After two world-changing years, 2022 was supposed to represent a return to normal for most companies. It turned out to be the opposite. Geopolitical uncertainty, inflation and the looming threat of recession mean that few companies (apart, perhaps, from oil companies making record profits) are completely comfortable with their short- and medium-term growth prospects.
Within this environment of uncertainty, digital engagement remains critical. But just as the global business environment has changed again, so have the factors that drive the importance of digital communication. For much of 2020 and 2021, it was the only way businesses engaged with their customers, especially when lockdowns were at their peak. Today, it’s more about meeting customers where they are, no matter where they are in the world. This shift is further accentuated by the fact that the global online audience will be nearly as large as the global TV audience by 2023.
This growth and shift in priorities means that the strategies needed to optimize digital engagement have changed as well. And they will keep changing. If anyone thinks that 2023 will bring a return to some preconceived notion of normalcy, they haven’t been paying attention.
Knowing that, what strategies should you implement to optimize digital engagement in 2023?
Doubling engagement as online and social growth slows
Today, there are an estimated 5 billion people across the planet who are online. With the planet’s population topping 8 billion people this year, that suggests there is still plenty of room for growth. But growth is stalling. Even in a country like South Africa, which has a significant digital divide, 80% of the population has access to the Internet. At the same time, it is estimated that more than 75% of eligible populations already use social media.
For organizations, this slowdown in growth suggests that more can be gained by doubling down on digital engagement with customers already on their digital channels than by persuading people who aren’t on them to join. Remember, if you get the engagement right, you’ll get to the point where your most loyal customers become brand advocates and attract new customers.
Don’t tear up the rugs
Similarly, in the face of overwhelming change, it can be too tempting for companies to completely overhaul their digital engagement practices. But that’s unnecessary, expensive, and can even set the business back further than it was before.
A much better approach is for the organization to maximize and complement its existing platforms. This allows you to continually improve engagement and adapt as you go rather than having to start from scratch all over again.
Always be where your customers are
However, maximizing existing platforms does not mean that organizations should be reluctant to explore new ones. Research shows that while Internet penetration has grown globally, the average amount of time a person spends online has not.
That means that every time people start engaging in a new online activity, they are likely to spend less time doing another online activity rather than ditching an offline one. Organizations need to be aware of what these activities are and whether they can leverage them for engagement. That does not mean, for example, establishing a position in the metaverse “just in case”. What it does mean is keeping an eye on changes in consumer behavior and making sure you’re prepared to build a presence on a new platform if necessary.
Make sure you understand your customers’ digital behavior
In theory, we all know that knowing your customers is critical to optimizing engagement with them. We know why too. Imagine trying to have a meaningful conversation with a stranger you know nothing about. You might get lucky from time to time, but chances are you’ll be in trouble most of the time.
But as anyone who’s ever received an irrelevant ad online (that is, everyone) will tell you, it’s something even the big tech players who have built their businesses on customer data prowess get wrong.
However, when it comes to personalized and meaningful digital engagements, the consequences of getting it wrong can be much more significant than those of an irrelevant display ad. Therefore, it is critical that organizations develop the deepest possible understanding of their customers’ digital behavior to ensure that all engagements are delivered with the right message, on the right platform, at the right time.
5. Find the right partner
Of course, organizations do not have to undertake this optimization on their own. By partnering with a customer engagement specialist like Tilte, they put themselves in a much better position to simplify, individualize, and maximize engagement across the board.
The ideal partner will also prioritize getting things done over lengthy processes and consulting, which means engagement can start to improve as quickly as possible.
Resilience to change
Ultimately, optimizing digital engagement in this way not only puts organizations in a better position to ride the current wave of change, but also to build resilience against future change. The world will continue to change, along with customer expectations. The best way to take advantage of that change is to always ensure that digital engagement is carried out in the best possible way.
By Brent Haumann, Managing Director, Tilte