6 strategies to truly connect with customers: CEHK 2017 recap

How to deal with negative social comments and new ways to manage loyalty programmes are two of marketers’ most widely discussed topics at this year’s Customer Engagement conference, Angel Tang reports.

As the digital landscape evolves, brands strive to deliver creative and remarkable customer engagement to constitute brand allegiance. From traditional to social, what are the best practices in connecting with your current customers to keep them coming back?

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At Marketing’s Customer Engagement Hong Kong 2017 conference, Alexandre De Saint-Léon, managing director, Asia Pacific - Ipsos Loyalty, Ipsos, classified elements that define customer-brand relationships into two aspects: functional and emotional.

Quoting a study from the research company, Saint-Léon says they did 8000 interviews in three industries across four countries, only to find that customers who were satisfied emotionally (88%) would be 18% more likely to stay loyal with the brand than those who were only functionally satisfied (70%).

- Satisfy customers functionally and emotionally

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“To keep customers functionally satisfied should always come first as an objective in a business, but the study also states that emotions matter in customer relationships,” he explained.

The opportunities to create emotional connections come through fulfilling functional needs in the right way, Saint-Léon added.

For example, brands should resolve a problem that was its fault for the customer in a timely, organised manner.

Clarins Hong Kong’s CRM and e-commerce manager, Myriam Tzinmann-Rebibo, agrees brands should always be flexible when it comes to their services.

“You should offer exceptional handling of an issue when you see an upset customer, because that’s when they will remember,” she says.

You should offer exceptional handling of an issue when you see an upset customer, because that’s when they will remember.

Pure Group International’s director of customer experience, Cristiane Ross, wishes to evoke emotions in an even more active way.

“Emotion also plays as crucial a role in good marketing content,” she told the audience.

With 65% of the fitness company’s customers comes from referral, the company has to stay relevant in their engagement planning. The company’s latest campaign in June, dubbed #yogaforall, targeted people of different ages and abilities, for example dog lovers, and encouraged them to try doing yoga.

- Fuel organic content: deliver “picture-worthy” services

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“The best way to engage is always to create organic content whenever possible,” Ross explains. “In the campaign, we invite the customers to share their experience themselves, so people will see the contents as a reference that they can relate to.”

It would be even better if marketers can deliver experiences that are capturable on social media.

Marriott International Hong Kong’s regional director of loyalty marketing and programmes APAC, Cherry Tsui, shared an example of how Chinese travellers often choose to stay with the hotel group for one night, so they can take beautiful pictures in the property and share them on WeChat or Instagram.

“Just because it’s picture-worthy, it drove more business,” she explains. “This is just how powerful the right social content is.”

Just because it’s picture-worth it, it drove more business.

Lan Kwai Fong Group’s deputy director, marketing and events (HK), Julieta Leong, shares similar views after the group’s Valentine’s day campaign turned out very successful.

The group invited couples to take and then share their pictures on Instagram, then created a user-generated mosaic wall at the local hot spot.

The campaign inspired more than 29,000 engagements on Facebook and Instagram, and the hot spot saw more than 20% increase in traffic.

- Link social to your loyalty programme

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If you wish to link users on Facebook with the CRM to more effectively track users, Jeffrey Hau, co-founder and director of Prizm Digital shared a clue on where to get started.

“In one successful case, we’ve asked customers to register for loyalty programmes or mini campaigns with their social media accounts, then encourage them to engage with the pages by rewarding them with loyalty points,” he explains.

“Then, we started to see huge jump in social interactions. People engage with the brand even on promotion posts just to get more membership points, which is very much like a token economy model.”

Not to mention the insights that marketers can gain from social media data.

- Draw insights from social and multi-channel data

You Find’s founder and director, Jeffrey Chu, advises marketers to classify sentiments they obtain from social listening to actually make them valuable from a marketing perspective.

Is it something about the price, the services the brand provides, or is it simply PR?

“50% of the mainland consumers are looking for deals and promotions on social. In contrast, 50% of the Hong Kong consumers want to know if the product fits their functional needs,” Chu explained, which gives us a sense of the kind of content that local customers will usually initiate on social media.

Parijat Priyadarshini, head of loyalty business consulting, Asia, Aimia, further points out several directions that would help to identify relevant segments, touch-points and the right value exchange in a loyalty programme.

“You have to identify behavior modification that you would like to encourage in each segment, know the touch-points that are critical to each segment, then specify the financial impact that you are anticipating from this,” she advised.

- Use marketing automation with a plan - don't just jump in

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While marketing automation technology will let marketing leverage the massive amount of data, it’s not smart to dive in without a plan.

XGATE’s strategic marketing director Xen Chia shared the company’s experience with Timberland, to show how marketers can enhance their CRM programmes with other technology to make sure all investment can be measured and result in profitable products.

“You are required to have a visual marketing platform: using multi-channel and automation within the same environment,” he explains. “You also need a life-cycle approach, which covers specifically how to build customer loyalty in the process of growing customer value.”

For instance, marketers should manage tier upgrades or downgrades based on the customers’ spending, and in effect their current lifecycle status.

Several key metrics Chia mentions include conversion rate, repurchase rate, retention rate and re-activation rate.

Conversion rate, repurchase rate, retention rate, re-activation rate.

Marketers should also make sure that the marketing channels employed and the customers’ preferred channels are in alignment, Stephane Sanchez, APAC practice lead customer strategies at KANTAR suggests.

For example, Hong Kong customers usually prefer asking product-related questions on websites (25%) and in stores (23%), while lodging complaints about product or services through email (30%) and hotlines (25%), the Kantar TNS pulse survey September 2017 revealed.

“If a brand’s Facebook page is flooded with customer complaints on a product, that means its customers prefer lodging complaints on the brand’s social media page,” he suggested. “There the brand will have to solve the misalignment.”

If a brand’s Facebook page is flooded with customer complaints on a product, that means its customers prefer lodging complaints on the brand’s social media page. There the brand will have to solve the misalignment.

On the other hand, marketers, especially managers, should always expect negativities, and equip their teams of the ability to cope with unexpected comments on social.

- Keep a cool head when it comes to negative comments

To enhance its social listening ability, Sony Corporation of Hong Kong limited’s head of marketing communications, Simois Ng, says the company consolidated its CRM team with the communication team five years ago.

The result: Facebook figures suggest that Sony is now the most engaged consumer electronics brand on the platform.

“Social media is very transparent, and you’ll have to deal with the rumours directly,” Ng explains.

“The key is therefore to be open and change your mentality, which is to either admit or respond to the customers’ enquiries if you wish to prevent PR risks.”

Drawing references from her junior staff, Ng says marketers need to use the right language to communicate with customers on the internet.

In one occasion, Ng has witnessed her staff replied to one negative comment, which used a meme picture to blame Sony’s product for being too expensive, by sharing another humorous meme in response.

“It’s never what I would have done, so I was really surprised. Yet, the result was positive,” she recalls.

“Using the right language can help to humanise and localise your brand, so do depend on your junior staff,” she advised.

Another mentality change is to stay calm when it comes to negative reviews and comments on social.

“The best tips I could give is: keep calm and let your haters motivate you,” suggests Ng.

The best tips I could give is: keep calm and let your haters motivate you.

Similarly, Prizm Digital’s Hau, suggests that marketers could actually benefit from the comments they got online.

Quoting an analysis his company recently did, Hau says he has seen a 25% increase in customer inquiries and engagement compared to 2016, of which 18% can be classified as negative content.

“If more customers are talking about the same issue, it can be analysed in a way that would cultivate a culture of the users giving constructive comments.”