Someone sneaked a camera into the Winners and Losers book launch. The following gives a reasonable indication of how I bored the audience with four tactics for engaging your audience:
- personalisation and the rich experience
- the role of psychology and persuasion
- atomisation and the distributed experience
- social tools and the new conversation.
Slides and audio:
OK, personalisation and the rich experience, the role of psychology and persuasion, atomisation and the distributed experience. And then social tools and the new conversation. These are all grand titles and I will explain them as I go along.
Before I do that, I think it’s worth explaining what I mean by customer engagement. This is the definition that we’ve produced: it’s an adapted version of some other peoples’ definitions. There are a lot of people defining customer engagement at the moment. ‘Repeated interactions that strengthen the emotional, psychological and physical investment a customer has in a brand, product or service.’
Basically, what we’re saying here is that engagement is a process required to develop a bond between you as a business and your customers. It places conversion, which is the final aim of marketing, into a more strategic and long-term context and it recognises that a sheer, simple focus on conversion is not necessarily the best route to gaining a long-term relationship and, ultimately, long-term profitability from your customers, whether you are a profit-driven company or not.
What I consider the two most important words in this are: firstly, ‘repeated ‘. It’s very easy to be able to drive a spike and say you can get as many customers to you as possible. That’s what vouchers do. You quite often find that people say ‘oh, that’s great, it’s driven a lot of traffic’. But the point is, vouchers don’t help customers develop an emotional connection with you as a company, they develop an emotional connection with the voucher and unless you’re in the habit of giving out vouchers, building your brand around it, that actually can do you quite a lot of harm.
The second most important word is ‘investment’ and we can talk about this later, but it’s about developing that investment in the relationship that the customer has with you.
To the first one of these trends I’ve identified – personalisation and the rich experience. This isn’t just about me, by the way. I think everyone thinks about it in these terms when we come to the web and the demand for relevance, service and quality are central to the reasons for why we use the web, even if it’s just for entertainment. It is essentially about ‘me’, so personalisation and being able to develop interactive experiences is about being able to take that and increase that relevance for the individual and making sure you can do that productively: a better, more relevant experience, essentially.
I’m assuming most people will have seen the new BBC homepage. Is there anyone who hasn’t seen the homepage or played around with it yet? I’ll just describe it very briefly because I think this is going to be one of the most important developments in the UK, probably internationally in terms of website development. Not just because this is really cool, but also because it will start to shape our audiences’ and customers’ expectations when they encounter us.
The first bit you notice here [displays slide] is that you can customise the web page up here at the top. This allows you to select a number of different options to say ‘I’m interested in these particular things – show me only these things’. It also allows you to move things around on the homepage. Both of these things are incredibly important for being able to deliver relevance to customers. First of all, you’re saying that you can choose a vast amount of what you want to engage with and, secondly, the ability to move things around allows for prioritisation. And prioritisation is pretty much the first step to having control. Control is one of the first steps towards having an engaged relationship. If you feel out of control of a relationship, then you’re going to back away from it. So the ability to set controls.
Being able to change the colour. Now, it seems a little superficial, but what this does is that it takes it out of functionality and delivers an emotional element to the page. Obviously, this doesn’t really do much, but it does allow you to control how you feel about the page. You’re suddenly in control of that page.
This has had a lot of praise, but it has also come in for a lot of criticism. Has anyone got any idea of what the chief criticism has been on this homepage? It’s that you can’t customise it enough and this is one of the things you need to bear in mind when you’re doing this kind of customisation and personalisation.
I’m a Tottenham Hotspur supporter. Why would I want Chelsea coming up here on this page? At the moment, I can only choose ‘football’. See, once you introduce these things, you need to recognise that you have to manage some of the expectations and probably manage them at quite a granular level if you want to be successful.
Onto our second key trend. Anyone who has listened to me bump my gums at events over the past year will know that I have a complete preoccupation with the concept of persuasion and the role of psychology. I think it’s one of the main areas that have been neglected in terms of web development and there’s so much potential there as well. So it’s about the power of the brain. The brain is the thing that mediates all of our experiences so we need to be able to understand that. There’s a lot of science out there that we’re neglecting at the moment and I thought that rather than me trying to give you this highfalutin explanation of the role of psychology and, in particular, persuasion, what I’d do is give you an example.
This is from quite an extensive test done at the start of last year and it was first presented to me at a conference I went to in Stanford. Basically, you have the desire to be able to capture as much information as possible and to get someone to register on your website. And you do that by incentivising them with the provision of a white paper, a report. Trial A asks you to sign up and as a reward you will get a report. Trial B says ‘here’s your report – why don’t you sign up?’ One had a conversion rate of 84%. So 84% of people who landed on that page completed the form. The other had a 72% conversion rate.
Then you need to think back to why we were using this report as an incentive in the first place? Well, the main reason was to develop a relationship with the person that has come to that page? And how do you do that? Well, you develop a relationship with someone by beginning to understand more about them, by knowing who they are, by knowing more about them so that you can start to personalise and tailor.
So this had a 44% field conversion. So basically people said ‘I’ll just put in the bare minimum that’s required’, sometimes they even give fake information to get that report.
This had a 91% conversion rate. I’m not saying this is necessarily appropriate for every single situation but understanding the way that, in this case, the concept of reciprocity works is important. If I give you something without asking anything in return, you’re going to think ‘well, actually I will owe something back’. And what’s interesting about the human psyche is if I give you something and just walk away, the desire is there to seek me out to make things good because it’s the way society works. So how can we take advantage of that?
So now we’ll look at the concept of atomisation and the distributed experience. Just for the purposes of this event, this is you and your business. This is how a majority of businesses understand themselves. This is you – you are the centre of the universe. You might have a blog, you might be able to put some of your content onto Facebook, or Slideshare or LinkedIn. It’s kind of harder getting some of your content out into the BBC, but you are the centre of that universe. Well, sorry but this is how I understand me [display slide]. This is how your customers understand themselves. They’re at the centre. They might, as in my case, have a blog, a Facebook page… and you are out here on the periphery. If this is how I understand myself, what’s the best place for you to be? Well, closer to me, actually, rather than closer to you. So if this is your website, why don’t you come to me?
This is the concept of atomisation. If your customers are spending time elsewhere, why don’t you go to where they are rather than spend 99% of your resources on building up a presence? Obviously, you need to have a website. We’d be out of business if you didn’t have one! But I do think you need to think about what you’re doing with your content. How can you split it up into smaller chunks and distribute it to where is relevant for your customers?
The last of our key trends – social tools and the new conversation. Despite what you might see on a Saturday night, most human beings are incredibly social creatures and what’s always happened in every generation is we’ve always found ways to express our sociability through whatever means available. As it happens, digital media probably provides the best channels for expressing that sociability. I actually think that it’s probably a better medium than face to face for expressing sociability. You do have the opportunity to have wider groups spread across a global terrain. At certain points you can be anonymous. That can be a really great thing because it stops people from experimenting if you have to be visible all the time.
So human beings are essentially social creatures and I think you need to ask yourselves what you’re doing to use your products, your services, your offering to tie into that inherent sociability.
I thought I’d just chuck a few things out here for you to have a think about. The first would be to check out what other people are doing. Why don’t you start at Widgipedia.com? This is a site that pulls together all the various tools, widgets, gadgets – whatever you want to call them – that other people have developed in order to be able to give to people to share. So you can see what other people are up to. So start with that.
The second thing (and this is something I started to engage with about a year ago after a conference in the States and didn’t quite get until a month and half ago); it’s a tool called Twitter. Does anyone here have a Twitter account? Does anyone here have a Facebook account? Twitter is Facebook without everything but the status update, nothing else. It’s really, really simple. However, there’s some stuff going on there that I think is really useful for us. Not that you’ll necessarily be interested in some of the marketing conversations because it is, at the moment, primarily marketing stuff. But it teaches you the language that I think is going to be increasingly important for the web. It teaches you brevity and connectedness. If you decide to post something every day, what will that be? The fact that you’re at a conference? Has anyone Twittered the fact that they’re at this conference? So I can’t really sell Twitter to you now, but as a mechanism for developing the language that I think is going to become increasingly important for the web, it’s a good tool to try out.
So just a quick roundup on that. Personalisation and the rich experience – help them to help themselves; persuasion – gain competitive advantage, really, from being able to understand how the brain works; undertake the content and service diaspora – send your content out into the world and you might learn something yourself when people are engaging with you outside of your own space; and, lastly, join the conversation – if push comes to shove, perhaps you even want to facilitate it