11 Tips for Ramping Up Customer Engagement Online and Off


Are your online and offline marketing efforts supporting each other to deliver a seamless customer experience? Is your loyalty program integrated and equally engaging through the web and your physical stores? In our increasingly multi-channel world, customers expect to be able to shop 24/7 and engage with your brand whenever, wherever and however they wish. By integrating the bricks and clicks, you’ll create a customer journey that drives engagement, loyalty and sales. Here are 11 ways you can boost engagement and retention.

1)  Integrate and support across channels.

Start by focusing on ways to coordinate the online and offline customer experience, while using each channel to support the other. For example, make it easy for customers to buy online and pick up or return in store. Or, if they’re in your physical store and you don’t have the size or color they want in stock, order it immediately online for them.  

Example: Walmart makes it easy for shoppers to buy online and pick up in store. They go a step further by adding localized personalization, showcasing top selling items on their website that are available at a customers’ nearby physical store.


2)  Educate staff so they’re familiar with both channel experiences.

Retail associates should be familiar with your store’s online experience and be able to direct customers to related products and services on your website — and vice versa. Training staff on both sides of the business gives customers a more consistent, seamless shopping experience. And make sure that employees are incentivized to fulfill cross-channel orders.


3)  Use your website to promote physical store locations and events.

Offer customers a coupon or an in-store purchase, let them browse store-specific inventory online, and give them the option to buy online and pick up in store. And vice versa — direct offline traffic to online channels by including social media handles and online coupon codes in physical store signage and communications. You could also promote an online flash sale with in-store signage.


Example: On their website, Petco promotes puppy training classes and adoption events happening at local stores.


4)  Digitize the in-store experience.

Consider adding self-service kiosks or tablets so that customers can quickly find out if another size or color is available, read product reviews and even shop online in the physical store. Encourage shoppers to scan their loyalty cards when they walk in the door so that staff can view their past history and make recommendations.


Example: Kohl’s shoppers who can’t find an item in their size or preferred color can quickly and easily search and purchase from stock in a nearby store using Kohls’ in-store kiosks.   


5)  Use email sign-ups in physical stores to set up lead generation opportunities. 

Give customers the option of having their receipt emailed to them instead of printed. Not only does it save paper and offer the customer a convenient option, but it also lets you capture more email addresses. You can then target customers with relevant email messaging based on their profile and behavior.


Example: DSW leverages data from email addresses and customer birthdays collected in its stores to send out birthday emails with a special offer.


6)  Drive conversions to both online and offline stores with social media.

Share content on your social media channels that addresses products and events at both your physical and online locations. Be sure to mention any upcoming promotions to increase awareness of different opportunities to save.


Example: Home improvement store Lowes uses its social media channels to promote seasonal products as well as videos of DIY projects that can be completed with products available in their stores and on their website.


7)  Create a mobile app and mobile-optimize your website. 

Make it easy for customers on-the-go to find information about in-store and online products, offers, unique content and reviews. Send triggered push notifications and in-app messages based on a customer action. Or re-engage post-purchase by sending an offer for additional products that complement what they just bought.  


Example: Sephora’s mobile app lets customers view past purchases (both in-stores and online), create shopping lists and even make purchases from within the app. The app integrates with Sephora’s loyalty program and allows members to view their own personalized exclusive offers. 


8)  Leverage your loyalty program. 

A loyalty program is a proven way to strengthen customer engagement. Make sure yours is accessible and supported across online and offline channels. 

It’s a fact: 80% of Americans belong to some type of loyalty program, with the average person belonging to more than 14 — but they’re active in fewer than half of them. To boost customer engagement, take steps to make sure your program stands out. For example, gather your team to brainstorm unique benefits that appeal to your different customer segments. 


9)  Amp up engagement and rewards redemption.

If you don’t have a loyalty program because your CEO doesn’t think it can enhance margins, it’s time to go on the offense. Convince management of the value of a loyalty program by sharing research and relevant statistics, including consumption and behavior statistics. The U.S. is the most over-banked and over-stored country in the world. Loyalty makes the difference for both frequency and spend. Make sure to map out your plan of attack and provide strong data to back it up.


10)  Analyze breakage.

Not every customer reward gets used. Evaluating this breakage — and its effect on revenue — can help you strike a balance between customer engagement and program profitability. If breakage is too high, it could signal customer disinterest. You may need to offer more relevant rewards. If breakage is low, your discounts may be too deep — and you may be operating at a loss. Determine whether there is a difference in breakage and redemption for online versus offline and use that information to help guide strategy enhancements.


Example: Paul Mitchell’s win-back campaign targeting disengaged users appeals to customers’ emotions with a simple reminder of what they’d be missing.


11)  Retain customers with the right messaging. 

Targeted messaging is a top tool for encouraging rewards redemption. Redemption is especially important for getting program newcomers involved — so consider targeting this group with special incentives to redeem (for instance, doubling the reward value when they redeem within a specific time period).


Example: Gap Inc. sends loyalty members personalized emails reminding them of unused rewards and expiration dates, and provides quick links to “shop now” and “print rewards.” You can follow a similar approach with members who prefer to receive print communications. 



Incorporating these tips into your 2021 marketing efforts can help you ramp up customer engagement through every channel — and that’s the first step to greater loyalty today and tomorrow.


As president and CEO of the full-service customer relationship marketing (CRM) and loyalty agency Customer Communications Group, Inc. (CCG), Sandra Gudat is dedicated to helping her retail and financial services clients engage customers, increase traffic and boost the bottom line. Her multi-faceted experience in consulting, data analysis, advertising, retail and business management helps CCG turn data into insight and insight into action to consistently deliver results.

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