2007 set to be year of online customer engagement

Companies embrace Web 2.0 features to engage with their customers, while struggling with basic customer experience

London, 24 November 2006: 2007 will be a watershed year for online business with large numbers of companies planning to adopt Web 2.0 features in order to engage with their customers, according to the cScape-sponsored 2007 Customer Engagement Report published today.

The E-consultancy survey commissioned by digital agency cScape found that a majority of organisations are either using or planning to adopt user-generated content, corporate blogs, podcasting and videocasting in the next 12 months.

However, while the majority are keen to exploit new platforms and technologies, many organisations are still struggling to provide a consistent and personalised level of customer experience at a basic level across existing channels. The survey found that there are significant gaps between the aspirations of many companies to engage customers and deliver an optimal customer experience and the reality of what they are doing to meet these goals.

Almost two thirds of company respondents (64%) believe that joined-up online and offline experiences are essential for engaging with their audience, but 60% of companies are either not very advanced at mapping customer experiences and identifying touch-points (36%), or admit they have to start looking at this because they are not doing it all (24%).

Half of respondents (51%) believe that personalised experiences are essential for audience engagement, with a further 44% believing they are useful. But despite the perceived importance of personalisation, 37% of company respondents are not providing it at all.

Richard Sedley, cScape’s Customer Engagement Director, said: “There is a significant gap between the customer experience organisations are aspiring to deliver, and the reality of what they are providing in practice. It is a major challenge for organisations, especially when they are multi-channel, to ensure that they are providing a seamless experience.”

E-consultancy analyst Linus Gregoriadis said: “Today’s consumers are more likely to switch loyalties if they’re not getting the kind of service they want – whether online or offline – so businesses increasingly need to ensure that they deliver an online experience which is in keeping with their brands and with what is happening in their stores or call centres.”

‘Barriers to magnificent customer experience’

Company respondents deem the five greatest “barriers” to delivering the best possible customer experience to be:
1) Lack of resources / time (regarded as a “great barrier” by 66% of company respondents)
2) Disconnected systems & technologies (50%)
3) Lack of skills and training (38%)
4) Lack of finances (37%)
5) Lack of regular processes and / or suitable methodology (36%)

Sedley said: “Lack of boardroom buy-in and organisational culture were regarded as greater barriers by agency respondents than by company respondents. The difference was particularly noteworthy for ‘lack of boardroom buy-in’, with 49% of agency respondents believing this to be a major barrier compared to 30% of company respondents.”

Some 44% of agency respondents believe that organisational culture is a great barrier compared to 34% of company respondents.

Appetite for “Web 2.0 technologies”:

42% are planning to apply user-generated content (UGC) to their websites in the next 12 months; 23% are using it already.
35% are planning to use corporate blogs in the next 12 months; 17% are using them already.
33% are planning to use podcasting in the next 12 months; 18% using it already.
35% planning to use videocasting in the next 12 month; 17% using it already.

Sedley said: “The internet has given unprecedented power to consumers and made it more difficult for companies to dictate the communications agenda. The survey findings suggest that 2007 will be a watershed year for businesses in terms of the way they react to the world of Web 2.0 and social media. Many businesses will jump on board customer engagement strategies; those that keep their distance are likely to fall behind.”

The survey found that significant numbers of organisations have no plans to use UGC, corporate blogs, podcasting or videocasting (34%, 48%, 49% and 48% respectively).

Gregoriadis said: “The majority of businesses say they plan to embrace features such as user-generated content and blogging but a significant number of organisations will stand back from this. There is no right or wrong way forward, but companies need to make sure they have a coherent and well thought out approach in line with their brand and customer expectations.”

About the report

The cScape-sponsored Customer Engage¬ment Report is based on the findings of a survey carried out in October and November 2006.

More than 800 respondents, all internet and / or customer experience professionals, both ‘client-side’ and from agencies, completed the survey which contained questions about customer experience meas¬urement, methods of customer engagement and barriers to effective delivery.

Report URL:

http://www.e-consultancy.com/publications/customer-engagement-report/

Journalists
A free Customer Engagement Report is available to journalists. Please email Linus Gregoriadis for details.

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Media contacts:

Nathalie Rothschild, PR Officer, cScape
(e: n.rothschild@cscape.com, t: 020 7689 8800)

Richard Sedley, Customer Engagement Director, cScape
(e: r.sedley@cscape.com, t: 020 7689 8800)

Linus Gregoriadis, Analyst, E-consultancy
(e: linus@e-consultancy.com t: 020 7681 4051)

About cScape

cScape is an award-winning interactive agency. An emphasis on customer engagement, and associated conversion aims, underpins cScape’s integrated marketing consultancy, creative design and technical development services.

The cScape Customer Engagement Unit (CEU), launched in November 2006, works with clients to develop online strate¬gies that align business goals with the needs and interest of their customers.

cScape’s current projects include the world’s first implementation of Microsoft’s new server technology to deliver a Web 2.0-enabled website for Ministry of Sound’s HedKandi label, and the develop¬ment of a completely accessible website for the Royal National Institute of the Blind.

www.cscape.com

About E-consultancy

E-consultancy is an online publisher of best practice internet marketing reports, research and how-to guides. It also publishes buyer’s guides and has a directory of 100,000+ third party internet marketing white papers.

Since moving to a paid-content model in 2003 E-consultancy has amassed thousands of paying subscribers, more than 45,000 registered users and 150,000+ unique users sessions per month.

E-consultancy, which was recently named Publisher of the Year in the 2006 AOP Awards, also organises both in-house and public training events. Subscribers pay from £149 per year to access the exclusive and highly practical content.

E-consultancy has more than 100 events lined up for 2007, including roundtables and monthly Supplier Showcases, where six suppliers pitch to an audience of pre-quali¬fied buyers in a Central London venue.

www.e-consultancy.com/about/

Published on: 12:00AM on 24th November 2006