• Online customer engagement now top priority as companies change marketing focus

• Brands embrace widgets, social networks and video-sharing sites in bid to boost customer engagement

• Digital industry leaders advise companies to pay attention to engagement.

Companies are paying more attention to online customer engagement than ever before, with three-quarters of organisations (77%) saying that its importance has increased in the last 12 months, according to a survey by E-consultancy and cScape.

The overwhelming majority of companies (90%) now say that online customer engagement is either ‘essential’ or ‘important’ to their organisations, according to the second Annual Online Customer Engagement Report.

Companies are using a range of methods to interact with their customers, including web-based and desktop widgets as well as participation in social networks and uploading to video-sharing websites.

The research also found that companies are realising that they need an integrated approach which embraces all the channels used by customers. ‘A consistent online and offline customer experience’ is seen as ‘essential’ or ‘very important’ by 86% of organisations.

Richard Sedley, customer engagement director at cScape, said: “The term and concept of engagement has entered mainstream business consciousness and is being bandied around the web more than ever before. But this year's survey also shows that most companies still experience barriers to achieving effective online engagement, and that the gap between aspirations and realities is yet to be bridged. The good news is that there are some practical solutions out there already for implementing and streamlining engagement strategies.”

Linus Gregoriadis, head of research at E-consultancy, said: “The days of a top-down, ‘broadcast’ approach to marketing are over. It is no longer about who is shouting the loudest. Those who are engaging effectively are reaping the benefits of improved customer loyalty and increased revenue.”

He added: “Companies are recognising that they have to engage with customers in new ways to get their attention in different environments, whether that is via widgets, video-sharing sites or on social networks.”

There is also evidence that more companies have actually been taking steps to deliver a more integrated experience. Since the first Annual Online Customer Engagement Report, published at the end of 2006, there has been a significant improvement in the number of organisations that are either ‘very advanced’ or ‘quite advanced’ at mapping customer experiences in order to identify different touch points.

Around a fifth of companies (18%) say they are already using web-based widgets while a further 39% plan to use them in the future. The idea of a widget – a third party item that can be embedded in a web page – is attractive to marketers because it can help to achieve off-site visibility and engagement.

Just under a third of organisations (32%) are planning to use social networks such as Facebook, with a further 19% already using them. Video-sharing sites are being used by 21% of companies while a further 29% say their organisations are planning to use them in the future.

The E-consultancy / cScape Customer Engagement Report is based on the findings of a survey of more than 1,000 online marketers, including 456 company or ‘client-side’ respondents and 438 agency participants.

As well as the survey findings, the report also contains comment and analysis from a range of digital marketing and web analytics experts: Jim Sterne, Pete Mortensen, Avinash Kaushik, Dave Chaffey and Andy Beal.

The full E-consultancy / cScape Customer Engagement Report 2008 is available for download at:

http://www.e-consultancy.com/publications/online-customer-engagement-report-2008

Journalists and bloggers can email or call Linus Gregoriadis for a complimentary copy of the report and / or further information.

Linus Gregoriadis, Head of Research, E-consultancy
(e: linus@e-consultancy.com t: 020 7681 4051 / 07956 564713)
cScape media contacts:

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

Theresa Clifford, cScape
(e: t.clifford@cscape.com, t: 020 7689 8800)

About cScape

cScape, the research sponsor, is an award-winning interactive agency and a certified Microsoft Gold Partner. An emphasis on customer engagement underpins cScape’s integrated consultancy, creative design and technical development services.

The cScape Customer Engagement Unit (CEU), launched in November 2006, is a team of individuals with years of experience in digital marketing and communications, design and technology development. cScape combines in-depth research into the science of persuasion with the development of practical online strate¬gies. Our priority is to enable clients to align business goals with the needs and interest of their customers. cScape works with a diverse range of organisations from the corporate, charity and government sectors.
For further information about cScape, please contact Richard Sedley or Theo Papadakis at cScape on 020 7689 8800.

About E-consultancy

E-consultancy is an online publisher of best practice internet marketing reports, research and how-to guides. E-consultancy, named Publisher of the Year at the 2006 AOP Awards, also publishes buyer’s guides and has a directory of 100,000+ third party internet marketing white papers.

Subscribers pay from £195 per year to access the exclusive and highly practical content. E-consultancy also organises regular events, including roundtables and Supplier Showcases, where six suppliers pitch to an audience of pre-qualified buyers at a Central London venue.

E-consultancy has 60,000 registered users and more than 145,000 unique users sessions per month (audited by ABC Electronic). It is popular among internet professionals because of its time-saving advice and insight.

The company also provides a range of public and in-house training programmes, such as seminars and workshops.

http://www.e-consultancy.com/about/

Published on: 12:00AM on 27th November 2007