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What is customer engagement? The definitive guide

Customer Engagement
Customer engagement definition: what is customer engagement?
Why is a customer engagement strategy important?
Why you need different engagement strategies along the customer journey
How to increase customer engagement at each journey stage
How to measure customer engagement: 7 customer engagement metrics
Final thoughts

You may already have a seamless customer experience (CX) that leads users from A to B. However, you need to engage them at each of these touchpoints to ensure they remember you and decide to stick around.

Customer engagement isn’t a one-size-fits-all strategy. Instead, you need to meet people at each journey stage with relevant experiences that capture their attention.

In this article, we explain why linking customer engagement to your buyer journey is crucial for a competitive advantage and cover the metrics you should use to track success along the way.

Customer engagement definition: what is customer engagement?

Customer engagement measures how effectively your company creates interest in your product, builds deeper relationships and encourages advocacy.

Let’s say there are two insurance companies. One provides a standard service, offering discounts when customers join but increasing policy fees regularly from the second year. The other sends frequent messages about how to keep premiums down and recommends add-ons based on customer usage.

The brand offering personalized recommendations targeting a key pain point is the more engaging of the two. It incentivizes customers to keep coming back and encourages trust in the brand.

Engagement involves the customer’s state of mind but you can quantify it with metrics like customer retention and customer churn rate (more on that later).

Note: While customer engagement can take place across departments, sales engagement refers to the interaction between sales reps and customers specifically.

Customer engagement vs. customer experience vs. customer satisfaction

Customer engagement and satisfaction are both branches of your brand’s CX. One details how you interact with customers, while the other measures how they perceive these efforts. Both feed into how customers evaluate the overall experience.

Here’s how the three terms relate:

  • Customer experience is the overall perception of your brand based on marketing and sales activities, touchpoints and channels

  • Customer engagement details how well your brand interacts with customers at each activity, touchpoint and channel to encourage repeat business

  • Customer satisfaction measures how happy customers are with your engagement strategies and overall experience

customer engagement + customer experience = customer satisfaction

All three aspects are crucial when meeting customer needs and building brand loyalty.

Why is a customer engagement strategy important?

Customer engagement helps you retain buyers and gain a competitive advantage over others in your niche. In a world where 98% of CX decision-makers report dealing with the consequences of a poor customer experience, a successful one can have many benefits.

CE tool Braze created a “Customer Engagement Index” that splits brands into three maturity levels. They are:

  • Activate brands. Brands beginning to recognize the importance of engagement, focusing on single campaigns and channels with limited metrics.

  • Accelerate brands. Experimental brands with robust metrics that are campaign-focused but lack a comprehensive overview of engagement across platforms and channels.

  • Ace brands. Top-performing brands that prioritize cross-functional workflows and data-driven engagement based on customer lifecycle stages.

The CE Index has tangible results for Ace brands with successful customer engagement because 85% of these brands surpass their revenue goals.

Compared to less mature brands, these customer-centric companies also see:

  • Almost 60% more sessions per user (a key engagement metric)

  • Around 73% more purchases per user

  • A 30% higher 90-day retention rate

The research indicates that effective customer engagement can translate into real business outcomes that help your bottom line.

Why you need different engagement strategies along the customer journey

Customers have different motivations depending on how far along they are with your brand. How you engage a loyal customer will differ from how you engage someone who’s just learned about your company.

In fact, there are five distinct customer journey stages, each requiring unique tactics:

  • Awareness. Potential customers become acquainted with your brand.

  • Consideration. Prospects evaluate your offer and compare it with your competitors.

  • Decision. New customers commit to purchasing your product or service.

  • Retention. Long-term customers continue to buy from your company.

  • Advocacy. Happy customers promote your brand to friends and family.

You need to work hard initially to prove to a new customer that your brand is worth purchasing from. A library of helpful content, an engaging social media presence and guided onboarding can encourage prospects to become customers.

However, you need to put in a different kind of effort to retain long-term customer relations (e.g., implementing a sales referral program). If you don’t keep people interested, your competitors may entice them with intriguing new offers and features.

It’s also essential to keep up with changing customer engagement standards. For example, personalization used to be a nice-to-have but it’s now table stakes for a significant number of customers.

Twilio research suggests brands that don’t provide real-time personalized experiences lose out to ones that do.

When brands don’t personalize experiences, four out of 10 customers search for alternative products.

Actions consumers took when brands didn't personalize in real time

To identify what your audiences need to stay engaged at each journey stage, segment your customer base into ideal customer profile (ICP) groups and buyer personas. ICPs help you define audience segments based on broad criteria, while buyer personas give you more depth about customers within those segments and how to best communicate with them.

After that, create separate strategies for each stage of your customer journey to target each group or persona’s intent and pain points.

Download our customer journey map template

Start mapping your customer journey with our free customer journey template.

Let’s say you offer form-builder software targeted at the education industry. Your prospects and current customer base may include:

  • College reps

  • Online education businesses

  • Coaches with in-depth training programs

Each group will use your forms for different purposes, so you need various sales and marketing tactics to engage them effectively.

For example, you may highlight the Premium features you offer for free to educational institutions to convince a college rep to sign up. You may also offer a group onboarding session to engage the education business team.

How to increase customer engagement at each journey stage

Engagement strategies vary whether you’re dealing with potential customers, new customers or loyal advocates. However, 90% of CX leaders find it difficult to pinpoint where to begin when improving their customer journeys and experiences.

Here are 10 strategies and customer engagement examples to increase participation at each journey stage.

Awareness: humanize your brand’s social media accounts

During the awareness stage, potential customers notice your company on social media or through your content marketing efforts. Grab people’s attention during this first sales cycle stage to stand out from the competition.

For example, a business-to-business (B2B) company looking for new team messaging software may come across a Google Ad for Slack. To get a feel for the company, the prospect heads to Slack’s X (formerly Twitter) account.

Since B2B companies target other businesses, brand awareness efforts need to engage busy people. To do this, Slack makes a point of humanizing its marketing campaigns and social media content.

For example, this checklist post uses plenty of emojis to stand out from other jargon-laden posts. It also addresses the human behind the account with “your”.

Customer engagement Slack Example

The post even ends with a direct, conversational line, “Give yourself a high five. You’re doing great!”

While your brand may not warrant being this informal, you can still give your social media channels a human feel with a personal and approachable tone.

Awareness: create an interactive content marketing strategy

Barbie had one of the most successful recent engagement campaigns of 2023, with its second teaser trailer prompting 18 million social posts mentioning “Barbie”.

While brand recognition certainly had an impact, the marketing team’s wide-ranging use of channels and content got the message out.

For example, the interactive Barbie Selfie generator allowed fans to recreate the movie poster with their faces.

Customer engagement Barbie

Users then shared the meme to their social media platforms and spread the word.

Focusing on this type of user-generated content (UGC) helped Barbie come across as genuine and trustworthy than traditional movie advertising.

The interactive element is also far more engaging, allowing users to participate in the brand experience and share something fun with their friends.

You can start with content as simple as a social media poll or customer survey to encourage people to interact with and feel more connected to your brand.

Consideration: automate email outreach to stay top of mind

In the consideration stage, potential customers research and compare your company to its competitors. When prospects sign up for your email list, you can send out automated, regular content to stay top of mind and build trust in the brand.

For example, Calendly sends out newsletters like this:

Customer Engagement Calendly example

The newsletter includes links to posts on its website with helpful content, such as ebooks about automating lead management, free templates and videos featuring industry experts.

Even if recipients haven’t paid for the tool yet, Calendly is offering a lot of value to their readers.

The best part is that most if not all of this content is already on their site. It may even have served a different purpose originally (e.g., the webinars may have been used to capture leads further down the funnel when live). Now, Calendly is using this newsletter to push it out to more people.

Email marketing software like Pipedrive’s Campaigns helps automate engagement campaigns. For example, here’s a welcome email you can trigger for newsletter sign-ups.

Customer Engagement Pipedrive Campaigns example

Once you build and send out automated campaigns, you can track delivery, open and click-through rates.

Note: You can use Pipedrive alongside a customer engagement platform to perform personalized multichannel outreach at scale.

Consideration: improve customer engagement with personalized content

Give potential customers insight into the personalized experience you offer by sending them relevant content. You can segment contacts based on their behaviors (e.g., people who expressed interest in one of your features).

For example, Pipedrive sales reps could send a relevant case study to a prospect who indicated they’re considering customer relationship management (CRM) software on a web form.

Let’s say the prospect is a nonprofit rep who wants to improve the efficiency of onboarding new donors and partners.

Pipedrive might send them the Wilderness International case study that details the 30% donor increase since implementing our tool.

If possible, avoid sending the email from an anonymous brand name and address (e.g., “from Customer Support” or [email protected]).

Personalize the outreach with a sender introduction and add a photo to humanize the message.

When prospects become customers, you can continue this outreach to keep them engaged.

For example, Netflix sends emails that entice subscribers to watch shows and movies the algorithm thinks they’ll like.

Customer Engagement Netflix Example

The subject line uses personalization tactics such as subscriber name(s) and “We’ve added a film you might like” to pique curiosity.

You can use customer data you collect via forms or social media to personalize people’s experiences further and convince them to buy or keep using your product.

Decision: offer special promotions and discounts

During the decision stage, potential customers have weighed their options and are ready to buy. However, comparing competitors may be difficult for some. In this case, discounts and special offers help close the deal.

For example, British retailer ASOS offers a 10% discount to all new customers.

The e-commerce retailer also offers discounts consistently throughout the year to re-engage email subscribers.

Sometimes sales are more specific, such as 20% off selected dresses.

Customer engagement ASOS example

On other occasions, discounts can be up to 30% site-wide. However, all sales usually end the same day or within a day or two.

ASOS uses psychological tactics like urgency and regret aversion, or making a decision to avoid regretting an alternative choice in the future. As a result, they convince prospects or customers to buy.

Note: Instead of discounts, you can suggest an annual subscription plan that’s cheaper than paying monthly.

Decision: make onboarding easy

Once customers sign up for your service, first impressions are crucial. Ensure you have seamless, user-friendly onboarding that teaches customers how to use features quickly.

For example, project management software Productboard employs checklists during its onboarding sequence.

Customer engagement productboard example

The simple step-by-step process ensures new customers don’t miss any relevant features. The progress bar also encourages the user to continue, reminding them how far they’ve come.

Once users bypass the initial setup, Productboard has a specific onboarding webpage that breaks its functionalities into four steps.

There are opportunities to share feedback or contact the customer success team at any point. These options give customers confidence that they can ask for help whenever needed. They also show the company is willing to listen to suggestions.

Pipedrive offers three levels of onboarding for different types of users. For example, large teams can benefit from a dedicated customer success manager who builds a customized onboarding plan and provides ongoing strategic support.

Customer Engagement Pipedrive onboarding example

However complex your product, ensure your onboarding process makes each step clear and straightforward to increase early buy-in.

Retention: implement an omnichannel CX

During the retention stage, you want to convince existing customers to continue buying from you. Providing an omnichannel service shows you’re committed to delivering top-tier, engaging customer experiences.

This shift can also have tangible business outcomes. Braze's research suggests cross-channel messaging can lead to 6.5x more purchases.

Starbucks connects its offline (in-store) and online (mobile app) experiences to engage customers on every platform.

For example, customers can order ahead on mobile devices, pay in person and then return to the app to get notifications on order status.

Customer engagement Starbucks example

The coffee giant further engages users with AI that analyzes customer data to offer personalized suggestions based on purchase history.

The brand also found that digitally engaged customers purchase 2–3x more products. In this way, an omnichannel CX leads to higher retention and conversion rates.

While connecting all your channels and touchpoints can be challenging, it’s worth investigating the financial viability of this strategy.

Retention: ask proactively for customer feedback

Asking for customer feedback consistently gives people confidence that you’re a trustworthy brand willing to listen. It also suggests you appreciate customer input and are happy to change when warranted.

For example, the collaboration platform Miro conducts customer interviews to facilitate product development.

Customer engagement Miro example

Asking for customer feedback requires users to participate actively. Miro’s example also uses the psychological tactic of reciprocity – the social norm that dictates we reward positivity with positive behavior of our own.

The company even includes a $50 gift card as an incentive for the 45-minute CX interview.

There are plenty of other ways to do this. Your customer support team can ask for feedback after interactions, for example, or you can set up a forum for product suggestions.

These processes help build an emotional connection that leads to long-term loyalty since your customers feel heard.

Advocacy: create an engaging customer loyalty program

During the advocacy stage, you want loyal customers to tell their family and friends about your product. If successful, you can encourage upselling and referrals that boost sales and lead to new customers.

Implementing a loyalty program can show customers you value their business. You also don’t need an endless budget or resources to create one. Rewards can include:

  • Gifts

  • Discounts

  • Vouchers

  • Exclusive events

  • Product upgrades

  • Offers from partner brands

For example, the wine subscription brand Good Pair Days offers a lucrative points-based system that users can trade in for merchandise.

Customer engagement Good Pair Days example

Every subscription or one-off order builds points. Engaging user activities like wine rating, personalized future bottles, taste tests or challenges and referrals do the same.

As customers progress, the number of points they earn per bottle increases (which amounts to a higher percentage of value back for every Australian dollar or British pound spent).

Good pair days Journey Example

The longer users stay with the company, the more benefits they gain, like free bottles on their birthdays and monthly prize draws. The brand even takes loyalty one step further by allowing users to retain points if they pause or cancel their accounts.

If you’re unsure which rewards your customers would appreciate, set up a survey or interviews and ask them directly.

Advocacy: gamify your service to increase interest

You can apply typical gaming elements (e.g., scoring points and competing with others) to increase customer engagement. Brands use these gamification strategies to persuade people to use their products more regularly.

For example, the education app Duolingo built its entire product model around gamification.

Learning a language is a long-term process, so apps like Duolingo need to entice users to keep coming back if they want to succeed.

The app’s gamification tactics include:

  • Earned badge rewards to mark progress

  • Adding Duolingo’s green owl mascot to make push notifications friendlier

  • A pleasing “ping” sound when users answer correctly

  • Instant feedback and corrections so users can improve

  • Leaderboards to encourage social interaction and healthy competition

  • Activity streaks to incentivize persistence

Customer Engagement Duolingo Example

While you don’t have to bake gamification into your product, you can implement something as simple as a photo contest or a quiz on your site while offering prizes.

You can even combine gamification with your rewards program (like Good Pair Days does) to get the best of both worlds.

How to measure customer engagement: 7 customer engagement metrics

You need to track quantifiable metrics to ensure you’re meeting customer expectations. Especially if your perceived engagement levels don’t align with output.

While 81% of brands believe they understand their customers deeply, less than half of global consumers agree.

Avoid this disparity by tracking these seven customer engagement key performance indicators (KPIs).

Customer engagement metric


Customer satisfaction (CSAT)

A score from 0–100 that represents how satisfied customers are with a specific process or interaction.

Average sessions per user

The average number of times a user visits your website or app within a set period.

Churn rate

The percentage of customers who stop using your product or service over a set period.

Customer lifetime value (CLV)

The total revenue your company expects to gain from a specific customer through the entire relationship.

Net Promoter Score (NPS)

A percentage score that suggests how loyal customers feel about your company.

Click-through rate (CTR)

The percentage of people who saw your content and clicked it.

Customer retention rate

The percentage of customers who continue to buy from your company over a set period.

Each of these figures gives you a benchmark for how engaged your customers are. Tracking increases or decreases helps you determine your progress.

Let’s say you update your product’s app design. Soon after, the churn rate starts to increase and NPS scores begin dropping. Since you can align these changes with the app design update, you can do something about it before it’s too late.

Note: You can use customer engagement software (e.g., Twilio Engage or Qualtrics) to calculate benchmarks and track progress.

Consider customer engagement trends

Brands can use technology to stand out from the crowd while creating engaging experiences online and offline.

Some popular customer engagement trends include:

  • Generative AI. Using machine learning to handle specific customer interactions and give users fast, practical answers.

  • Phygital experiences. Combining physical and digital channels to reduce customer efforts (e.g., Amazon’s Dash Carts).

  • Wearable tech. Implementing in-store beacons to communicate with customer devices (e.g., Apple Watches) and send relevant messages (e.g., sale in aisle 10).

  • AR/VR experiences. Offering augmented and virtual reality technology that allows customers to try a digital version of physical products (e.g., Snapchat AR).

  • Video tutorials. Upgrading written guides with engaging video content (e.g., Pipedrive’s video tutorials).

Keeping up with the latest trends and customer engagement solutions can help you communicate with people in new and exciting ways, giving your brand a competitive advantage

Final thoughts

While effective customer engagement strategies vary based on the journey stage, they also depend on your industry, company size and channels.

For example, a finance startup with a limited budget will engage a new customer base differently than an enterprise e-commerce brand.

However you reach customers, ensure you have intuitive customer management software like Pipedrive to help you spot sales opportunities, track results and boost profitability.

Get started today with a 14-day free Pipedrive trial.

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