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New Research: Companies Turn to Email to Increase Customer Engagement

The third annual Online Customer Engagement Report–produced by online publisher E-consultancy and digital agency cScape–is now available, and examines the likely impact of a worsening economic environment on customer behavior and psychology.

The report is based on a survey of 1300 respondents and looks at how companies plan to adopt customer engagement campaigns during these tough economic times. I was asked to review the early findings and provide my observations on the data.

Here’s what jumped out at me:

Over the last 12 months, a lack of budget and time (45%) was cited as the biggest barrier to starting a customer engagement campaign. Ironically, as budgets have tightened further—ahead of tougher economic times—those same businesses are increasing their focus in this area, with 41% naming the worsening economy as the catalyst for spending more resources on customer engagement.

Noteworthy is exactly which channels businesses have the most faith in will help them to achieve their customer engagement goals. While 37% of respondents plan to invest in blogging, user-generated content, and social networks, it’s email newsletters that will receive the greatest investment (58%) over the coming year. Not that other channels aren’t valuable at building customer engagement, it’s simply a case that email marketing shows the highest ‘tangible improvement’ in customer engagement—with 69% of respondents able to measure a benefit from the use of email. Perhaps this is more of a statement about the effectiveness of measuring customer engagement using social media, than a statement about social media itself.

So what data points will businesses find most valuable in measuring the success of their customer engagement efforts? Not surprisingly, almost 47% of respondents favor ‘customer satisfaction’ as the most important metric to measure—easily beating the 37% who keep a close eye on the actual transactions that take place on their web site. Why the focus on customer satisfaction and not customer sales? As customer purse strings are tightened all around the world, few companies will have the luxury of reporting increases in customer sales. Instead, ensuring customers are satisfied with their experience is the most important metric to follow over the coming months. Those companies that can keep their customers happy during these difficult times will be well placed to enjoy tremendous growth, once our economy starts to recover.