The most effective marketing today isn’t just about reaching large audiences or even effectively targeting niches with clever communications. To cut through the noise and make an indelible mark, marketers have to delve deeper with messages that connect with shoppers and captivate them. That means creating campaigns that offer interactive, rich experiences across all touchpoints; that is, marketing that’s engaging.
“Engagement, in reality, should be part of all campaigns,” says Andy Frawley, president of global marketing company Epsilon and author of Igniting Customer Connections, Fire Up. “Engagement revolves around things that [customers] do with a brand. So, that includes actions like opening an email, liking a post, clicking on an ad, and, of course, buying something.” Frawley does explain, however, that these actions only represent half of an engaging experience for customers. “The other half is the experience with a brand and emotions for a brand,” he says.
So, what makes an experience engaging and emotional for a customer?
“Ultimately, it’s about making someone feel good about themselves; it’s about making customers feel happy,” says Mike Goldberg, senior director of marketing at native advertising technology company TripleLift. “When done right, engagement is about connecting with a consumer on an emotional level. And if you’re able to connect with a consumer that way and they want to take you into their personal space by sharing with friends and family, then acting as an advocate, well, that’s how an engagement campaign comes together.”
Success defined solely through one-dimensional metrics, such as click-through rates or even the bottom line, Goldberg says, is archaic. Andrea Ward, VP of marketing for Oracle Marketing Cloud expands on his definition, saying that it’s “the quality of the human-to-human interaction that trumps all” in an engagement campaign. She says that beyond creating positive feelings marketers should engage by providing positive experiences and answers to customers’ questions. “You [as marketers] must prove yourself the giving expert who can help them with any pertinent challenge, at any time,” Ward explains, adding that this camaraderie engages consumers, builds trust, and evokes the right emotions. “Marketers can [then] amplify these emotions through sharing success stories and celebrating customer innovation.”
Those interactions, connections, and emotions serve as the foundation of a stellar engagement campaign. In fact, here are three outstanding examples of brands that use engagement marketing to build advocacy, boost loyalty, and bolster sales.
When customers visit their favorite stores, shopping is often an intimate, engaging experience. Marketers for online jewelry retailer BaubleBar recognized that to personalize each shopper’s visit to the site they needed to go beyond the typical online purchase experience: browse, bag, and pay. They needed to make shopping at BaubleBar more engaging.
“The idea is to make an experience that [BaubleBar] can deliver through its digital channels much more like an experience that a brand could deliver face-to-face and in stores,” says James Keller, CEO of Vee24, which provides video and chat solutions. Keller says that BaubleBar had tried using other digital tools, like Skype and FaceTime, to emulate assistance that shoppers might get in-store, but says those mediums simply didn’t allow BaubleBar “to be hands-on.”
So marketers at the e-tailer decided to provide personal stylists to shoppers—much like a physical store. With video tools from Vee24, BaubleBar engages shoppers with SWAT, i.e. Service With Accessorizing Team. Shoppers can request the help of one of the 18 stylists on the team to help them make the right decisions through live video chats. Stylists help consumers choose jewelry that’s the right weight and perfect color, or even that makes a great gift.
“It’s certainly more challenging to build relationships with customers online, but it’s not impossible,” says Nina Alexander-Hurst, VP of customer experience and SWAT at BaubleBar. “This is a more in-depth interaction. We love unconventional ways to make connections and build relationships. Video chat is just another way to do that.” She says that video chat takes the friction out of the online shopping experience with more interactions and less limitations, and adds the comfort of shopping with someone. It’s the ideal formula for an engaging online shopping experience, one that makes shoppers feel good about their choices—and themselves.
And the proof is in the performance; Alexander-Hurst says BaubleBar has seen the average order value with video stylists increase by about 300%. “We’ve been called therapists; we’ve been called matchmakers,” she says. “Engaging with a customer is very important. Our customers now have a personal customer experience.”
Schwinn Bicycle Company
Schwinn is one of the oldest bicycle brands in the United States, and for many the name alone stirs up fond memories of glorious bike rides during those fun childhood days. But marketers for the 120-year-old brand say they were having trouble evoking those nostalgic feelings among millennials.
“We wanted to grow that engagement funnel. More specifically, we wanted to grow the engagement funnel with millennials,” says Milissa Rick, global director of consumer activation for Pacific Cycle, the U.S. division of Dorel Industries, parent company of Schwinn. Rick says that marketers at Schwinn wanted millennials to know that the company provides classic bikes for a modern era. “Schwinn is a highly recognized brand with a slightly older demographic—from older millennials to Generation X and further back. But unfortunately, we really hadn’t done a lot of outreach among those younger demographics; 2014 was all about embracing the millennial demographic and engaging them,” Rick says.
The marketing team determined that a social campaign was the ideal way to speak the millennial language. “Most people are touching some form of social media throughout their day, and a lot of people are accessing it…nonstop,” says 24-year-old Samantha Hersil, digital communications coordinator for Pacific Cycle and a bona fide millennial. “Social is everywhere; it’s on your laptop, your desktop, your phone. I even see people having multiple conversations on these devices all while doing other things. If [Schwinn] can be part of that conversation, it just adds to our brand.”
But Pacific Cycle’s marketers wanted to avoid a run-of-the-mill social campaign, which would make the movement more like a digital broadcast campaign. Hersil explains that marketers at Schwinn wanted a campaign that included user-generated content to make it more personal.
“Social channels allow this great way for us to curate a lot of user-generated content,” Rick says. “There’s no way that we as a marketing team can be everywhere in the world. Schwinn is a global brand. Sites like Instagram and Facebook provide us the ability to curate content from all over the world.”
With that goal in mind—to engage Schwinn cyclists from around the globe—marketers at Pacific Cycle created a hashtag contest: Where Is Your Schwinn? They asked Schwinn lovers to share photos with their Schwinn bikes and use the hashtag #schwinnlocal. Cyclists, including a large number of millennials around the world, shared personal moments and uploaded their photos to Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Initially, Schwinn used the hashtag as a social media contest—awarding winners a variety of prizes, including T-shirts, messenger bags, and music players for their Schwinn bikes. Hersil says, however, that the hashtag eventually gained its own momentum. Millennials and other Schwinn riders simply wanted to share their stories and engage with the brand.
“What it’s become since we launched the contest is more of an ongoing hashtag,” Hersil explains. “We use it for a lot of our picture campaigns. People know to use it now. They engage with us all of the time. The cool thing is it’s now an evergreen hashtag. We say ‘give us pictures,’ and they know to use the hashtag #schwinnlocal.”
The small marketing team for organic yogurt company Stonyfield sought to infuse customer stories into the Stonyfield narrative last spring—a move sure to make customer interactions with the brand more engaging.
“This wasn’t a contest of some sort. This was really more of an engagement campaign,” says Gina Kilby, the company’s senior digital marketing manager, when describing the marketing team’s efforts to get the word out about new Stonyfield products last May. “Email was really the way we knew that we could engage people on a daily basis…and tell them that there are other ways to engage with the brand.”
The challenge, however, was that Stonyfield had little to no segmentation, customization, or personalization in its email campaigns, and sent just a few newsletters each month—with few prompts to engage with the brand via social. Kilby says she and the team wanted to build one-to-one relationships, increase customer loyalty, and boost engagement so consumers would begin to spread the word about new products. “We were having difficulty personalizing so that people wanted to engage,” she says.
Marketers for Stonyfield determined that it was through email and other digital platforms that they would make the brand’s story the personal story of its customers. So, with tools from Silverpop Kilby and her team created #WakeUpWithStonyfield—an email campaign that also reverberated on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.
Every day for two months Stonyfield marketers sent an email with a different theme or call-to-action. For example, an email would ask readers to share how they’re living an organic lifestyle or encourage them to honor Mother Earth, act with love, or live a healthy lifestyle. Each email included the hashtag #WakeUpWithStonyfield, and a prompt encouraging social users to engage with the brand and share personal photos and stories. As a result, the company’s message springboarded from email to several social platforms. “The plan was to engage where [customers] are…and email is that platform that people are on every day” Kilby explains. “In fact, they want you to email them. It’s their preferred method [of communication].”
The campaign, according to Kilby, resonated with the brand’s target sweet spot: young, health-conscious moms in their 20s and 30s who are willing to splurge.
“Over the course of the campaign we reached more than 23.9 million followers on Twitter. More than 3,000 photos were shared with us on Instagram—our goal was just 300. We had more than 30,000 email signups, and there was very little drop-off,” Kilby says. “Plus, we had a 51% return rate to the campaign’s website page. In fact, people were spending about 13 minutes on that page, up from an average of five minutes before the Wake Up campaign. Obviously, all of this showed huge engagement with us. Bottom line: It worked.”