The Complete Guide to User Engagement in 2021

by Kirsty Finlayson in January 22nd, 2021

The customer journey is a long and winding one—and there are thousands of touchpoints your users can make before they turn into a loyal customer. When it comes to conversion, getting a user’s email address is only half the battle. So how do you turn a hot lead into one of your biggest fans? User engagement.

Omnichannel marketing is key to engaging your users—you need to be delivering content and messaging that builds trust and boosts the excitement and motivation of your users.

In this article, we’ll be sharing everything you need to know to overhaul your user engagement strategy this year, including:

  • The importance of user engagement
  • The channels you need to be using for user engagement
  • Different user engagement strategies
  • The tools you can use to succeed

What is user engagement all about?

User engagement is all about how valuable your users find your product. It’s a harder one to measure, but you can prioritize certain metrics to see how well your strategies are working.

User engagement metrics can vary widely depending on the industry you’re in. For example, if you’re a SaaS company, it’s likely that your engagement metrics will be tied to monthly usage of your platform, or how many users are invited to your account. But if you’re an online publication, your metrics will be more likely tied to pages viewed or social shares—engagement metrics that show your readers enjoyed consuming your content. First, you need to understand what your key metrics are—then work on making them the best they can be.

Why do you need to focus on user engagement?

Brands that focus on their user engagement reap the benefits. It's that simple.

Engaged customers have a direct correlation with business profitability. Companies that prioritize user engagement bring in five to seven times more revenue than their competitors who put engagement on the back burner. User engagement also breeds loyal customers who are five times more likely to purchase again with a user-centric company—and loyal customers are five times cheaper to retain than bringing in a new customer. 

Looking for more user engagement data? Check out our webinar "From First Action to Loyal Customer" with Chris and Kirsty!

The best channels to engage users throughout their journey

Changing customer journeys need personalization to succeed. While 1% of your users might breeze through your perfectly crafted marketing funnel—the other 99% will take a zig-zag route to conversion. A successful user engagement strategy is all about delivering the right messages, at the right time, in the right channel. Here are seven key channels to focus on.

1. Email

The classic marketing channel—it’s reliable and versatile. Your users can receive communications from you wherever they are and deliverability is guaranteed (unless they gave you a fake email address 😢). On the other hand, we’re bombarded with hundreds of emails a week, and your communications can get lost in a pile of unread messages—the average email open rate is 21%

Tip: Use email to engage your users with blog posts, event invites, and exclusive offers. Ensure that you don’t overwhelm users with countless updates by using a marketing automation tool.

2. In-app messaging

This channel is growing quickly and for a good reason. With in-app messaging, you can engage users while they’re using your product meaning that communications are contextual and provide value at the right time. Product Tours are one of the most popular ways to engage users and show them features and content that will interest them. In a recent report, we found that the best Product Tours have a 66% completion rate, knocking email right out the ballpark.

Tip: Engage users with Product Tours that show them around your product—they’ll reach their “aha moment” quicker (that second where they realize how great your product is) and stick around for the long haul.

Moz product tour screensho

Moz uses Product Tours to inform users about key product updates and invite users to engage with their new features. (Source)

3. Website personalization

It’s not always love at first click—you need to get to know your users before you can engage them effectively. Website personalization is brilliant for taking users from consideration to that “aha moment”. Once you know who you’re speaking to, double-down on it—you can boost your sales by 8% with basic website personalization. Let’s look at Netflix, the masters of personalization. Their user engagement strategy is all about content personalization—showing users recommended personalized content that will suck watchers in for hours upon hours. 

Tip: Ask users a short series of onboarding questions to understand their needs. With this information, you can show them shopping suggestions or workflow templates that are tailored to their use cases. Then watch them come back time and time again!

Netflix personalized recommendations

Netflix learns what you like and pushes more of that content to your “recommended feed.” The result? I just keep coming back for more drool-worthy viewing, “aha moment” achieved. (Source)

4. Live chat

When you want help, you want it quickly, and live chat enables users to get the resources they need ASAP. Live chat has grown massively in popularity, 42% of users now say it’s their favorite way to engage with a brand. The downside to live chat is that it is time-consuming to set up—and it can go wrong very quickly when you start experimenting with automating your communications. 

Tip: Engage with users through live chat at critical moments in the buying process. Let users know you’re always there to talk on pricing and feature pages—you can solve any doubts in a few minutes and keep users from falling into the arms of your competitors.

5. Social media

I can’t count the times I’ve gone to a brand’s social media pages and seen a page filled with tumbleweed, or the odd post from 2017—it really makes you reconsider how trustworthy they are as a business. Companies who neglect their social platforms are missing out on a huge customer engagement channel. Now, we’re all aware that organic social channels don’t have as much reach as they did a few years ago, Facebook posts have an average reach of 5.2%, but social media is still an excellent way to keep users up-to-date and entertained—a few memes go a long way too.

Tip: Show some personality in your social media presence while ensuring that you set the right tone for each channel. LinkedIn is best for sharing long-form posts and events, while Instagram often works better for showing your fun side or giving a sneak-peek into the company culture. Social is a strong channel that is often kept on the backburner in a content marketing strategy.

Grammarly social media post

Think that social media isn’t for SaaS? Think again, Grammarly has racked up over 250,000 grammar-loving followers. Find your niche, and run with it.

6. Customer calls

“But nobody picks up their phone!” you exclaim. While we could blame millennials for this, since 75% of them will avoid a phone call at all costs to save time (myself included), we can also see this as an opportunity. A customer call doesn’t need to be cold or “salesy” in the traditional sense. Engaging with customers over Zoom or other video platforms at a pre-arranged time is a great way to understand their requirements for using your product. Plus, it’s a way of putting a face to a name and it shows users that you’re always there for them, building empathy and trust.

Tip: Always allow users to book a time with your team—whether it’s for a sales call or for extra support. You can also repurpose these calls and create a Help Center that is filled with on-demand viewing.

7. Direct mail

Finally, one of my favorite user engagement channels is the oldest. Sending your most valued users direct mail is a guaranteed way to engage with them. Stand out from the rest of the mail by mailing users exclusive offers packed with a gift from your business. This shows that you’re going above and beyond to delight them, and will be sure to generate buzz on other channels too and boost your word-of-mouth referrals.

Tip: Direct mail is expensive—so take your time in crafting the perfect arrival. There’s no room in the mailbox for generic flyers, think unique company merch, or handwritten cards on special occasions. 

direct mail from Chameleon

At Chameleon, we love sending users little gifts to put a smile on their faces!

User engagement strategies for conversion optimization

User engagement channels? ✅

Now it’s time to strategize—different goals need different channels. It’s like a candy store pick and mix for marketing. Here are our sweet recipes for boosting revenue and conversions with user engagement strategies.

User engagement in the activation stage

Assemble your user engagement channels to get users from signup to “aha”:

  • Email: Make an entrance with a series of welcome messages that nudge users to key features that will drive adoption.
  • In-app messaging: Roll out the red carpet for your visitors with a Product Tour. Show users around your platform and direct them to customers’ favorite features.
  • Live chat: Let your users know that you’re always there to help—suggest Help Center articles and allow users to book a call for any additional questions they might have.

User engagement in the revenue stage

Your users understand why your product or service is so great and they’ve found a use for it. But how do you turn them into a paying customer? With a sprinkle of these channels of course:

  • In-app messaging: Highlight paid features in your product and explain the benefits that come with them with a modal message (like Mixpanel does below)—you could even offer a free X-day trial of premium features to show, not tell.
  • Customer calls: Let users know that you’re always there for a demo call to show them what they could do if they leveled-up to a paid plan. 
  • Social media: This is a great chance to run paid retargeting ads that highlight your premium features.
  • Email: Case studies fit in perfectly here—you can show free or freemium users stories about your top-performing customers on your paid plans.
Mix Panel product "flow" screenshot

Allow users to engage with premium features and explain the benefits that come with advanced plans, as Mixpanel does with their “Flows” feature.

User engagement in the retention stage

What is conversion without retention? If you don’t focus on your paid customers too, you’ll face a low LTV (lifetime value) and will be throwing acquisition spend into a leaky bucket. Keep customers around for longer with these user engagement strategies:

  • Website personalization: Continue to show customers relevant content that encourages them to make your product or service a habit.
  • Social media: Keep your networks fresh and updated so that your top-notch content finds its way into their feeds.
  • Live chat: Ensure that door of communication is always open—automate messages to appear after a certain time on selected pages to proactively solve any issues.

Tools to make your user engagement more human

The truth is that a large chunk of your user engagement will be automated—and that’s okay! Make sure that your automation doesn’t get carried away and that your users always have a point of contact with a human by using these user engagement tools. Here's what I'd recommend:

  • Unstack for website personalization and beautiful LPs.
  • Chameleon for in-app messaging that makes user onboarding delightful.
  • Demio for customer calls and on-demand webinars.
  • ActiveCampaign for managing your marketing automation.
  • Drift for providing a live chat experience.
  • Mixpanel for understanding your user engagement metrics.

Now go forth and get picking your user engagement candies!

About the author

Kirsty is leading up the marketing department at Chameleon and is passionate about user onboarding and product-led growth. Based in Barcelona, for the last four years, she’s been working in SaaS startups and enjoys hiking in the hills and scuba diving.

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