The word engagement is a powerful word that people tend to throw around a lot in discussions related to the retail market.  How to engage consumers to grow sales?  How to engage consumers to retain their sales?  I am sure you have heard many of these.  Everyone has an opinion on customer, or consumer, engagement and I think that just means that there are many different aspects to engagement that in fairness must be explored to evaluate the effectiveness of the particular engagement actions.  I too have my own opinions on methods to engage the consumer and my opinions focus on two aspects; the social aspect and continuous improvement.  This should not be a surprise to any regular reader because continuous improvement is one of my regular mantras.

Let me start with the social aspect of engagement.  I believe that a key aspect of engagement is active, two way, communications.  In other words, the retailer must communicate with the customer and not talk to, or at, the customer.  This is a simple and yet very powerful difference and can be manifested in simple ways that all focus on one aspect, active listening and communication skills.  I have been discussing all along what I feel to be the key aspect of the new eCommerce and that is the social shopping aspect.  There are two parts to this social shopping;

  1. The interaction of the customer with friends and other customers.
  2. The interaction of the customer with the retailer.

In this discussion I want to focus on the interaction between the customer and the retailer.  Retailers have embraced the omnichannel market and tools to simplify and speed the purchase process and the marketing process.  You have all been subjected to the endless streams of emails and Facebook pages that promote the retailer and special events or sales.  These are all basically one way communications from the retailer.

The next phase of eCommerce is incorporating two way communications with the customer and practicing active communications with the customers.  This includes engaging the customer to provide feedback on items, such as the program instituted by Amazon to invite customers to provide product reviews and then take the next step of reaching out to the customer to respond to other customers’ questions regarding the product.  On the other side of the coin, active communications is not sending the customer a survey after the purchase that consists of a list of questions regarding the sale.

Active communication requires that the retailer listen and respond to the specific customer comments and questions and not respond with ‘canned’ responses.  This is opening the door to the customer becoming a part of the product design and selection team or becoming a part of the marketing team to provide insight into the specific demographic desires.  Consumers want someone to listen to them and when they find this in a retailer they will remain a customer for a long time.

And now for the audience participation portion of the show…

ECommerce will have wide ranging impacts on both the retail and manufacturing sectors.  How can you focus these abilities to improve the consumers’ experience?  Improving the consumers experience will require a re-evaluation of the sales channels, the manufacturing channels and practices and the supply chain channels and practices from the raw materials to the consumers’ homes.  In order to ensure and maintain success in this new reality you must harness the tools and capabilities in many new areas.  How can you support these continuously changing requirements?