Engagement platforms

9 min read

Why having a customer engagement platform is key to success

What is a customer engagement platform?

Simply, it is a piece of software that allows you to track, manage and execute your interactions with your buyers and customers. The right system will enable you to understand the customer journey across the different touchpoints. Today’s customer engagement platforms have evolved from standalone task-focused packages to provide support for all of the following activities:

  • Lead generation
  • Personalisation
  • Segmentation
  • Marketing automation
  • Omni channel marketing

What should a customer engagement platform do?

Regardless of the tech that you use, the platform should support those key stages of the buyer and customer journey, with the ability to:

  • Attract and engage – streamlining collaboration to reduce manual work and duplication of data
  • Analyse performance of your marketing efforts, with accurate, real time information
  • Optimise – making it easy to send personalised communication to customers

How ESPs have grown into customer marketing platforms

Go back 20 years and Email Service Providers (ESP) were just that – a way for companies to send a large amount of emails from a dedicated business account.

Today, ESPs have moved with the times to keep up with the needs of the modern marketer who needs to do more with less. The advent of automation and low or no-code was a natural opportunity for ESP providers to make it possible for marketers to set up and run their own marketing campaigns. Today, we can do things in minutes that would’ve taken hours and a degree in coding to execute back in 2000.

Moreover, marketing as a discipline is no longer a one-way street. A combination of regulatory shifts and focus on customer experience means that people aren’t happy to be marketed ‘at’ – they want to control their content. This covers things that they’re happy to receive – setting their marketing email preferences – but also the content that they provide, for example, when writing a review. 

To cap it off, customers are no longer predictable. Their intent is rarely clear. A newsletter sign-up is no longer a firm indicator of where they’ll go next. This means that these modern ESPs need to keep on pushing the boundaries in order to deliver value.

Enter the customer engagement platform.

From customer marketing to customer engagement

The key to unlocking customer loyalty is understanding the sentiment and intent behind their decisions. But to do this, you need data – masses of it – from as many sources as possible. The natural place for it all to converge is a customer engagement platform.

With so many market players, it can be difficult to figure out the right system for your needs. Choosing a solution with the following will enable you to embed your CX strategy into reality:

Integration – a single company can contain hundreds of pieces of technology; some used by the entire business (CRM), and many of them located within the marketing team (e.g. a ticketing system). All of these may hold customer data in some form or another. In order to use the data to its full potential – not to mention reducing data duplication and errors – it’s essential that your entire stack is able to exchange real-time information.

Data privacy, trust and audit – keeping ahead of GDPR can be complex. A good customer engagement platform does a lot of the hard work with robust processes to collect data and consent in the proper way. It’s also important to be able to demonstrate how that consent was collected, capturing things like the text the person responded to when ticking the box.

Fulfilling custom data collection requirements – competitive advantage goes beyond simple automations, requiring creative data strategies. Naturally, there is no one size fits all template for these – so it is critical that the engagement platform is built from the ground up to enable brands to gather and use the data in a simple, cost-effective way.

Support – functionality is important, but so is the help desk. Nothing sours customer journey efforts more than a lack of support when you run into a technical issue. Gone are the days of 9am – 5pm calling hours: today’s contact centres are around any time of day or night. As well as phone support, it’s useful to have a live chat facility for quick questions, delivered via your platform of choice, for example, email, WhatsApp or Messenger.

Ability to grow with your business – you might be operating in one location today, but it’s important to prepare for tomorrow. Check that the customer engagement platform offers support for your growth; whether that’s supporting a multi store/subsidiary environment, or enabling trading in different currencies and languages.

What are the top automations that you need to deliver?

Since the Covid-induced online boom, customers have come to expect a significant number of interactions once they do business with your brand. We’ve outlined the most popular ones below. These should be easy to build, execute and monitor, leaving you time to focus on the custom data requirements that will deliver your competitive advantage.

  1. Welcome programme – also known as a welcome series, this occurs after a user first submits their email address, makes a purchase, signs up for a newsletter, enters a competition or completes an enquiry form. A welcome series is typically made up of a string of one or more automated message
  2. Nurture campaigns – often referred to as a ‘lead nurture series’, this is a series of emails that goes to a user if they’ve submitted an enquiry form but haven’t become a customer within a certain period of time. The purpose of this series is to get them back to picking up a conversation with the sales team. A nurture series works perfectly with contact scoring and warming contacts up through the scores (from cold to red hot) with a series of communications.
  3. Re-engagement – use these to target those people who bought from you in the past but whose interest has waned. The platform should make it easy to divide your database into personas, including those who are ‘lapsed’ customers.
  4. ‘ARN’ automations – alerts, reminders, and notifications: these are the useful, timely messages that reassure customers that all is well with their order, booking or enquiry. Customers expect these as standard, so make sure they’re included at every appropriate touchpoint.
  5. Post-purchase – a successful post-purchase cadence thanks the buyer for their purchase, then sends follow ups to help them use the product or service for as long as possible. A learning series, regular check-ins and upsell messages are all examples.
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