To Connect with Digital Customers, Brands Must Listen First

As the majority of our communication channels switch to digital, listening to consumers first has never been more crucial. Amid the global changes we’re all facing, Apptentive published our annual Mobile App Engagement Benchmark Report last week. This is our fifth consecutive year conducting this research, and the data in this report is from 812 iOS and Android apps with 5,000+ active users.

Based on report data, it’s clear that brands who listen first have leveled up their in-app engagement processes and are increasing their efforts to personalize, segment, and understand their customer base even down to the individual level. While there’s still more to do, brands who win leverage mobile customer feedback to improve their products and adjust their overall business goals more than ever before.

Here are five lessons about listening we’ve learned from our 2020 mobile engagement benchmark data:

1. To unlock sentiment data, you must measure shifts in customer emotion over time.

Many marketers and product managers often use “emotion” and “sentiment” interchangeably, even though they are very different. Others believe they measure emotion and sentiment when in reality, the metrics they rely on don’t tell a complete customer story. But put simply: Sentiment is the “what.” Emotion is the “why.” Measuring and acting on both is critical to customer experience success. And in order to measure sentiment correctly, you must also capture and understand the emotions that drive it.

Customer sentiment vs customer emotion

2. Even the most sophisticated brands only hear from less than 1% of their customers. It doesn’t have to be this way.

Giving a voice to every customer is an aspirational goal for all companies and is transformative at every level across product, marketing, and retail operations. Many brands today may think they build products around their customers based on feedback from a majority, but they couldn’t be further from the truth. In reality, our data shows that brands only hear from less than 1% of their customer base, which we call the “vocal minority.”

The silent majority

The most dangerous decision a brand can make is acting on feedback that doesn’t accurately represent the majority of its customers. In order to truly provide an impactful customer experience that has your customers’ best interest at heart, you need to hear from more of your customers,

3. Proactively engaging customers is still the best way to encourage consistent loyalty and retention.

Customer experience can no longer be done reactively. Reactive CX is stuck—and consumers are beginning to notice. Across all verticals, people gravitate to highly-personalized experiences, and not just the ones solely based on what they’ve clicked, viewed, visited, or purchased.

Proactive mobile customer engagement

As consumers, we now expect the brands we love to deliver the right message, to the right person, via the right medium, at the right place, and at the right time across all of their digital and onsite experiences.

4. The “right mobile moment” looks different for every brand.

Encouraging feedback is about starting a conversation with a customer, but the most important component is asking for feedback at the right moment in order to give conversations the best opportunity to begin. Mobile devices are more personal than desktop devices as they are kept with people all the time, so the “right moment” in a mobile experience will look different than it would on a desktop, tablet, or other connected device.

Right mobile moment

It’s crucial to understand your customer journey and to pick out the best communication points within your app’s experiences (e.g. after a customer has completed a purchase, if they view a certain page, when they complete a level, etc.) to find the right time to ask for feedback.

5. NPS alone is a vanity metric. Go further.

It’s better to look at customer emotion holistically than in a vacuum, even if it produces a lower NPS. Rather than gaming the system and inflating your NPS by targeting fans over risks, it’s better to target the whole and learn from feedback—which is also what makes NPS a vanity metric.

Mobile communication channels over time

The main reason why NPS, as it exists today, is dangerous is that it was invented for a different time period. When NPS was developed, the world of customer experience and communication looked vastly different. You cannot act on emotion you haven’t collected, and NPS doesn’t tell us a thing about the “why” behind customer emotion.

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