How to measure true engagement

Brands have so many opportunities to engage with consumers, if they use data and channels wisely.

Netherlands came second in the World Cup.

I cheered, I drank beer, I shouted from my sitting-room sidelines, but they lost. It's OK, I'm just about over it now and looking forward to the 2012 Olympics, when we'll clean up in swimming and equestrian events. That gives me exactly two years to find a decent telly on which to watch my countrymen strive for gold. Where do I start?

I begin my quest to decode the jargon and hyperbole with Google. I look online at some independent "what TV" websites, read some product reviews and note a couple of best buys in my price bracket. Next, I check them on a comparison site and a few e-tailer sites and check images and 3D views.

I leave my e-mail details with a couple of suppliers' websites and go back to Google to see if there is a voucher code to be had. I also pop into a few stores at the weekend to look at the products in the flesh. I take a cheeky photo of a barcode to compare prices via a nifty iPhone app. I check my shortlist with a few peers via Facebook and banter with my friend about his 42in screen and which hi-def to go for. I'm parting with a lot of money; I need reassurance from different angles.

During the lengthy and torturous process of my buying decision, there are many opportunities for all those TV retailers and manufacturers out there to tempt, engage and persuade me to choose them. And once I've made my choice, I'm opening myself up to everything else they could offer, if they approach me in the right way.

So let's look at the facts: I am going to buy a telly no matter what. How can marketers persuade me to buy their brand? They engage me now, but what does that mean? How do they know if I'm engaged and how do they turn engagement into action? Here is my approach to an engagement strategy.

Define what engagement means

Identification of engagement signals is different for each brand, but the level of involvement will help you work this one out. As a rule of thumb, the more two-way the dialogue, the more you can assume someone is engaged. You might measure it by the number of purchases over time, the number of clickthroughs from your digital newsletter or Facebook fans. You decide what works. In my quest for a TV, I'm going to give you a fair few frantic signals, but you need to be ready to identify them.

How to measure engagement

Frequency of interaction is one obvious variable, but you should also measure depth of interaction. Someone who has opened an e-mail, clicked through and redeemed a voucher is more engaged than someone who just opened the e-mail.

Define a scale of "depth" and give each potential interaction a weighting. As soon as I revisit your website, the chances of converting me to a sale leap massively.

Get hold of the information

You need to access and collate data across all consumer touchpoints, from call centre through to social media, as well as collect measurable signals of engagement which you can attribute both to the individual and across the board.

For instance, an increase in Facebook "likes" of a product on your site would indicate an uplift in engagement, but who is doing the liking and does this improve propensity to purchase? What do you want them to do next?

Turn it into insight you can understand

Think about making your insight reports easy to understand. By all means back them up with lots of reassuring detail, but ultimately you need to be able to make sense of the data if you're going to do anything with it. Make sure that you can use it to find me and understand what I need.

Use the insight to sell to me

You have a pretty good idea of my interests and where I am in the decision cycle, so use this to send me the right message that persuades me that yours is the brand I want.

Each person will take a different route to purchase and use different channels - as in a massive game of snakes and ladders. The challenge is to bring all this information together to fast-track consumers to purchase.

There are so many opportunities for me to engage with a brand - in choosing my TV, I spend time on manufacturer, third-party and comparison websites, I talk to friends and colleagues via social networks and read product reviews. I stand in retail outlets, connect via mobile to useful apps, and generally consume other broadcast media. All the time, I'm forming impressions and making decisions.

In the database world, we are entering a period of transition: traditional relationship marketing databases need to become repositories for gathering all customer touchpoints and summarising this information into a meaningful format. This will give businesses access to: hard facts about engagement levels; an understanding of how customers engage with the brand; and opportunities to take advantage of all available windows to the brand.

But it doesn't stop at reporting. We can then refer back to the repository to find out who our engaged customers are. Are they within our target groups or segments? If not, what do we need to change about our media mix, our creative and our communication strategy to engage the right people?

It's a bit like Total Football, pioneered by the Dutch national football team. Success depends largely on the adaptability of each footballer, in particular the ability to quickly switch positions depending on the situation.

Generating brand engagement relies on having enough information to be able to react quickly, effectively marshalling all resources and playing together as a team. But enough about football, I've got a TV to buy ...


- Make sure you know what engagement means to you

- Work out how to measure engagement and how you can get hold of this data when you need it

- Put it into a format that your organisation can understand

- Use this insight in your game plan and watch what happens.

 Ol Janus is the managing director of EHS 4D Discovery

(From Campaign's "What Next in Engagement" supplement, October 2010)

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