Sometime I go crazy thinking about what the digital world has done to change the way people and companies do business. This of course is a result of how all of us personally conduct our matters online, on our smartphone, social media, with text messaging and chats, on Skype, Google hangouts, Periscope, UberConference and others. And these are only just a handful of ways the digital of today has altered not only our personal lives, but also the ways in which businesses go about communicating and selling. Why has engagement gone digital and removed itself from personal face-to-face communication? That’s a great question. Let’s see if we can uncover the real reason.
Customer engagement isn’t about relationships anymore, it’s about digital access to customers anytime, anywhere.
As a digital marketer, I read about customer engagement just about every day. Social media increases engagement. Facebook advertising has high engagement levels. TrueView video advertising has emerged as a high-engagement marketing channel. Content marketing, which has been around for a while now is widely known to increase customer engagement. And of course that small 3-inch smartphone screen has steered all-things-digital to itself and thrown in the word engagement because let’s face it; people use their smartphone at alarmingly high levels nowadays.
According to PewInternet.org, “64% of American adults now own a smartphone up from 35% in the spring of 2011.”
User Engagement Is At An All-Time High
However, the brand response time window has become very small. It’s almost impossible to keep up with the customer’s expectations. Sproutsocial has some interesting facts about brands and customers. 70% of users expect a response from brands and 53% want a response in less than 1 hour. We all know that online content is a massive influencer for customers. Did you know 88% of consumers are influenced by reviews and online comments?
If engagement is so important, why is the face-to-face personal contact in business going away?
In many cases, a sale of a product and service can be much more effective when two people are communicating in-person. Doug Abercrombie says this. “Face-to-face selling simplifies complexity, getting to “yes” faster.” As someone who started my career before digital was born, I was raised and trained to be an effective communicator… in-person. As I worked in sales and marketing, this skill became very handy. However, as the years went by, less and less of those skills were used in a sales environment and more and more digital communication touch point methods were implemented. Now that I am fully immersed in digital in my career, I do see that a massive paradigm shift that has occurred – quite frankly, I am not crazy about it. How in the world do businesses take advantage of relationship building when most people really do not want to actually hold a conversation in-person?
As the Baby Boomers move out of the work world and into retirement, Gen-X, Millennials and Gen-Z mature and their social habits become the norm. Digital natives (Gen-Z) just might be the generation that works for companies that sell more online and less in-person than ever before. They also have to struggle with their bosses who are not as inclined to bury their life in a smartphone. If this is the case, how does a culture of social introverts who communicate mostly with people they really don’t know much about actually have relationships? This is a question I can’t begin to answer, however, businesses have started to make fundamental shifts in their sales, marketing and customer service strategies to accommodate their customer’s online behavior.
“For the first time in the history of our research, more US online adults report using company websites than speaking with agents by phone when resolving customer service needs.” – Anjali Lai
The speed of digital has not only increased innovation timetables and speed to market; it has also added a new dimension of digital commerce that never existed before. The value in this far exceeds the value in talking with a prospect in-person. Maybe the lost art of personal engagement is all but gone, but I think it can still be used to add a personal touch with people that prefer a human over a text message, an online forum, an FAQ website page or even a tweet. Somehow I think the people that prefer the face-to-face relational aspects of business are diminishing fast, but as long as there are humans talking with each other, there will be a need for face-to-face communication and engagement. Hmm…maybe live video is the method that will help bridge the gap between face-to-face, old-school engagement and today’s powerful digital channels that have taken over just about everything us humans can dream of. I guess the answer ultimately rests on us consumers and our spending.
YourBrandExposed is designed to look at digital with an eye into the future using a creative, analytical, innovative marketing perspective. We’re a consultative and tactical resource for companies looking to leverage the power of digital, web, social and content marketing strategies. Contact us if you’re feeling the digital squeeze on how to best market your company.
Scott MacFarland – Executive Digital Marketing
and Brand Strategist
Photo Credit: Pexels.com CC0 License