Forrester logoCustomer engagement has been re-introduced into the internet marketing discussion, this time via an excellent report from Forrester Research. 

Exactly what “engagement” means has been a murky proposition since it was introduced into the internet marketing lexicon in 2005. But Forrester has put forth a clear and concise take on it. It says: “customer engagement is the level of involvement, interaction, intimacy, and influence that an individual has with a brand over time.”

Written by Sarah Rotman Epps, the report also identifies a qualitative and quantitative engagement framework for brands and media content companies to follow. They are:

  • Involvement: the presence of a person at various brand
    touchpoints. Involvement can include metrics such as visitors to a site
    or application, page views or page-view equivalents per visitor, time
    spent per session or per application, and repeat visitors. Additional
    metrics can include frequency of visit, subscriptions (to publications,
    email, RSS, or other services), TV viewership, mobile application use,
    and content consumption through syndication partners. “Ideally,” Epps
    states, “companies should move toward understanding involvement from a
    cross-channel perspective, integrating data from online and
    offline sources including Web analytics, subscriber data, and customer
    surveys. They should also integrate audience data from a third party
    like Nielsen or comScore if the site has a large enough user base.”
  • Interaction: can include metrics such as actions within a page, videos played, community contributions, ratings, reviews, votes submitted, photos or videos uploaded, text messages sent, quizzes taken, recipes saved, subscriptions renewed, and so on. To gauge these metrics accurately, it’s crucial that Web analytics are able to track interactions at a level deeper than the URL.
  • Intimacy: the affection of a person for a brand. Intimacy is a bit tougher to measure but can be done through sentiment measured in blog posts, blog comments, and discussion forums; call-center feedback; the percentage of Web visits that begin at the site directly (with no referring URL); and search traffic that comes from a branded search term. Data sources for tracking these types of metrics can come from brand or buzz monitoring services, biometrics, survey responses, focus groups, and voice-of-the-customer programs.
  • Influence: the likelihood of a person to advocate on behalf of the brand. Influence metrics can include tracking forwarded content, tagged content, widget and video embeds, friends or fans in social networks, the rate at which content spreads over time, satisfaction ratings or Net Promoter scores.

The framework is a structure for measuring overall engagement. While the definition and framework provide needed clarity and common ground, brands will still need to find their own goals and metrics. Example: a CPG product may not aspire to involvement, but it must focus on influence. Conversely, a hotel brand needs to make sure intimacy and influence are optimized over interaction. Regardless of how individual companies apply them, the four “I” factors are a good reason to refocus the engagement debate.

Several other research and consulting firms have recently published strong takes on the issue including Econsultancy.