5 Tales of Customer Engagement: Brands Connecting With Buyers
You need customer touch points that enable conversation and relationship building. You need touch points that demonstrate how much you value customers by the careful thought and planning you put into those programs and processes, according to Customer Engagement Strategies. You need customers who are shouting your praises to their friends and colleagues because you truly have their interests at heart.
I've identified 5 companies that seem to understand the importance of customer touch points and have included some of the unique approaches taken by these companies to truly engage their customers, as well as some insights from some of their leaders. You’ll notice that much of the focus among these companies is on social media marketing.
Customers on Zales.com share real-life stories about the celebrations in their lives and the role Zales played in making them memorable. Zales added stories to create an online destination (lovestories.zales.com) that features customers’ own narratives about the celebrations in their lives, and the role that Zales played in making these days special.
“The jewelry business is one that’s built on people’s personal stories, since fine jewelry is often given to celebrate joyous occasions like weddings, birthdays, the birth of a child and special holidays,” says Steve Larkin, executive VP and chief marketing and e-commerce officer of Zale Corporation. “Bazaarvoice Stories gives Zales customers a place to share their own love stories—whether humorous or heartfelt. This user-generated content is a great resource to connect shoppers with each other—and to build brand involvement and loyalty in an authentic and organic manner.”
Zales—a part of Zale Corporation’s $2 billion company with 2,100 retail jewelry stores across the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico—promotes the Love Stories initiative, powered by Bazaarvoice Stories, on its homepage and via a targeted e-mail campaign, encouraging the thousands of people who have reviewed products on the Zales site to share their own personal stories. The company also promotes Love Stories through sweepstakes and contests that drive participation.
“Zales has been a pioneer in listening and responding to their customers via ratings and reviews, and their launch of our Stories product is just another milestone on their path to complete customer engagement,” says Brett Hurt, founder and CEO of Bazaarvoice. “Studies prove that when customers engage with one another by sharing their real-life stories about certain brands or products, they become more loyal to the brand, purchase more products and become brand evangelists to their friends and community.”
Cirque Du Soleil
The Cirque du Soleil shows in Las Vegas are truly something to behold. Full of spectacle and amazing visual experiences, fans of the shows know that Cirque experiences are special indeed. Over the last 25 years, Cirque du Soleil’s brand has been built largely on the power of word of mouth and the enthusiastic recommendations of their audiences. So when Cirque got started in social media, in many ways, it was like returning to their roots.
“Our fans are an extension of our brand,” says Jessica Berlin, Cirque du Soleil’s social media manager. “The great part about social media is that we can now participate in conversations directly with our fans, in the communities and on the sites where they’re gathering.” Cirque empowers their online community to be brand ambassadors by giving them access to insider information, special promotions and discounts, and tickets to the shows. They recently hosted a Cirque-n-Blog where Berlin invited a dozen Las Vegas bloggers to attend their Zumanity show and post reviews of the performance. To them, it was proof that social media – and the community around it – matters a great deal to their brand. “When we tracked the coverage of the show in Radian6 across social media, Zumanity emerged as our most talked-about show overall. And as a result of the blogger event, our coverage and reach on microblogs like Twitter was much higher than usual, bringing us awareness and interest from new audiences and creating conversation among our existing fans.”
In May 2009, Cirque du Soleil announced their “Summer of Cirque” promotion to celebrate their 25th anniversary. As part of the promotion, they offered ticket specials, and they launched a contest to win a trip to Las Vegas and tickets to all seven of the Cirque shows. In the first two weeks of the promotion, all of their communication was done through social media, and they could directly track the conversation – and sales – that resulted. Over the course of the next several months, Cirque used what they learned about their community through listening to build excitement for future shows. Instead of traditional audience outreach, Berlin and her team used and is using social media as the primary means to distribute insider, sneak-peek information to their audience members. By following Cirque on Twitter or joining them on Facebook, fans will get exclusive content and special discounts that they can’t get elsewhere.
“Building our brand in social media has been rewarding and successful for us at Cirque,” says Berlin. “Our fans are our greatest brand ambassadors and it’s now become a priority for us to closely monitor what is being said. By listening and engaging in these conversations, we can only improve the Cirque du Soleil experience.”
“We’ve always believed that our fans are what make the Cirque du Soleil experience fantastic, and what keeps our brand vibrant and healthy. By not only participating in social media but tangibly measuring and communicating our success, we can harness the power of our online community to keep Cirque du Soleil shows in demand for another 25 years.”
Creating a successful viral marketing campaign is something of a dark art – “The things that generally work really well are something that puts a smile on your face, has a good story to it… don’t necessarily be too preoccupied with the time, but keep it tight… the consumer has to feel that there is a payoff,” says YouTube’s Bruce Daisley – and in some cases it appears there is more luck than judgement involved. However, there are other ways that organisations can create videos that notch up major YouTube views for minimum spend. And firms should think about how YouTube can in some way embody what they want the brand to be about. As an example, Daisley highlights the work Carphone Warhouse, among Europe’s largest independent mobile phone retailers.
“The Carphone Warehouse brand wants to be remembered for expertise – that their sales people know more than the sales people in any other shop. So it noticed the phenomenon of ‘unboxing”, where people queue over night to buy a new gadget, then they take it home and video themselves opening the product and unpacking it. So watching it you’re vicariously experiencing that through them, and the amount of views these videos get is remarkable.
“So to create a tease for the shops, Carphone Warehouse made these low-fi videos of people opening products and uploaded them. It received loads of comments, and people started to go straight to the Carphone Warehouse channel to check out new phones. It was a very simple way of bringing their brand qualities to YouTube. And more and more brands are realising that video is a massive phenomenon, and it can affect small businesses as well as your Nikes and Sonys.”
Absolutely, social media isn’t an exclusive one size fits all solution, says Guy Stevens, former Customer Knowledge Manager at Carphone Warehouse. There are many different platforms to choose from, and they can all be used individually or in combination in any number of different ways.
What’s key is that in taking part you are offering something relevant and meaningful to your customers, [such as] The Carphone Warehouse employees publishing helpful tips and hints about mobile phones via their Eyeopeners channel on YouTube.
If I think back to my time at The Carphone Warehouse, reflects Stevens, the reason we could try things out was simply because of our approach. Part of this is having people who ‘get social’. And this touches on an important issue. From a resourcing perspective, it’s apparent from talking to those who are going down this route that their approach is very much around hiring people who understand social media, and then training them in terms of the customer service skills they will need.
If we move onto the practical issues surrounding the use of social media for customer service the key issues for me are communication and integration. For me, says Stevens, it comes back to looking to, working with and trusting your customers to help you find the answers to these questions. Companies no longer hold the dominant position they once did, and we are in a period where companies are being forced to re-evaluate, and in some instances re-engineer, the way in which they engage with their customers.
Understand from Ogilvy & Mather Worldwide, UPS’s marketing and advertising partner,” after a decade of work and the investment of billions of dollars to successfully transform the company, UPS on Sept13,2010 launched a communications program to demonstrate how it has vaulted past competitors to offer the broadest range of logistics services in the industry. The creative elements of the platform will focus on the theme “We Love Logistics” to reflect UPS’s passion for delivering transportation and supply chain solutions that can bring competitive power to its customers, UPS also will support the campaign through various social media channels.
“Logistics became the focus as a way to articulate everything we do,” said Betsy Wilson, director of global advertising at UPS, which has acquired more than 40 companies in the past decade to bolster its services. In addition to package delivery, UPS offers trucking and air freight, retail shipping and business services, customs brokerage, finance and international trade services.
The shipping company created a dedicated microsite, www.thenewlogistics.com, which contains downloadable case studies of some clients, including electronics company Toshiba and plumbing product company Toto USA, said Maureen Healy, VP of customer communications at UPS. There is also a corresponding Facebook fan page, Twitter feed and YouTube channel, she said.
Wilson said the company will measure customer engagement and business impact. “[We want to emphasize] UPS has a way to partner with clients and bring value to your business through our integrated network,” said Healy.
UPS’s facebook fan page “shows off” their outstanding “hardwares” and “software” by using lots of nice photos and videos, and they provide regular wall postings.
UPS’s blog is where members of UPS family worldwide contribute stories to the online community–everyone “writer” use his/her own name. Featured writers have the chance to show up on the home page together with his/her picture. No doubt it’s great for staff self branding and encouraging participation.
On its blog, you can click “Follow UPS on Twitter” and on their Twitter page immediately notice that they respond to their customers promptly.
The new UPS logistics campaign is also easily found on YouTube. One ad proclaims “Everybody loves something. We love logistics. We love its precision, its epic scale, its ability to make life better for billions of people. Each day, our customers count on us to choreograph a ballet of infinite complexity played across skies, oceans and borders. And we do. What’s not to love?” – UPS
At end of the day, what matters to customers are still cost and service–service for logistics comes from transit time, on-time delivery and the ability to deal with emergencies, regardless of how good the commercial advertising is.
But UPS have proven that a well integrated marketing campaign goes a long way to building customer engagement.
Engagement is the new business mandate. As I talk to customers, partners, and employees, it becomes increasingly clear to me that the health of a company relies on the extent to which it creates meaningful and sustainable interactions, says Shantanu Narayen, President and CEO, Adobe Systems Incorporated.
Adobe knows that engaged customers are a company’s best assets. You can’t compete successfully in the marketplace only by creating a better product or holding down costs. Quality products and competitive pricing are required just to stay in business, but customer engagement provides a long-term competitive advantage. Without engagement, you can’t expect to build a successful company or organization.
A lot of research validates that engaged customers are less price sensitive, buy more frequently, are more loyal, are more likely to recommend products, and are more apt to provide useful feedback. It pays to retain these engaged customers and, interestingly enough, it typically costs less to service them.
Adobe enables engaging experiences by developing the technologies that help companies create, manage, and deliver information more powerfully, so they can connect with their customers. Adobe products help construct the touch points where companies interact with customers, from media-rich websites to mobile phone displays to collaboration software and web conferencing. Adobe has spent the past 25 years driving innovation that delivers engaging experiences and continues to build on that legacy. Of course, staying focused on engagement—how to do it most effectively, how to measure it—is challenging for all companies, Adobe included. I try to keep it a top priority, says Narayen.
Technology—and innovation—are keys to customer engagement. Today, customers expect dynamic, more engaging experiences than ever before, and companies must constantly innovate to meet and exceed these expectations. Technology has heightened customer expectations, and it’s also through technology that businesses will meet their customers’ increasingly higher demands.
Adobe is especially well-poised to provide the technology needed to engage consumers. Through our software applications, platforms and services, our customers can create and deliver compelling content and powerful applications across all devices and media. The opportunities to bridge media and give people access to exactly the information they want, anywhere, anytime, connected or not, are virtually unlimited.
(Source: http://www.adobe.com/engagement/q_and_a.html )
Do you have a tale to share on how your company or brand (or another) uses social media to engage and connect with customers?