Consumer Engagement, But Not Yet Marriage

How many times have we been asked (or asked ourselves) to come up with a valuation of a minute of a prospect’s time and attention, AKA consumer engagement? Almost all advertising is bought and sold using some version of the metric (cost per person, mostly expressed as CPM) and yet no one seems to have nailed an equation that can reliably be used as a baseline.

How many times have we been asked (or asked ourselves) to come up with a valuation of a minute of a prospect’s time and attention, AKA consumer engagement? Almost all advertising is bought and sold using some version of the metric (cost per person, mostly expressed as CPM) and yet no one seems to have nailed an equation that can reliably be used as a baseline.

It’s not that marketers haven’t tried. The most recent expression was reported in Media Daily News at the end of July. Advertisers and agency executives were researched to determine what they “considered” (perhaps better described as their “best guesses”) on the per-minute value of engaged consumer attention and they came up with $1.81. They even produced a bar graph to add verisimilitude.

consumer engagement chart
Credit: Peter J. Rosenwald

This didn’t impress one skeptical reader who commented wryly: “With a sample of 300 people AND no hard guidelines as to how anyone in the survey determined ‘value’ other than for a very narrowly-defined universe, this is just cocktail party fodder.”

Even after a couple of martinis, it would be hard to derive much value from this yardstick of consumer attention. As so-called “opt-in” and “rewarded” advertising models — which let the prospect have some free content before “opting-in” through a paywall or some other device to more content — are becoming increasingly fashionable, it is not surprising that marketers are trying to put some metrics in place to value them.

This illuminates the fact that in today’s multimedia marketplace the “value” of a minute or some other measure of someone’s time, and perhaps even more importantly, attention, depends on a basket of variables that will be unique to each prospect or cluster of prospects. If we can discover which ones are critical to the purchasing process and at what point they influence the customer journey, we may have the beginning of metrics which will intelligently inform our marketing actions. The question is how we get there and the answer remains elusive.

First we need to know what we mean by “engaged consumer”? We all have lots of experience with commercial messages (Wendy’s “Where’s the beef,” for example) which can be described as highly “engaging,” because the creative brilliance attracts the attention of viewers. But that attention has no value whatever for say, vegetarians.

How much the marketer would be willing to pay for an engaged customer, someone who has demonstrated interest in the marketed category and hopefully has the resources to purchase, is more to the point? The Lamborghini dealer should be willing to pay quite a bit more for that engaged minute than the corner taco vendor.

In a September column addressing marketing metrics and suggesting that we stop chasing our tails, I tried to put a figure on the real cost of reaching the target audience for an advertiser like Pampers. Using a $25 CPM cost of a TV spot reaching only women and, after eliminating all women who were neither in the last trimester of pregnancy nor had children under two years old, I came up with a ballpark figure of $208 per thousand. In fact, with a normal average viewing frequency of five times, capturing the engagement of each one of those thousand women for 30 seconds should be worth about $1 ((208*5)/1000), twice that for 60 seconds of attention, not far off of that $1.81 guess.

But will the “engagement” lead to a committed relationship, a marriage if you will, of consumer and brand? Certainly, if the prospect can opt-in or be rewarded with truly relevant and valuable content by clicking to visit the advertiser’s website, and the website can elevate interest to purchase, and the product satisfies and stimulates repeat purchase, the investment in getting that initial 60 seconds of attention will have a quantifiable value.

But putting a figure on that value is as likely to be correct as predicting the length and quality of the marriage.

As a friend of mine says, instead of trying to figure it all out in advance, just start dating.

Customer Loyalty: Obligation or Happy Marriage?

Consumers cheat on brands in many of the same ways lovers cheat. If you don’t like your spouse, or are bored with pillow talk or household conversations, you can easily go online and “meet up” with someone new behind the closed doors in Skype, Facebook or any other online “chat” room. Pretty much the same way we hook up with new brands.

cheatingNews Alert: Marriage today has reached an all-time high and all-time low. According to research referenced in a recent Time magazine article, married people describe marriage as “more satisfying or less satisfying” than any other generation ahead of our time, meaning the degree of happiness or the opposite is higher than ever.

The author of “30 Lessons for Loving,” Karl Pillemer, also referenced in Belinda Luscombe’s Time magazine article, sums up marriage as “really, really hard work” and a “commitment device”-like a program or system that locks people into situations they may find dreary or inconvenient in order to achieve a goal or reward later on. For some, those temporal states of dreariness or inconvenience are worth it as the good outweighs the bad in the end. For others, it’s not worth even the slightest bit of dismay.

Not hard to see where I’m going with this, but it is important to ponder.

Consumers cheat on brands in many of the same ways lovers cheat. If you don’t like your spouse, or are bored with pillow talk or household conversations, you can easily go online and “meet up” with someone new behind the closed doors in Skype, Facebook or any other online “chat” room. Pretty much the same way we hook up with new brands. Without social listening devices to help identify those who are happy with us vs. frustrated, and who are “chatting” with our competitors, we brand marketers are set up to be the “last to know” — and often, it’s too late to repair the damage.

With all the alternatives for just about any product and brand these days, and the easy access to new flings, making your brand experience a “marriage” worth enduring vs. “easy to replace” is critical, no matter what business you’re in. The divorce rate for marriage is about 50 percent, and according to reports on loyalty by various research firms, that’s roughly the same percentage of customers who stay loyal to brands these days. Accenture puts the customer loyalty rate at about 48 percent, indicating that 52 percent have switched brands due to poor customer service. And around 30 percent of customers switch just for fun, which makes it that much more “fun” for brands to secure lifetime value.

Growing apart is one of the top five reasons marriages fail. And yes, it’s a big reason why many brands lose around 40 percent of their customers every year and have to spend their valuable time and resources rebuilding their base vs. enjoying their profits.

With all the attractions out there luring customers from one brand to another, and all the demands and high expectations customers have today, is there really a way to keep marriages between consumers and brands alive?

Yes. Here are just a few ways to help assure you and your customers can celebrate many anniversaries ahead.

Listen

Many sources reporting on infidelity, from Fox News to WebMD, state that women cheat because of loneliness and a need to feel emotionally connected to a man, and of course, to have someone listen to them. Customers are really no different.

According to statistics on customer loyalty compiled by Access, a report by Apptentive shows that:

  • 55 percent of consumers out there are likely to switch to another brand if their feedback or needs are being ignored by a current brand they patronize.
  • 97 percent say that they are somewhat likely to increase their loyalty to a brand that listens and acts on their feedback.

Creating dialogues with your social media rather than monologues you hope they’ll “like” and “share” or “heart” and “retweet” is more than just good social manners. Per the above statistics, it’s critical to long-term commitment and sustainable revenue.

Engage

Engagement is not just about putting a ring on it! It’s about interacting with customers in meaningful ways that spark those warm fuzzies when we feel noticed, appreciated and connected with someone who has like values and seems to like us, too. By engaging with customers in ways that allow them to speak and be heard, and providing them with experiences that enable them to be part of the brand via user-generated content, applications, events or more, customer loyalty can soar.

Just look at the video game industry that now generates about the same revenue per year as Hollywood’s film industry. Gamers love to generate ideas for the games they play, attend their events in full costume to represent their favorite characters and avatars, and they bring others to their virtual worlds as they evangelize in ways that rival the success of even the best of religious missionaries.

Engagement does not just pay off in terms of keeping customers loyal and referring others, it pays off in increased transaction value, too. Cap Gemini research shows that fully engaged customers are worth at least 23 percent more in revenue and profitability than other customers. This same research shows that actively disengaged customers — who have chosen to find new relationships due to negative feelings — represent at least a 13 percent drop in share of wallet, profitability and revenue due to spreading bad vibes about a brand. With how quickly we can share our bad experiences via social media, this is a pretty serious issue facing all brands.