The Constantly Changing Rules Of Engagement

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“But what’s in it for me?” This is the question on the lips of every consumer, the question that good engagement should be able to answer. With that in mind, here’s the low-down on the top trends that are currently driving change in engagement, and how marketers can adapt to meet the rising expectations of the 21st Century consumer.

Human behaviour change is shaping the marketplace

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The manner in which people consume content and interact with each other has shifted to a bite-sized, multi-screen, mobile-first paradigm, and a growing number of media companies are responding to these increasingly multifaceted needs. For example; Snapchat reached out to an array of publishers in order to populate its Discover platform. Meanwhile, in China, a documentary on air pollution found an audience on messaging app WeChat, receiving over 200 million views in its first three days.

Consumers have also come to expect products and services to be customised, transparent, and real-time; Uber and Airbnb became leaders in their respective spaces by paying close attention to this and making it part of their proposition. But while these convenience-centric companies enjoy rapid growth, there is mounting anxiety among their customers regarding privacy. Uber currently has no opt-out when it comes to collecting geolocation data, so using the service is a like-it-or-lump-it situation. Up to 80% of 25-34 year olds are concerned with data security, but within that group there is a sub-set of people who are open to the idea of exchanging their data for genuine value, such as location or context-specific discounts.

Another important behavioural trend to consider is “C2C”. A new value chain is emerging, where consumers are creating content, goods and services directly for each other without the need for a commercial intermediary. This has been made possible be democratic platforms like eBay, which originated as an online flea market and has evolved into an eCommerce behemoth, in turn paving the way for more niche retail sites like Etsy. And then, of course, there’s YouTube, where anybody can build an international brand.

In 2015, brand-building is a matter of inviting people in. Last year, the crowdfunding industry is said to have raised over $34 billion USD globally, across over 1,250 platforms, ranging from market leader Kickstarter to an array of product-specific channels. While in the past, knowledge and ideas were jealously guarded so that they could be monetised, it’s now more common to create value by sharing ideas with the world and improving them through community, as is the case with Github and Quirky. Elon Musk famously made all of Tesla’s electric car patents freely available, so he could build the market by empowering companies like Ford to catch up with the technology. 

The mobile ecosystem is still evolving


Facebook may be the network of choice for your grandma, but it has its finger on the pulse when it comes to knowing what its users are doing. We all know the origin story by now; Facebook started life as a platform on which students could rate their peers, before becoming the definitive social network. But what makes Facebook really interesting is how each of its acquisitions demonstrate how the business itself pivots and adjusts to use cases, from Beluga’s messaging, Instagram’s photo sharing and’s facial recognition, to Atlas, which powers advertising and serves as the foundation of Facebook’s entire revenue model.

These acquisitions also reflect the evolving user; people consume information on Facebook but share it on messaging, hence the WhatsApp purchase, while virtual reality and drones are two of the ‘next big things’, so Facebook snapped up Oculus Rift and Ascenta. In order to keep eyeballs on its News Feed, Facebook has partnered with outlets including BBC News, The Guardian and The New York Times to provide news links which can be clicked and read on-site. It’s a trade-off; these publications lose out on potential ad revenue from click-through readers, but gain views from Facebook’s 1.49 billion users.

In its recent earnings call, Facebook announced considerable mobile growth, cementing its status as a mobile-first company. And not without cause, as 60 per cent of millennials in the US believe that everything will be done on mobile devices in the next five years. In that same period, mobile innovators are expected to invest upwards of $4 trillion in CAPEX and R&D. More than half of the top ten most-used apps globally are messaging apps, and they’re making the most of their popularity by offering up a more sophisticated array of services; Facebook Messenger is now connecting customers with businesses, while China’s WeChat has taxis, commerce, games and food delivery.

One final note on doing business in a mobile world; don’t underestimate the power of the emoji. 63% of texts in Finland contain emoji, compared to 38% in USA. The majority of 18 to 25s have stated that they find it easier to express themselves in this visual medium than through words, and some brands have already proven that it’s possible to leverage the emoji as an engagement tool. The WWF created #endangeredemoji to promote the plight of endangered species, while Dominos set up an ordering service where you can reorder your favourite pizza simply by sending the pizza emoji.

Stop thinking ‘traditional’


We have reached a point where the quality of content marketing is equal to that of traditional content productions; articles on General Electric’s content platform GE Reports are regularly and widely upvoted on the notoriously troll-ridden Reddit. CNN has recently announced the unveiling of a new studio which will be entirely dedicated to producing content for advertisers.

Entire distribution chains have been disrupted as a result of increasingly intricate consumer expectations. For example, fans of Game Of Thrones can now subscribe specifically to HBO’s programming, compared to the previous obligatory and more expensive ‘bundle package’ subscription service. It is also now possible to configure your new car and make a purchase online without ever visiting a dealer.

The future of engagement will be in finding micro-interaction opportunities in content and user experiences. A simple but effective example of this is the Impulse Saver, an app which enables the user to make an instantaneous transfer to their savings account at the touch of a single red button. Similarly, Acorns automatically invests your spare change in a stock portfolio, creating value without requiring the customer to interact with the app.

So, value-generation models aren’t what they were even just five years ago. And as these models continue to change in the face of ubiquitous connectivity and real-time peer-to-peer interaction, so too will platforms continue to adapt and converge. The new competitive advantage lies in how you manage data; not just to serve up targeted ads, but to create and deliver even better products and services that engender trust and loyalty.

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