Back in the day, the only interaction CPG brands had directly with customers was through written letters, TV ads, or the occasional call to a customer service line.
Today, however, customers expect to engage with CPG brands much differently. And when you meet their expectations, they’re ready to reward you with their wallet.
In fact, studies show that strong customer engagement has a measurable benefit on the bottom line — companies who prioritize customer engagement improve revenue by roughly 20%.
So if you want to up your consumer engagement efforts, learn from these five strategies CPG brands are using to drive consumer engagement right now.
What is real consumer engagement in today’s world?
In 2021, consumer engagement means connecting with consumers in real-time, through multiple channels and touchpoints. It means recognizing your customers as individuals, not market segments. And it means building a relationship where customers can identify with and feel connected to your brand.
New strategies for driving consumer engagement
1. Use the DTC channel to connect directly with customers
Image credit: Kind Snacks
One way many CPG brands are stepping up their customer engagement game is with the DTC (direct-to-consumer) channel. And there are a number of reasons this channel is driving engagement:
- Brands are able to connect directly with customers instead of going through retailers like they’ve been doing for decades.
- Brands control the entire experience end-to-end — from brand discovery to the package landing on their doorstep.
- Brands get direct, real-time access to customer data, allowing them to send personalized communication and offers.
- Brands can offer a bigger assortment of products and access to unique varieties because they’re not competing for shelf space.
As you can see in the image above, Kind Snacks uses its DTC site to allow customers to build customized snack boxes and sign up for a personalized subscription service — something they can’t get from the store.
“We wanted to give our consumers the opportunity to mix and match all of the products we have without having to buy 12 of just one bar,” says Freddie Roseman, director of ecommerce technology at Kind.
“We really wanted to give our consumers that extra choice. [The subscription box] is one of our highest selling SKUs on our site. That validates all of the efforts and justifies future investments in the program as well.”
2. Connect customers’ offline and online experiences
Image credit: McKinsey
In today’s world, consumers expect brands to recognize them as the same person, whether they’re shopping in-store, checking out online, or sending a message on social media. And while that’s no easy feat, it can create a strong feeling of engagement when done correctly.
That’s because it makes customers feel like you really know them, especially when you provide personalized value. Take the situation above from Nike, for example. They successfully connected an offline event to an online sale by reaching out to the customer in an engaging and personal way.
Another good example comes from Starbucks; they use location information from customers’ mobile phones to prevent them from ordering too soon or from the wrong location.
They ask people who are about to place an order at a store that’s an hour away from their current location if they really want to place the order — since it’ll be ready (and cold) long before they arrive.
And while some customers may object to location tracking as a whole, many are ok with it in this type of situation because it offers them information that is helpful.
3. TikTok + a unique brand voice
Image credit: Gushers via TikTok
Another thing CPG brands are doing to drive consumer engagement is developing a unique, human-like brand voice. This is especially useful for connecting with younger generations of consumers, like Millennials and Gen Z, on social media.
An important thing to note is that brand voice extends beyond actual words. It should be the driving force behind all your content, from emails to videos to posts. Gushers does an excellent job with this on TikTok, leaning into the quirky TikTok culture and centering their posts around memes or trends.
In their entry for the Shorty Awards, Gushers explains that “Today’s media-savvy teens are great at sniffing out and skipping ads. So when we were challenged to launch Gushers on TikTok, we knew we had to think like Gen Z.”
“It was crucial that everything we did felt organic, so we created our work in the same way that teens create their videos on TikTok. That meant footage shot on iPhones, edited with readily available tools.”
This has resulted in high, consistent engagement, averaging 120,000 likes per post despite having just 276,000 followers. And while the brand has only 20 posts on the platform, they’ve tallied up to 2.7 million likes. Here’s what actual TikTok users have to say about Gushers:
“Is this a real ad? They’re starting to understand our humor.” – mincedpps
“Wait but it’s actually so good like THIS IS HOW ADS ARE MADE.” – jordanrenae451
“this is the only ad I’ll watch on here” – imjustanintern
4. Recognizing customers across touchpoints
Image credit: Lytics
At first, this might seem similar to the point about cross-channel recognition. However, that’s more about connecting the offline/online experience or recognizing customers across different retailers.
Touchpoints refer to ways in which the customer communicates with you, such as email, phone, text, social media, website, or chat. And it largely has to do with customer service. Let’s say a customer reaches out to your brand via email to ask about a discount code that’s not working. Two weeks later, they open a chat dialogue about a shipping delay.
If the customer service agent is able to see a record of both interactions, they can follow up to make sure they were able to successfully use the discount code. They may even want to offer some kind of coupon or freebie since the customer has just had two bad experiences in a short period of time.
On the other hand, if the agent was not able to see the previous interaction since it was via email and not chat, they wouldn’t be able to answer any questions the customer might bring up about that experience.
From a customer’s perspective, all interactions with your brand are connected and the same. To improve engagement, brands are making an effort to do the same on their end using systems that connect disparate communication methods.
5. Take the lead on discussing social issues
Image credit: Nike
For years, the general consensus was that brands should stay on the sidelines when it came to matters of politics and social justice. This point of view was mostly rooted in the fear that having a public opinion would alienate customers on one side or the other.
However, this consensus has shifted dramatically in the past several years. In fact, it’s shifted so far that many brands are finding that social advocacy can pay serious dividends when it comes to consumer engagement and, by extension, revenue.
One of the best examples of this comes from Nike’s endorsement of Colin Kaepernick after he sparked a wave of national anthem protests against racial inequality. The endorsement and subsequent ads generated a lot of buzz, both positive and negative, but ultimately ended up contributing to a 31% boost in sales for Nike.
This result mirrors findings from the research firm IO Sustainability who has been studying CSR (corporate social responsibility) and its relationship to business outcomes. They found that CSR efforts can enhance sales by as much as 20%, increase the company’s share price by up to 6%, and create a "reputation dividend' worth up to 11% of market capitalization.
The key to success with CSR, according to Harvard Business Review, is authenticity — something especially important among younger consumers, 69% of whom think brands should be actively involved in the BLM movement.
In the Nike situation, for example, HBR believes the iconic company benefited from a high level of perceived authenticity since they proactively supported racial justice despite the risk to their own brand.
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