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2017 and customer engagement


‘Tis the season to look ahead to a new year and all that jazz. And marketers love to ponder on what may lie around the corner. For the art of customer engagement, 2017 promises much indeed.

But as ever, a promise is one thing, delivering on that potential another entirely. So what will matter in engagement in the next 12 months?

Conversation starters

We love to talk, right? And brands love to have conversations with their customers, and they’ve been doing it for years now. Conversational engagement is a key factor in creating lasting connections (and generating purchasing actions). But what’s the way to get this right in 2017?

Well, hitching the right tech to the right context will drive more relevancy in conversations. Savvy brands recognise this and – usually through mobile, apps etc – contact customers more directly than ever before. Making sure you’re there with what your customer needs, when they need it, is crucial.

A key challenge, though, is managing the sheer number of conversations going on, across platforms, at different times. Think Twitter and Facebook, email and SMS, even print: all are key areas of engagement where brands talk to their customers.

So will 2017 be the year where engagement practitioners solve the problem of unifying these discussions? Will it be the year where it all comes together is sweet-synchronised harmony?

Hmm, let’s go with “maybe”.

Hot tech

Omnichannel chatter will benefit from the rise of AI techniques (hello Siri) to create a more rounded customer experience. Voice recognition continues to thrive and improve, and brands in 2017 will need to provide customers with context-driven experiences via the right platforms that allow for these “real” conversations to take place.

Quite the challenge, then. But the tech doesn’t stop there.

Brands looking to take their engagement up a level in 2017 could well move into the conversational space offered by platforms like What’s App and Facebook messenger. These are the places where we hold our conversations with friends and family, so why not the companies we buy from?

We’ve mentioned Siri and voice-recognition, but the role of the virtual assistant in the customer experience could be a key marker of 2017 in tech and engagement. Chatbots already populate many customer journeys, but will the next steps be to develop AI to work in live support for consumers looking for that 24/7 care?

The data underpinning customer engagement will continue to dominate 2017 as well, with the focus shifting from traditional data points – think customer feedback and web data – to include data points from across the entire customer journey.

Customer-first is still the key

But hey let’s not lose ourselves in a tech wonderland, because what really counts is the right focus.

The hard facts are that brands that don’t throw themselves into creating relationships and customer experience that are truly customer-centric face a tough 2017 – and beyond. Your brand culture must reflect a service outlook, not just a transactional one. Serve customers, don’t just flog to them.

Crafting experiences throughout the customer journey will be a vital aspect of this customer-centricity, because across that journey will be where businesses evaluate and measure impacts. Data will be key, of course, the sweetspot where brands find competitive advantages in how they manage what customers want, protect their security and personal information.

The future of customer engagement

To help marketers map the year ahead, and with a focus on how artificial intelligence in particular will influence engagement in the years to come, we're running a future of customer engagement session on January 17. Join speakers from OgilvyOne, IBM Watson, TMW Unlimited, Mvine and the REaD Group, and meet the leading engagement practitioners.

You can find out more and book your place here.

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