In the last few years, we’ve seen a huge shift in customer expectations. Customers are more digital than ever, communicating with brands across a number of platforms from social media and apps to email and texts. We are in a customer-centric world, and while this isn’t exactly news, brands aren’t fully ready for it. According to a soon-to-publish study completed by Futurum Research in partnership with Microsoft, 85% of companies report their customers are significantly more digital than expected. And 90% of companies say their existing systems for tracking customer journeys need improvement.
There’s a huge disconnect happening right now between what customers want and how companies are providing it. The bridge between the two? The customer engagement platform. Yes, it’s one more platform for today’s businesses to consider as they seek to create a winning post-pandemic tech stack. But this platform has a global purpose: creating a unified and effective way to maintain a lifelong relationship with one’s customers. As we move further into a first-party, cookie-less world, I truly believe most companies will not be able to succeed without one.
The Rise of the Customer Engagement Platform
In the past few years, we’ve seen the rise of the customer relationship platform, the customer data platform, and now a platform dedicated to managing—and mastering—customer engagement. The purpose of the customer engagement platform is to improve upon the disconnected, disjointed stack of applications that businesses have traditionally used to engage and interact with customers. Each of these apps collects different sets of data, and often these data sets never “speak” to one another. This causes customers to get incredibly fragmented experiences in dealing with the company—and to get incredibly frustrated at the same time.
The customer engagement platform is meant to bring all of those tools together in a streamlined, cohesive way so that companies have not just a unified, single point of truth about every person buying their product but also a way to engage with them better because of it. The customer engagement platform allows businesses to reach those consumers wherever they are — on email, social media, live chat, etc. If the customer starts shopping on an app and then moves to their laptop, the customer should be able to check out seamlessly. No more poorly aimed sales emails. No more poorly answered customer support chats. Just a single, seamless communication with every customer, every time.
Over the next few quarters, I expect to see and hear a lot more about Customer Engagement Platforms from enterprise software leaders like Twilio, Microsoft, Adobe, Oracle, and Salesforce among others. This will be an evolution of those above-mentioned tools and stacks, and it will be important to pay attention as they will likely be introduced with different nomenclatures. However, I believe the Customer Engagement Platform will largely be what is instantiated as enterprises look to move from relationships to deep meaningful engagements.
Customer Engagement Platforms: Why Now?
That’s easy. We’ve seen recently that cookies and third-party data have taken a plunge. With so many companies and even governments making user privacy a priority, it’s harder than ever to get meaningful and reliable data from web browsers and other methods of online tracking. And, with so many new methods of interaction, it’s increasingly challenging for companies to manage all of those channels well. Believe it or not, in a recent Twilio study, it was found that 75% of businesses believe they’re offering a good or excellent personalized customer experience while more than half of consumers think their shopping experiences are average, bad or even poor. They’re disjointed. They’re fueled by bad AI. And customers are having none of it. Customer engagement platforms can help create alignment between expectation and reality by:
- Alleviating over-reliance on third-party data. Even with the decline of cookies, more than 80% of businesses still rely on third-party data to engage with customers. Customer engagement platforms allow businesses to collect and act upon first-party data directly related to their brand and customer experience. This is hugely important as data privacy issues continue to be top of mind for many consumers. In fact, 85% of consumers want companies to use first-party data. And CEPs can help them do so.
- Providing real-time insights. When all of your customer engagement information is being pulled together first-hand, you’re able to create a real-time profile to help you meet your customers where they are. No more marketing products they just purchased, no more inviting them to join programs they just quit. You will be engaging with them about the things they care about now, on the channel they are currently using.
- Establish a profile directly relevant to your brand: To create lifelong brand ambassadors, you need to know your customers intimately. You need to know which specific products from your inventory they like, which ones they would like, and how they want to find out about them. This isn’t possible when using generic third-party data. It’s only possible by creating a united platform solely related to your customers and their engagement with your company.
And obviously, the more you know your customer and their preferences for your specific brand, the better you will be able to market your brand to them in a way that feels authentic and true. In our early evaluations, we’ve identified the customer engagement platform as a key investment for enterprises trying to manage the shifting data landscape. For instance, our early readout on Twilio’s Customer Engagement Platform is that it is well-designed and comprehensive in its capabilities and with proper implementation can enable a company to better serve its customers throughout its entire lifecycle from sales and marketing to customer support. And in today’s customer-centric world where repeat sales and customer loyalty matter more than ever, this power can’t be overlooked. I expect to continue tracking and evaluating the CEP landscape over the next year as this space rises, much like the CDP did over the past few years.
To wrap up, any enterprise can use its martech stack to send its customer a notification about a new program, service, or product. But in today’s modern digital journey, that’s not true engagement. Engagement means creating a deeper connection with your customers about the products and programs that are relevant to them. Engagement builds trust. It builds real relationships. And that is what will keep your customers coming back for more—CEPs appear primed to be the next critical tool to help enterprises deliver on the promise of true engagement.