March 14, 2012

Engagement is No Real Metric “Engagement” is being proposed as the new metric for online and social media interactions. Although not uniformly defined, “engagement” seems to be an aggregate measure of a variety of interactions, which include clicks, likes, comments, shares, and re-posts. It’s a proxy for conversion in environments where goods and services aren’t directly sold. To the old school crowd, including yours truly, engagement is measured more discretely by counting the number of people who show up on a site, view a desired number of pages, spend significant time per page and per session, and take the desired action. These “engaged” visitors sign up for a newsletter, download something, use a calculator, enroll in a class or webinar, or maybe even buy something. Part of the debate centers on a definition and the use of the term relative to media values and media buying. If someone comes to your site or onto your Facebook page, are they engaged or not? If they spend a nanosecond to click “like” or view two pages or less, are you suffering from low engagement? In the old media world, we measured time-spent-viewing or time-spent-listening and inferred engagement from lapsed time. So if Nielsen clocked you listening to Z-100 for 45 minutes between 6a and 9a, we inferred that you liked that station, probably tracked with the core demographic, probably listened as much as the average dedicated listener, and probably paid some attention to its content and the ads. All media experiences are not equal and, therefore, have different outcomes. Engagement is a catchall concept designed to obscure rather than illuminate these differences in outcomes. The engagement debate is a step in the evolution of an elusive advertising rationale to support spending money on social networks where people come to do cool things, but brands haven’t figured out a way to quantify what they do, what it means, or how to justify incremental investments. Engagement will help social networks monetize their inventory but do little to help brands understand how they are interacting with customers or prospects.
3 UXD Factors Changing Strategic Planning User experience design (UXD) is breaking out of its native digital niche becoming a critical element in marketing strategy. Understanding the full range of consumer experiences with a brand is a critical factor in building awareness, engagement and advocacy and in framing or evolving a value proposition that integrates and romances features and benefits in believable and sustaining ways. UXD is changing how brands approach strategic planning and how they develop customer insights. Once thought of exclusively as a digital concept, UXD promises to stitch together what consumers say with what consumers actually or habitually do to create insights that will suggest how messages are framed and where messages are transmitted and received. In apply UXD principles to integrated marketing programs, consider these 3 key factors. End-to-End Planning. It’s not just about the product or the transaction. People want to buy into brands not just buy stuff. You need a longitudinal perspective on the process. Anticipate and plan for information needs, feelings and functionalities at every step from the first glimmer of an idea in your prospect’s mind through the completion of a successful interaction and onto the next one. Every customer takes a journey to identify and interact with your brand. Map it. Think about it and carefully decide when, where and how you will have opportunities to shape the sequence, the messages, the offers, the incentives, the rewards, the confirmations and the back sell communications. Frictionless Interactions. The holy grail of UXD is to make every interaction simple, easy, intuitive and rewarding. It’s a very tall order, which requires alignment of all your resources to figure out where the likely hiccups might occur. Understand who your prospect is, what they are after and how they go about getting it. Then design your engagement mechanisms. Ethnographic research, rapid prototyping, task-oriented testing, in situ observation, eye-mapping and careful interviewing are the preferred UXD techniques which when married to focus groups, qualitative and quantitative research and customer data can deepen or supercharge a brand’s customer insights. The more you get into her head; the better. The more you understand her context; the better. The more you understand her workflow and her coping devices; the better. The more you anticipate where and how she’ll be hesitant, confused or doubtful; the better. Create Visual Cues. Too many brand experiences are like driving in New Jersey; under-marked and confusing. Develop plenty of visual cues to orient and direct prospects and customers. You can never reinforce where they are and where they are heading too much. Think of the customer journey like driving the interstate highway system. Anticipate where prospects will get antsy, where they need gentle reinforcement, where they need a big honking sign and when they need confirmation that they’ve gone in the right direction or made the right choice. The integration of UXD with traditional strategic planning will create a more accurate and powerful tool for brands to build deeper customer understanding, intimacy and loyalty.

Danny Flamberg

I am a veteran marketing consultant working with leading and emerging brands

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