Online Customer Engagement is vital part of your web strategy; this term is popping up everywhere and for good reason. With the Internet Social Age upon us, mastering the art of being receptive and available to your audience is now a critical skill to support customer loyalty. Customers are loyal to those who provide value to their areas of interest.

What’s interesting is how many of these discussions fail to mention one very important point that should make developing strategies to increase and/or improve customer engagement easier: we are ALL consumers and relating to our personal experiences is a great springboard.

Just like you, your audience has many different merchants vying for their business. Even with all of the attention being given to social media, for the most part consumers are still not satisfied. A lot of attention and effort goes into crafting slick marketing adverts, brochures, business cards and the like. Consumers are courted feverishly, swamped with promises and claims, even free trials. All this sounds great and necessary, but what happens when the sale is made? It’s not just about follow-through; it’s about connecting in a way that your customer identifies with. Here are some of the tools you can use to gain their respect and build customer loyalty:

Behavior Intelligence: ‘Birds of a feather flock together’ so it’s worth your while to visit their nesting grounds. If you are connected with your business purpose, this is relatively easy to do. While market research data provides facts and figures, you need to balance this with listening to their conversations in forums and the like. The value of behavioral intelligence is that it helps you connect the dots between the features and benefits on an emotional level so you can personalize the customer’s experience for socializing your business.

Personalization: Increasing the sociability or friendliness of your business can be implemented in a number of ways. Greeting your registered customers by name when they visit your website to asking them what you can do to improve their level of satisfaction. Provide a variety of content; some serious information and something fun that makes their time spent on your website less like work. For example, we provide information on Zimbra Hosting and the best open source email servers but we also give lighter, informative content that educates our audience (like this article!)

Collaboration Platforms: Relate your brand to social media from the human side. With more than 500 social networks on the Internet, it should be clear that the time you spend in this environment needs more than a copy-paste of content from your website. The best example is to imagine you are talking to your best friend who comes to you for advice. You don’t launch into a sales pitch with them (at least I hope not) you share your experience and identify with what they are feeling.

Integrate communications: Let your customers know that you are available to answer their questions in many different ways, extend your offer to their peers and friends through referral rewards they can really use. This will motivate them to stay in touch with your business because it answers the question: “What’s in it for me?”

Easy access: Provide a seamless buying experience by making your shopping cart entry point accessible from where they are.

Speak their language: English is not the only language in the world; by localizing your website for the language your customer speaks you immediately represent your business as one with their interests in mind.

Stay involved: Put these market statistics to work; send out birthday greetings, information on updated or new items that hold value for them.

These are just a few of the ways you can increase online customer engagement, and with our hosted Zimbra Services collaboration suite you can automate many of the tasks. Put the interests of your audience first by making it an integral as part of your web strategy and create a circle of support for your business.