The cycle of technological advancement and the subsequent digital revolutions that come with it rarely affect any aspect of business more than customer engagement.

Arguably the biggest shift we’ve seen since the millennium has been the introduction of email and its ability to open a direct and effective communication channel with consumers. But since the advent of the smartphone, new channels have opened to consumers, placing the power of choice in the palm of their hands.

One-on-one access to consumers has inevitably led to more personalised experiences, which is enhancing relationships between brands and their customers through things like feedback forms, exclusive deals, and product announcements relevant to their interests. Email marketing continues to be an effective channel by itself, with APAC leading the way in click-to-open rates at 13.4 per cent.

However, while email marketing continues to grow, retailers must not fall into the trap of complacency. Customers are now shifting their preferences when it comes to how they wish to communicate with brands. Rather than sifting through an overflowing inbox only to find an out-of-date offer, they are increasingly preferring to keep in contact with brands inside social media and messaging applications.

As a result, retailers need to follow suit to appeal to their customers and ensure sales—neglecting these changing behaviours can have a significant impact on your bottom line.

The ‘shopability’ of apps comes of age

Timely and direct interactions have become a key factor in customer engagement on social media. We’ve no doubt by now seen the proliferation of edgy or funny social media posts from brands—and in some instances, governments—as well as the addition of shopping inside apps like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok, and WhatsApp. Both examples are designed to keep brand engagement high, whilst serving as a direct-to-consumer channel for digital commerce.

What’s more is that the rise of chatbot integrations, SMS messaging, and social media engagement is enabling retailers to mirror the engagement that customers receive in-store. It starts by first enticing customers into apps and then delivering a personalised experience that resonates with their interests and the type of services they’re looking for.

This has proven to be an effective channel for retailers since the pandemic, with consumer spending on social media shopping is up 700 per cent in Australia, according to PayPal’s 2021 eCommerce Index. This ‘shopability’ of apps is maturing and it’s increasingly driving marketing towards the use of new digital commerce channels. Personalised, interactive shopping experiences are now like walking into a store and having someone greet and assist you.

Rather than relying on consumers to open emails, retailers are benefiting immensely by being proactive and making themselves accessible as if they were in a store—and it’s creating unique interactions and building loyalty.

Optimising digital channels to enhance customer engagement

As retailers ramp up their technology investments to drive direct interactions with consumers through social media and messaging apps, they’re increasingly turning to Communications Platform-as-a-Service (CPaaS).

But in their efforts to optimise digital channels to enhance customer engagement, many retailers are failing to unlock the full potential of CPaaS. As they come to rely more on technology to help them communicate with customers and drive sales, they must stop and ask themselves ‘are we realising the full benefits of communication, or are we getting further away from the kinds of connections people seek?’

Successful customer interactions rely on delivering the right communication to the right person in right format. In fact, recent research from Cheetah Digital has shown a 50% increase in Australian consumers who feel frustrated with a brand whose personalisation initiatives don’t recognise their unique desires and needs.

This is where CPaaS can help retailers obtain and maintain reliable consumer information to deliver personalised offers more effectively. Leveraging these insights to deploy an informed omni-channel communications strategy across social media and messaging apps is key to building customer loyalty and driving purchases.

In a mobile-first world, retailers need to embrace CPaaS solutions in the right way to better understand their customers, their needs, and their consumption habits. Doing so will set them apart from the competition in a noisy market.

Matt Thompson is vice president of global marketing at Soprano Design