A ‘new era’ of shopper engagement: how can brands get ahead of the customer engagement curve to retain shoppers and build loyalty?

With the rise of new technologies and advances in innovation accelerated by fast-evolving customer expectations, how has engagement changed, and what can brands do to keep up?  

We heard from customer engagement leaders, including Travelodge, Pooch and Mutt, Oswald by Unilever and Lounge at MoEngage’s #GROWTH Summit in London.  They discussed the significant shifts in customer engagement, what this means for brands and retailers’ strategies to stay relevant and, crucially, how they can adapt and prepare for these changes.  

Omnichannel insight charts a map for growth

Omnichannel engagement is tipped to rise in importance – so it will be imperative that brands are able to join the dots between their engagement channels.  This imperative will only grow as the store experiences a renaissance in investment from retailers who have reassessed its value and role in delivering engagement, led in part by rapidly growing retail media network opportunities. 

Lounge’s Head of CRM, Rita Sousa, pointed to change within its business as it announced the opening of its first UK store in London’s Westfield White City in October – a key move heralding its commitment to omnichannel from the social-first underwear brand that was originally a pureplay – and its plans to open four further permanent UK stores.  

Using data from online to impact the offline channel engagement was also key for Nadine Berdux, Head of CRM and Online Marketing at Oswald by Unilever.  It is increasingly using insights derived from its e-commerce operations to inform how its in-person reps interact with shoppers to help grow sales through a single view of the customer.

Engagement  – but on your customers’ terms 

Engagement for Pooch and Mutt’s E-commerce Director, James Collingham, is all about letting customers be a part of the brand but, crucially, letting them do so on their own terms.  And that means knowing when to communicate, but also when to remain silent.  “Our focus is… understanding if they want to hear from us and knowing when they don’t want to talk to us.  A big part of that is changing our view of what engagement means, and applying that with transparency [of communications] led by our customers,” he said.

Engagement on your customers’ terms can also mean speaking to them on the channels where they want to be spoken to, according to Lounge’s Sousa.  And this could be segmented by demographic data within your target audiences, such as focusing engagement for younger demographics on TikTok, while retaining more traditional email-led interactions for slightly older audiences. “It’s about tracking and listening to where your customers want brand interaction, and then honouring and acting upon it,” Sousa said.  

Lounge is also using automation to optimise the relevance of the content shown to customers on each platform, as well as helping them look at engagement with a holistic view to drive performance. 

Meanwhile, Pooch and Mutt’s Collingham described how the pet food brand was also using data modelling to move towards a predictive output for customer engagement, using buyer signals to adapt the content it serves to customers to drive engagement and CX.  

Combating a ‘recession’ in shopper attention

Brands are increasingly coming up against a ‘recession in attention’, according to Gian Luzio, Travelodge’s Digital Director, prompted by the intensification of online competition driven by the Covid-19 pandemic.  In recognition that customers are harder to reach than ever before, he suggests more ‘mastery’ in how segmentation is approached will be needed moving forward.  

And that requires personalisation to be able to deliver the right message to the right customer at the right time.  While the ‘right message, right customer, right time’ premise isn’t new, Luzio suggests that where the step change is needed is in leveraging data and insight to add context and relevancy to brand communications.  Travelodge, for example, uses data on where the customer is planning to stay, information about the city or region and weather, in order to give contextual relevance to their email campaigns and build value to the customer into their engagement strategies.


“The day of the one size fits all [approach] has gone and in order to get that customer engagement that is all about personalisation.”

Gian Luzio, Digital Director, Travelodge 

Own your own data 

Apple’s introduction of the mail privacy protection policy has significantly impacted email metrics and benchmarks for email open and engagement rates, and is a policy likely to be adopted by Meta and Google.  This makes it harder for brands to segment their engagement strategies as they can’t see what a customer has clicked on, and puts retailers at a disadvantage as engagement data sits with the platform or a 3rd party and not with the brand itself.  

Retailers will need to address this by owning and optimising their own 1st party channels and data if they want to mitigate against these 3rd party platform developments.

“Data is becoming harder and harder to track, so 1st party data will become more and more important.”

Rita Sousa, Head of CRM, Lounge

AI’s coming of age: automation and trusted customer engagement

Travelodge’s Luzio points to the ‘transformational’ last 12months for AI, and suggests ChatGPT, by putting AI into the hands of the consumers, has been a key driver of this transformational change.  While AI and ML technology has been around for 30+ years, the difference now, he suggests, is the access that consumers have to it – and it is this that has driven accelerated levels of adoption, across brands’ shoppers-base and within retail organisations themselves.  

And, as more consumers use AI, it is fueling the technology with even more data and information sources, which is helping marketers become more inquisitive of their customer data and allows them to interrogate it more closely to drive more actionable outcomes.  

However, the next stage, as retailers and brands grow out their AI capabilities, will be understanding and putting frameworks around how this technology sits against compliance, regulation and IP protection processes.

Travelodge, Lounge, Pooch and Mutt and Oswald by Unilever were speaking at MoEngage’s #GROWTH Summit, the event that brings together the leading voices and sharpest minds in marketing and commerce.

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