In an ever-expanding ecommerce marketplace, businesses are scrambling to separate themselves from their competition. But most businesses don’t really know what sort of marketing it takes to build and sustain long-term success.
Here’s the gist: Any type of marketing must generate customer engagement. Customer engagement is about creating real interactions between your brand and your customers. A relationship that provides your customers with real, tangible value will benefit you as well.
Most people in ecommerce know that customer engagement is important but end up focusing only on increasing conversions.
But in fact, marketing only to improve your conversion rate can be damaging. It can squash the prospect of gaining lifelong customers before the process can really begin.
Obviously, conversions are critical to the health of your business. But without engagement, your audience will lose interest in you. You want to turn your customers into repeat buyers and brand evangelists: people who will promote you and refer your products to others.
Engaged customers have a greater lifetime value and can make a real impact on your position in the marketplace.
In this post, we’re exploring three powerful strategies your business should be using to engage your customers so they become valuable assets to your brand.
The first step in creating engaged customers is, of course, to acquire them. Rather than pushing a first-time visitor to “buy, buy, buy,” you’re better off initiating a relationship with them.
The best way to get a relationship going is to offer a lead magnet.
Lead magnets are an attractive, specific opt-in offer your visitor finds valuable, given for free in exchange for their email address.
The key here is value. Your prospects won’t be motivated to share their email address unless you offer something they will find valuable—something that makes their life a little easier.
The standard ecommerce opt-in offer is a boring “Subscribe to our newsletter!” or a pop-up with a coupon code. Neither of these do anything to engage customers, and discounts can dilute the value of your actual sales offerings.
Lead magnets should give potential customers useful, high-quality information that will help them know, like, and trust you. Whether or not they buy straight away, collecting their email address allows you to continue marketing to them over the long term.
Below are some lead magnet ideas you can put to use in your business. These are flexible enough to work across all niches and can be tweaked and tested easily until you have a lead magnet that consistently brings engaged potential buyers into your business.
Develop these to work for your business, and you’ll be seizing a huge opportunity.
1. Video Opt-In
Video is used extensively in ecommerce. A 2015 study found that 4 times the number of online shoppers would rather watch a video about a product than read about it. That’s a huge number of potential customers, so make sure you’ve got some high-quality video on your site—and that you’re collecting visitor emails before they can access it all.
Not only shoppers love video—so does Google. Sites with video content tend to rank well in the search engine results (particularly when hosted on YouTube, a Google property) since they get higher user engagement.
Here are some options for opt-in video content:
- Product videos: These videos allow the customer to examine the product as closely as possible without actually touching it. The video shows the product from all angles and demonstrates key features or elements. This is ideal if your product is highly visual (like clothing, jewelry, or homewares).
- Demo videos: Demos show the product in action and are ideal for experiential products (like cooking equipment, sports gear, or creative supplies). Demos also allow you to show the end result of using the product, which can be a powerful motivator.
- Creation videos: Also known as behind-the-scenes videos, these show the product being made and give the customer a real insight into the process and story behind the product. It sounds simple, but these are highly engaging, particularly if your products are handmade, ethically-focused, or even just a bit quirky.
- Brand videos: These are ideal for educating and inspiring your potential customers. They tell your story, the how, why, and who of your business. Brand videos are powerful in giving your audience a sense of connection and identification and showing them that your products are the right fit for them.
- Testimonial videos: Testimonials from other customers are a great way to convey the value and unique positioning of your products. Happy customers will always be your best evangelists, so leveraging someone who has had a great experience is an easy way to bring in new customers.
Now, make sure you don’t alienate anyone when you ask for their email—after all, a lot of video content is free and ungated online.
An easy way around this is to create a short (under 15 seconds) teaser video and ask for the subscription before showing the content. If you might give them a little taste of what they want to see, they’re motivated and happy to give you their details to get the rest. Then you can either show it to them right there on the site if you have single opt-in email collection or send the video to their email if you have double opt-in.
2. Case Studies
Case studies are a powerful way to highlight your product’s usefulness.
They make great lead magnets because they let your prospect know two things: 1.) You have a deep understanding of their problem or need and 2.) You have a solution that has already proven successful for others.
A case study is like a testimonial and “how-to” guide wrapped into one.
It provides a complete analysis of the situation the customer is trying to address, demonstrates how your product solves the issue, and illustrates the outcome in full color.
Case studies are stories about how your customers got the results they wanted by using your products. Stories are easy to understand and relate to, so potential customers can quickly imagine themselves having the same positive outcome from using the product.
To create a powerful case study, you must address:
- The problem, need, or desire the customer is experiencing. Really delve deep into it and touch on every part of the issue in order to engage both their emotions and logic
- Show them they’re not alone in this issue. Talk about how many customers your product has helped. Pick a few customers to highlight—what they were going through, how they felt about it, and what the consequences might have been had they not solved this issue.
- Explain, in detail, how the product resolved the issue for your customers. Don’t spare anything here. Talk about the features and how the product is used in various situations and include some specific testimonials that describe just how positive the customer experience was with your product and brand.
3. How-To Guides
You can type “how to…” into Google these days and get an answer about ANYTHING. People are actively looking for practical solutions to problems in their daily lives, so if your product solves a problem like that, you should build a how-to guide around it.
At Blackbelt Commerce, our how-to articles have been some of our most popular posts, that continue to be used years after being published.
For example, if you sell hammers to a suburban audience, and you get a lot of questions through your customer support about whether your hammers can be used to make coffee tables, you should probably create a how-to guide on making coffee tables.
Maybe you sell makeup. Your how-to could be on skincare and seasonal skin treatments. If you sell climbing equipment, your guide could be on how to plan a solo climbing trip.
Most products have a few related how-to topics that are easily connected back to your offer. Even if your product doesn’t work exactly for a how-to guide, you can always repurpose the format into a tutorial, a recipe, or instructions.
Your customer support and FAQs are a gold mine for inspiring this engaging how-to content.
Use questions you get from potential and existing customers. Your current customers can give you all kinds of insight into what they wanted to know before they purchased, so you can repurpose that information to help convert potential customers.
Creating rich content around your product is a major opportunity to build the relationship you’ve begun and ultimately to drive sales. Whether it’s blogging, podcasting, or creating YouTube videos, you can reach huge audiences with content.
In fact, in 2015, content marketing accounted for about 30% of all commercially successful marketing efforts online. Even though the online space can sometimes feel saturated, just about every niche and product still have space for high quality, educational content.
Your content should make your customers feel like you wrote it specifically for them. It should be useful and focused, created with language they use, images they relate to, and messaging that hooks them.
The most powerful content is created with the customer in mind.
Your view on the product—while important—isn’t what the customer cares about. They care about what the product will do for them and whether it fits with their situation and self-perception.
To build an effective content strategy, then, you need to know:
- Customer demographic
- Who they pay attention to
- Who they aspire to be like
- What motivates them
- What their fears are
- Where they spend their time (online and offline)
- What kind of language they use
If you haven’t developed this customer profile, that’s your first priority.
Once you really know your customers this way, you’ll be able to create content that appeals to them on a deep level. You’ll also keep them engaged and begin to establish your brand as the go-to authority in your niche. The content you create will also be what you need to help your customers move along the sales funnel the way you want them to.
Content marketing is so effective because you can include opt-in offers, like the lead magnets we covered earlier. It’s easier to track your ROI, because you can watch your audience receive your lead magnet, go through your email funnels (which we cover here), and convert into customers.
Another benefit is that content marketing is evergreen—once it’s published, you can use that content as long as you want to acquire customers. It integrates seamlessly with social media, PPC, and SEO, so it’s a powerful addition to your marketing arsenal.
Whether it’s a product partnership, an affiliate arrangement, or a sponsorship deal, a joint venture with another business adds a new world of possibility to customer engagement.
For your existing customers, partnering with another brand can create a new surge of interest in your product. This can lead to re-engagement and increased repeat business.
Joint ventures also put your brand in front of a relevant new audience who will be responsive to your marketing.
A simple way to partner with another company is through podcasting. Being featured on a well-known podcast in your industry will spark interest both for existing customers (who are reminded of your relevance and authority) and for new prospects (who are excited about a brand that can address their needs).
Before you can arrange an interview or sponsorship deal, you’ll want to reach out to the business owner or podcaster and build some rapport. There are so many podcasts out there that you should be able to find a few that are complementary to your business.
The Tim Ferriss Show provides a great case study for the power of a good partnership. After sponsoring the Tim Ferriss Show for 3 episodes, Kevin Lavelle from men’s clothing brand Mizzen + Main saw an explosion in sales. The sales from this one campaign rivaled the sales the company had seen from a full-page ad in the New York Times… at Christmas.
You can read Kevin’s full account of how Tim Ferriss’ endorsement exploded his customer base and propelled his brand to success.
Customer engagement is critical to the continued success of your business.
Pay close attention to your customers and their problems, provide them with real value, and focus on getting your products in front of the people who need them. These strategies will help you build a loyal, engaged audience who buy from you again and again and help your business to grow and expand.
Who has seen these strategies improve customer engagement in their own business? Do you have any tips about lead magnets, content marketing, or joint ventures? Please share in the comments below!