With the growth of digital and interactive marketing efforts, a great deal of focus is on customer experience and engagement – and how to measure customer engagement on digital properties. Some marketing practitioners seem to think that understanding more about "customer engagement" means that they can control the customer experience. Always remember: only the customer owns the customer experience, which is the customer's personal takeaway from interactions with your company, whether digital or in person. It is this fact that brings in the qualitative side when trying to assess customer engagement on digital properties.
Engagement - like influence - is at heart an abstract.
For purposes of customer engagement on the web, engagement can be thought of as the measurement of attention to something -- which takes us to another ambiguity: what constitutes customer attention to a company's web presence? For each company, what comprises indicators of engagement can be fairly unique, generally derived from a matrix of attributes, in turn leading to a matrix of metrics. As web presence becomes more far-flung and sophisticated, the metrics, tools, data, and analyses become more complex – and in some ways, more subjective.
Not only is the level of engagement unique to each customer, it can be unique to each web property. Selection of the right metrics for each digital property becomes fluid, not easy or black-and-white. For the quantitative side, it's best to think in terms of customer interaction categories and what it takes to understand customer behavior. The overall picture comes from quantitative analytics results that are tempered by the understanding that customer engagement has a distinct and elusive qualitative side.
The qualitative side of digital engagement takes us into the messier world of sentiment analysis, which is still a work-in-process, as well as semantic/content analysis. Demarcations are likely to start blurring between what matters for customer engagement on the corporate website and what matters on social sites, also along qualitative lines.
In the category of not everything that counts can be measured: listening, understanding, acting on what customers/buyers have to say are among the most important corporate 'to-dos' regarding real engagement. Responding to actual customer behavior and interactions is a much better route, than trying to "control" customers.
If you really want to touch the customer in a positive way, keep authenticity in your marketing efforts. It's not a matter of trying to make customers do what you want (which won't ever really succeed) – it's about digitally providing worthwhile content, offers, and interactions that merit customer attention.
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