Wednesday, 7 May 2014

The‘Geeky Side’ (Technology) of Customer Engagement

In our last article, we focused on the basics & procedural side of customer engagement. You will find us repeating the basics of CEM many times over. That is because many organizations get so lost in jargons, buzzwords & day-to-day deliverables that they often let themselves get detached from the foundations of CEM – customization/personalization, accessibility, responsiveness & active 2-way communication. While procedural aspects may prove vital for designing the overall engagement program & for drawing the high-level information flow diagrams & process flow diagrams; it is of paramount importance that one is aware of different technological options available to them.

So what are the technological options available to you if you want to create a customer engagement management program? The answer depends on a particular procedural aspect you are designing. In other words, technology choices depend upon the particular problem you are trying to tackle. Optimal choice of technology would be different for different processes (enrollment into the program, targeted marketing, interaction, reward redemption etc.). Since a specific technology can be used in many processes, it is only logical for us if we consider each major process at a time & then explore the technological options for it.
Let us discuss the process of enrollment or registration into the program. At Birdvision, we have been talking about ‘frictionless enrollment’ for quite a while now. Whenever customers face any kind of friction while registering or enrolling into the program, there is a high probability that they won’t bother with it.

Until customers recognize the real benefits of participating in a customer engagement/loyalty program, the program is essentially an auxiliary thing for them. Unless the audience is properly ‘gamified’, only the core services of the brand are necessary for them & customers may feel they can do away with such perceived supplementary services. Hence we feel that enrollment process should be multi-modal. Possible technological choices are Web, IVR (Interactive Voice Response), SMS, USSD (Unstructured Supplementary Service Data) & mobile apps. In web registration, there are 2 scenarios: you can either give a portal so that participants can self-register; or the CEM software can be connected to POS (Point of Sale) of the merchant so that participants can enroll at the billing/checkout counters of merchant’s outlets. However, the latter option involves a painful process of integrating the CEM software with the POS systems of each merchant. Also, making participants self-register via a web portal could involve some falloffs since some customers may already consider the CEM to be a supplementary service which they don’t think is worth the effort. If a CEM system is taking participants’ mobile no. as a unique identifier, then registering via IVR, SMS & USSD may be a viable option. Still, we feel it’s necessary to provide multi-modal enrollment to increase the probability of new registrations. For participants having smartphones & mobile internet, providing mobile app is not a bad option. It provides the brand with a continuous touchpoint while accruing convenience & mobility to the participant.
The next process aspect to be considered is interactions/transactions & targeted marketing. This incorporates transmission of personalized messages. For this, timely & accurate offers must be sent to the respective participants. The best approaches in such scenarios where time & accessibility are of immense importance are SMS, Voice Call & mobile app.  If one expects the customers to check their email inboxes or web portals to get the targeted offers, then the communication loses most of the time & place virtues. Hence, SMS & voice calls are your best bets. However, with avg. mobile user getting flooded with so many spam SMSs & voice calls; we cannot stress more upon the importance of incorporating personal identifiers & succinctness of the information. Otherwise, customers will simply ignore/block the calls & SMSs. Mobile apps are also important for the instant notifications. Nowadays, apps can even send push notifications on smartphones based on various parameters. Still, mobile apps have some limitations. These apps require appropriate permissions from the app user & an active GPRS or 2G/3G internet connection. Moreover, many such apps need to be launched by user manually or they necessitate a service to be run in the background. Without these conditions, such mobile apps may render themselves useless. However, these mobile apps when used properly can bring fantastic new possibilities for the marketers as well as users. A participant can easily check his/her points balance, learn about new ways of earning more points & discounts, seamlessly redeem the points (often in a contactless manner!)& get recognition within participant community as well as on social networks in the form of virtual badges & rewards.
Lastly, let us shed some light on a novel aspect of targeted marketing. Until very recently, targeted marketing was only based on profiling a customer through gradually collecting information. This still being the prime function of targeted marketing softwares, there is an increasing tendency to create dynamic segments based on location of the customer. Make no mistake; these are not those fuzzylocation advertisements where you are presented with the local ads when you are present in that city or town. Location tracking technologies have become so accurate that they can send you targeted offers when you are just a few tens of meters away from the respective outlets or they can incredibly pinpoint your location to just a few meters to offer you the ads & discounts depending upon the isle that you are walking down inside the store. In descending order of location pinpointing accuracy, I think the technologies used are GPS < WiFi < Beacons (I’m no expert in this subject so please feel free to correct me!). GPS can roughly pinpoint your location to a few hundred meters, while WiFi & Beacons have the capability to determine your location & confine it to just a few meters. This gives endless opportunities to the marketers. Apple has recognized this & they have taken a lead the development of ‘Beacon’ communication by incorporating the beacon signals in its iPhones. Apple is also supporting the development of apps that could use Beacon services. A beacon is nothing but a Low-Energy Bluetooth (BLE) signal that can communicate with the devices recognizing such signals. Many times it is difficult to get GPS signal connectivity inside the stores& hence tracking locations of customers could be difficult. In-store beacon devices can communicate with the beacon signals sent from mobiles of the customers to pinpoint their locations. For this purpose, specialized devices (mostly transceivers) for beacon signal transmission & reception are coming up. These beacon devices have to be fitted intelligently throughout the stores so as to cover all the important areas. In future, many more applications of beacons are expected to launch.

 To round off this topic, I’d like to point out that though organizations have adequate technological tools at their disposal, using them intelligently & fine-tuning them to your market & target audience is not an easy job. As far as I know, that bit is still dependent on human intuition, clarity of thought & vision. Words of advice - “Integration of technology is the means to achieve something, not the end goal.”

1 comment:

  1. Personalization & Customization is now the "IN" thing and also the way forward in Customer Engagement. And most companies are already doing it. But to implement it effectively is the challenge and if done can be rewarding in a big way.