Quite a bit more progress has been made for the 'how and why' of digital engagement metrics. The 'mechanics' of customer engagement now include more sophisticated methods for tracking and analyzing all of the physical actions taken by people when they are interacting with a web property. Someone on a laptop feeds information to analytics through mousing, scrolling and hovering activities, correlated by the spot on the web page where the activities take place. Mobile devices are providing even more activity categories, including change of orientation for the device, and finger swipes and pinches that alter the display for the viewer.
But problems remain.
Distributed digital presence outside the corporate website continues to add another dimension to the quantitative difficulty of measuring customer engagement. User-generated content in forums, blogs, microblogs, communities must be found, then assessed for sentiment and key content. Processes for engaging the authors of UGC must be designed as a means for opening more communication channels for customers. And then we have to figure out how to measure all of this in meaningful ways.
Many questions swirl around understanding what engagement is, what defining characteristics should be measured and why, how to align metrics to goals, and which metrics matter the most. Context – or even hierarchies of context – plays a major role for selecting metrics, analyzing the data returned by metrics, and understanding what to do with the data.
Which are the right attributes and metrics? For each company, they are the ones that measure actions and events that relate to key business context and goals. There are many different kinds of metrics from which to choose, any of which could be relevant to individual companies. Once a matrix of metrics has been selected, it's likely that each organization will need to constantly assess that set of metrics for validity and effectiveness – and that changing the set of metrics will be continuous, as the company and markets evolve.
Customer Engagement is a difficult, subjective abstract. For the most part, we really aren't measuring engagement per se. But there are many ways we can measure and understand the activities that take place as people interact in the digital world. A good many of these quantitative items will yield useful information -- but the means to measure and analyze them requires hard work.
Don't over-generalize customer activities as "customer engagement" – call out what each item is and label accordingly (i.e., "visit frequency"). The metrics associated with each item become more meaningful when categorized; the composite of these different digital interaction metrics then convey important quantitative data that provide indicators of customer engagement.
Customer engagement has a significant Qualitative aspect that must be taken into account – which I'll discuss in my companion post: The Pesky Qualitative Side of Digital Customer Engagement
This post was written as part of the IBM for Midsize Business program, which provides midsize businesses with the tools, expertise and solutions they need to become engines of a smarter planet. I've been compensated to contribute to this program, but the opinions expressed in this post are my own and don't necessarily represent IBM's positions, strategies or opinions.
About the author: Julie Hunt understands the overlap and convergence of many business processes and software solutions that once were thought of as "separate" – and how this impacts software Vendors and Buyers, as well as the strategies that enterprises implement for how technology supports the business and its customers. Julie shares her takes on the software industry via her blog Highly Competitive and on Twitter: @juliebhunt For more information: Julie Hunt Consulting – Strategies for B2B Software Solutions: Working from the Customer Perspective