Summer changes a lot of the consumer rules that normally apply during winter. Schedules are often less routine, especially for those who have kids, priorities are different, and many customers spend much more time outside, which means that they probably are not doing much shopping online. But that doesn’t mean your business can take the summer off, nor does this mean that you have to rely solely on flyer printing campaigns. In fact, you can continue, and even amplify, engagement with your customers online following a few simple guidelines.
The Engagement Threshold
You’re probably familiar with the sales funnel idea of which you start with cheap or free items that connect with your customers. Basically, the idea is to work them down the funnel until they purchase higher-priced items. Online engagement has a similar concept. You can expect a low-level of engagement from a lot of people and only a few people to engage in high-level activities. So, if you run a contest that asks customers to submit a video they created, you’ll only get a very small percentage of your people to engage because the threshold is high. But, if the entry into a contest is simply commenting on a blog or retweeting a Twitter message, then more people will be willing to engage. The trick is to have low-level contests for low-level engagement and move people through an engagement funnel to the higher-levels.
What follows are some general ideas for how to engage with your customers this summer and a few specific suggestions for each idea. There are low-level, mid-level and high-level ideas so you can keep all of your customers engaged, no matter their level of Internet use this summer.
Summer travels, events, and schedules mean that more people will be consuming content on mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets are gaining ground on desktops and laptops as Internet devices. In the United States alone, 25% of mobile web users say they rarely use a desktop computer to access the Internet and there are 1.2 billion mobile users worldwide, with the majority of users being in Asia. With millions of iPads and Kindle Fires being sold to accompany the tens of millions of smartphones, more people are on the mobile web now than ever before, and the numbers are only going to get bigger.
Meet your customers where they are at this summer by making sure your marketing messages and other engagement techniques are accessible by smart phones:
- Format your website, blog, and emails so they can be easily read on a smaller screen. The iPad is 1024-by-768 pixels and most smartphones are about 400-by-800 pixels.
- Use location-based tools to let your customers check in through Facebook, Google Latitude, and Foursquare to claim rewards and deals.
- On every printed document (product labels, flyers, postcards), use QR codes, scan-able barcodes, to alert your customers to events and deals.
- Keep your content short and easily digestible. It should take no more than a few seconds to discern your message and less than a minute to read through all of the extra details.
Summer time brings summer concerns. They might be about finding the best deal on a vacation or figuring out how to keep a garden from wilting in the heat. Whatever your business, your customers will have unique concerns during the warmer months. Come up with tips and tricks that they can apply right away and then share. Highlight creative ways to use your products that your customers may not have considered.
- Dole out your tips one at a time through social media channels like Facebook and Twitter.
- Ask your customers to provide their own tips.
- Have a contest or promotion where every tip provided by a customer is an entry.
- Use polls and voting to highlight the best tips.
Keep it Casual
For most people, summer is a time to roll up the sleeves, put on the shorts, and have fun. Reflect the attitude of your customers with the content you provide. A key part of customer engagement is creating a relational connection. They want to feel like a real person is on the other end of the advertisement they’re receiving. Share jokes or interesting content that may not be related specifically to your product, but still provides some value to your followers (laughter is valuable).
- Ask for photo submissions for dogs in water; people love to brag on their dogs.
- Share summer vacation stories, those that are funny or even those that are inspiring.
- Use open discussion threads to let your customers discuss any topic they want to bring up.
Research shows that customers who interact with businesses online want to be eligible for offers and to be able to access games and contests. So, host summer-time contests, games, and promotions through your website and social media channels. Most of all make it fun. Don’t just offer a coupon, offer an experience. So instead of giving a 25% off coupon, make it 5% off for each person who comes into your store or visits your landing page, up to a certain amount of people. Offer a freebie to anyone who sends you a postcard from their vacation location. Engage in the celebration of summer with your customers to keep them engaged.
- Offer random rewards so your customers don’t know who will get a great deal.
- Create a contest where people vote on the winner.
- Give mileage points to people who check in at different locations throughout the summer and reward the person with the most miles at the end of the summer.
If you can meet your customer where they are at this summer and in the same "vacation" frame of mind that they are in, you will be much more likely to keep your customers engaged with you online throughout the summer months. How do you plan to stay engaged with your customers this summer?