What is good customer engagement? In the age of digital transformation, this is the question on everyone’s mind. The retail industry is morphing into something new. In fact, consumer spending continues to increase quarter after quarter, with many businesses evolving and thriving by utilising emerging channels to reach new customer bases.

So how is it that some businesses successfully navigate the shifting landscape to emerge more powerful than ever, while others wave the white flag? To find out, we surveyed over 10,000 consumers from around the globe to ask:

• How can retailers, brands and online marketplaces stand out in the crowd?

• What affects shopper loyalty?

• How can retailers go toe-to-toe with emerging digital purchase points?

• Where does the physical store fit in the modern commercial landscape?

The results, as detailed in the third edition of the Connected Shoppers Report, make one thing strikingly clear: in the new Retail Revolution, customer engagement is paramount. In this blog we’ll look at what we learned from shoppers’ favourite brands, and how that knowledge can help businesses build a blueprint for world-class customer engagement.


Five ways to connect with shoppers

When it comes to their relationship with brands, today’s customer wants to be understood and made to feel special. It’s the top trait that customers look for in brands.

With retailers, online marketplaces and Direct 2 Consumer companies all vying for their wallets, consumers have plenty of shopping options, so businesses need to offer more than just a purchase point to stand out. To win over the consumer – and build long and lasting relationships – businesses must treat their customers as individuals and cater to their unique needs. They also must be able to integrate seamlessly into their daily lives, making CRM technology and strategy a crucial component of building and measuring customer engagement.

This kind of micro-marketing – directly targeting an individual consumer rather than a wide demographic– would have been impossible just a decade ago, but new technologies offer exciting possibilities for creating relationships in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and for providing the customer with exactly what they want, when they want it.

Make no mistake, this is a clarion call: consumers need to feel understood and special, as 69% of shoppers surveyed expect companies to cater to their needs and expectations. But, crucially, they’re often feeling let down, as 56% find companies to be generally impersonal.


Check it out before checking out

Today’s retail involves more than just a transaction at a checkout counter, it’s a full spectrum of activities — including research and discovery, browsing and buying, customer service, and advocating for a brand. Influencers are everywhere and unboxing videos have millions of views: making a purchase can become must-see TV.

The way consumers approach this range of activities has changed significantly. Gone is our once-imagined sci-fi future packed with giant electronic billboards and mega-malls, and in its place is the simple pocket-sized mobile phone.

Customers no longer need to make a conscious decision to go shopping, and then carve out a time for it, as with the simple tap of a finger or a voice command, they can buy trainers on social media while jogging to class, book a holiday from the car after a particularly hectic day at work, or order a 5-star dinner while chilling out in front of an episode of Masterchef.

To 83% of these consumers, the experience is just as important as the product, and on average they’ll use eight channels to communicate with companies, so integration is key.


Embrace your individuality

Customers are drawn to unique products and experiences, and like companies that differentiate themselves. Just like they want brands to make them feel like they’re special, they want to feel like the brand is special as well. More than half of shoppers (51%) are drawn to exclusive shopping events, while 54% look for brands and retailers that offer limited edition or customised products. This is even more pronounced in the younger generations, as 72% of Gen Zers are more likely to buy from businesses that offer these unique products.

Loyalty programmes are also a great way to foster customer engagement, as 8 out of 10 consumers are more likely to buy from brands with a loyalty program. But, as the Salesforce survey shows, loyalty programs are most effective when they’re exclusive.

Catering to the customer’s unique needs, integrating into their lives, and offering exclusive products and services are just some of the ways to build customer engagement.

To dive deeper into the mind of the modern consumer, download the third edition of the Connected Shoppers Report!