Creating a Roadmap for Effective Customer Engagement

eWEEK DATA POINTS: This year’s global pandemic highlighted the importance of being able to swiftly pivot to better meet customer needs. Companies across every industry raced to create more memorable digital experiences and secure customer loyalty. The brands with a strong investment in digital technology and an effective fan engagement strategy came out on top.

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Customer loyalty and brand engagement are two of the most coveted key performance indicators (KPIs) for nearly every senior business leader. But the process of achieving this goal is never easy. The modern, “always-on” customer expects a direct connection to your brand and a unique, curated experience that demonstrates you understand his or her interests.  

This year’s global pandemic highlighted the importance of being able to swiftly pivot to better meet customer needs. Companies across every industry raced to create more memorable digital experiences and secure customer loyalty. The brands with a strong investment in digital technology and an effective fan engagement strategy came out on top.  

NBA teams in particular have been quick to adopt a range of new technologies to augment the fan experience and solve business challenges. For example, in addition to providing the expected basics (scores, tickets, etc.), and the elements that tie fans emotionally closer to the team, teams are adding new functionalities to help create cashless, touchless and socially distant in-arena experiences. 

This edition of eWEEK Data Points uses industry information provided by Dennis Garayalde, Director of Product Management at Raw Engineering. Garayalde is former Director of Product Strategy for the Miami HEAT, where he oversaw the digital roadmap for the team's award-winning Digital Strategy and Innovation division.

“My approach to fan (or brand) engagement is grounded in data analytics to drive revenue-generating opportunities that maximize value to the team and its fans. This approach can be replicated across nearly every industry with the help of a trusted partner or two,” Garayalde said.
Here are five best practices for building brand engagement and customer loyalty.

Data Point No. 1: Your digital strategy should align with key business objectives.

Your digital strategy will only be successful if it maps back to your organization's broader goals. 

Avoid gimmicks and bloatware. Always ask “why?” (what business need/problem am I solving?),  then “what?” (the product/experience I’m building), before you get to the “how?” (the technology/solution). You’ll realize less is more in most cases, and the right solution is not always the most complex or most expensive, but the most “personalized” to your business needs.

Don't get lured into adding features just to add features--this should not be a "check-the-box" approach. Your mobile or app strategy should be the cornerstone of your business analytics and data collection efforts. Perhaps you decide on a mobile app to learn more about your customer base and help influence business decisions that will create even more engagement. For an NBA team, this might result in better data on what interests fans, or more insights on whether or not fan attendance increases from the use of push notifications.

Data Point No. 2: Think about what’s driving your fans.

Digital transformation impacts every part of your organization and likely every line of business. Your strategy should start with the fundamental concept of customer-centricity. As you begin to manage this organizational change, technology integration and content management, remember to consider the present and future needs of your organization’s VIP customers (or biggest fans). 

Think about what the next 10 years might bring and how you might capitalize on emerging technology trends-- like virtual reality--to further engage with fans. The more value you bring to your customer base, the more engaged they become with the app, which results in deeper brand loyalty. The same applies across any industry from retail, to health care and to financial services. 

Data Point No. 3: Build your content strategy: Personalized vs. templatized.

Personalization has become the priority for nearly all businesses. As competition increases, businesses face even more pressure to create targeted experiences that drive consumer engagement. According to Accenture, “91 percent of consumers are more likely to shop with brands who recognize, remember, and provide relevant offers and recommendations.” Your customers and fans want access to the specific content they are interested in--in the form of images, videos, stories, etc.--for a unique, curated experience.

The first step is to balance a personalized or templated approach for your content strategy. Using a template is a more straightforward process. There is very little effort needed except for minor changes like selecting your color scheme or other similar details. But a personalized platform allows you to deliver relevant content based on audience interests and motivations, which should provide greater ROI and ROE (return on experience).

In the case of a professional basketball team, consider targeting fans based on their previous history, behaviors, purchases, and whether or not they are season ticket holders. You only have their attention for a limited amount of time and it’s imperative that they are hit with the right message. Offer exclusive content that is only available within the app. Perhaps they only want player stats--make sure those are visible and easy to access. If they are in the arena, serve up content that relates to making their experience better for the next four hours, perhaps a happy hour special at the bar closest to their seat. 

Engaging with customers and creating a unique experience has become even more nuanced this year, with NBA fans left to enjoy the game virtually instead of within the arena. Savvy NBA teams have offered fans an exclusive in-app live game experience coupled with targeted retail purchasing opportunities.

Data Point No. 4: Learn the ABCs of microservices and APIs. 

When moving from legacy technology to a modern suite of tools, systems must be able to effectively communicate and share data across previously siloed departments. When companies harness the capabilities of software platforms with modern APIs, they can speed up development time. Future integrations will also be less complex.

But getting these systems to effectively communicate can be an unexpected burden of time and money. Inflexible back-office systems can be challenging to integrate and time-consuming to adapt. According to one report, legacy systems, challenges with integration and deficient APIs were blamed as the main factors that complicated or delayed the delivery of new web or mobile apps.

Integrations that are pre-built save time; building from scratch is a challenging process. Many IT teams either lack the knowledge of how to effectively approach integration or are just stretched too thin to properly manage the process. The power of seamless integrations offers quicker time-to-market and more synergy between partners. You can build this in-house or invest in a trusted partner who can facilitate this process.

Data Point No. 5: Let the data (analytics) guide your business. 

This is the moment when you capitalize on your investment in digital transformation. Learn what your customers and fans are doing, what they are engaged in, and then let that influence your future business decisions. Look for areas to expand--or even cut back--your business investments, generate greater fan engagement, and create monetization. 

Perhaps your analytics will reveal an area that is not being capitalized on. For example, it's time for renewals and you are having a hard time reaching season ticket members through email. But with mobile tickets you will know exactly when a member scans into the game. Can you send him or her a personalized push notification with an incentive to renew while at the arena? Better yet, can you send a notification to the sales rep assigned to this member to go visit them at their seat to help them renew right there on the spot?  

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