been no attempt at engagement so I decided to walk out. #Fail.

Later that day I went in to the
Monocle shop in London, a small concept store selling Monocle-branded items and a small selection of menswear and luggage. I was probably in the shop no more than 5 minutes but by the time I left, I’d shaken hands with the shop assistant, we’d exchanged names and we’d talked about the shop, its products, its other stores. He’d initiated that engagement by welcoming me in. Okay I didn’t buy anything that time, but I’ll go back for sure. #Success.

I know consumers have strong views on this subject. Many people tell me they would rather shop in silence than have a shop assistant talk to them. But this is not just about shopping. This is about business and brand relationships, it’s about taking the initiative to engage the customer in that valuable first minute in your store/ on your website/ in the meeting/ wherever.

So make sure your brand, your website, your brochure, your shop – or whatever medium of communication it is – succeeds in engaging with the customer. And don’t do the business of equivalent of not looking up from the counter (and certainly don’t leave the equivalent of a stepladder across your products).

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