Brand engagement is the secret behind the success of many leading eCommerce and DTC brands. Everything from the emails you send to the campaigns you run can all impact how consumers interact with your brand. A successful brand engagement strategy focuses on building meaningful relationships with its customers.
You need to move beyond just having an online store if you truly want to stand out. You need to build engaging customer experiences.
The best way to do that is to shake up your sales and marketing activity by injecting customer-centric creativity into your strategy.
11 Brand engagement tactics that leave an impression
Capturing your audience’s attention is one thing. But holding that attention and inspiring action is a whole other game.
Brand engagement is the secret ingredient to holding your audience’s attention and encouraging them to take action. It’s one of the most important factors for growing your eCommerce store with retailers attributing 70% increased revenue to investing in digital customer engagement.
Brand engagement is the process of creating strong emotional or rational bonds between consumers and your brand. Do brand engagement right and you’ll positively influence customer buying decisions.
Whether it’s updating your product or customer experience thanks to feedback or directly boosting sales due to customer interactions, brand engagement is powerful.
Yet, digital fatigue is a growing problem. Almost half of the Gen-Z customers report feeling digital fatigue and 56% of all consumers say they would stop shopping with a brand after a poor interaction. Crafting authentic yet creative customer interactions could be just the ticket you need to combat digital fatigue.
In short, investing in customer relationships is an investment in the future of your brand. So, let’s explore 11 creative ways you can build brand engagement for your eCommerce store…
1) Offer live shopping
Turn online shopping into an interactive experience with live shopping.
Think of live shopping as the digital version of QVC or the Home Shopping Network. Live shopping unites digital shopping experiences with social interaction and engagement.
Live shopping turns online shopping into an immersive experience. Customers can get involved through Q&As and real-time chat. Meanwhile, sellers can share reviews and recommendations to support purchase decisions. Add in real-time limited offers, live demos, and guest appearances from coveted influencers to create a live shopping experience that evokes feelings of excitement and urgency.
Through livestreamed broadcasts, eCommerce brands are capturing their audiences’ attention and boosting sales. In 2019, live shopping generated $60 billion in global sales.
Example: Nordstrom’s live shopping channel
Luxury department store chain Nordstrom holds frequent live shopping events for its customers. Nordstrom takes its live shopping events one step further by creating different themes — making sure its live events always remain fresh.
Whether it’s hosting masterclasses with guest experts, sharing style stories from Nordstrom team members, uncovering the latest trends, or sharing upcoming product launches and bestsellers, Nordstrom has a constant stream of exciting live events. Plus, the fun doesn’t stop once the event is over. Customers can tune in to past events anytime they want.
2) Nurture a community
Bring customers together over a shared interest by starting a community. Community building takes time but it’s worth the investment. Building a base of devoted customers is a strong tool for increasing customer longevity, repeat purchases, and brand advocacy. This sense of belonging to a community breeds brand loyalty.
If you want to build a strong community of loyal customers, start by understanding your audience — what makes them tick, what are their motivations and interests, where they spend their time, and what challenges they often face. Creating a well-thought-out user persona will help you gain clarity on your community.
From here, tap into those customer interests and create a space to bring people together over their shared interests. This space could be held on an app, a social media channel, or in-person through community exclusive events — get creative and remember to set up a space somewhere where you know your customers will be active.
After the community is off the ground, it’s your job to keep it alive. Create valuable content, give your customers a platform to be heard and plan exclusive events and activities for your community. Do all of this and you’ll be on your way to building a strong brand community.
Example: The Pacers Running community
As their motto goes, Pacers Running exists to help as many people as possible through running. In its early days, Pacers Running started as a neighborhood running store. Right from its inception, Pacers Running has put community at the heart of everything the brand.
Pacers Running hosts a wide range of running races and social running events for its community, as well as supporting local community races. On their social media pages, Pacers Running shares updates and runner photos from hosted and sponsored events. Search the hashtag #ForEveryRun and you’ll see masses of user-generated content from the Pacers Running community.
But running events are the only way Pacers Running brings its community together. They also offer training programs where community members can get a customizable training plan, 1:1 text support from their coach, weekly social runs, online coaching calls, and access to a training team.
If the training community isn’t enough, Pacer Running’s CEO, Kathy Dalby is also the co-founder of Empowerun — a running-focused retreat for female business leaders.
There are two constant themes to Pacers Running’s story: community and running. This powerful combination works wonders for their brand engagement.
3) Build a VR store
There’s one thing that online shopping lacks that in-store shopping offers — the chance to see, touch, and feel products in person. According to recent research, introducing touch-enabling technology, such as virtual try-on, could break the barrier between real-touch and virtual-touch by revolutionizing the way online products are perceived.
Building a virtual or augmented reality store is a powerful tactic for engaging online shoppers. Virtual try-ons and virtual stores are just two examples of the way VR and AR are being used in the eCommerce space to bridge the gap between in-store and online shopping.
In a report for McKinsey, the Founder and CEO of Penrose Studies Eugene Chung stated “VR/AR uniquely provides a sense of presence and immersion, it’s a brand new art form and brand new form of experiencing.”
Such an interactive experience will no doubt spark customer engagement and encourage them to share the virtual experience with friends. This immersive experience taps into the power of ‘showing, not telling’ to evoke levels of empathy as if customers were interacting with the brand in-person. By mimicking the real-world experience, customers can feel more confident in their purchases.
Example: Dyson’s Demo VR
Creating innovative home and lifestyle products, Dyson has been at the forefront of the technology industry.
This lust for innovation extends to their DTC retail approach. In 2021, Dyson launched its virtual reality store on Oculus Quest. Dyson Demo VR lets consumers test Dyson products in an immersive, online environment.
4) Host and attend events
Whether it’s online or in-person, attending and hosting events is a great way to build brand engagement. Events present an ideal environment to get closer to your target audience.
Keep an eye open for upcoming trade shows and eCommerce events that you can attend. You could attend as a guest, book a trade spot, sponsor the event, or enquire about being a speaker — the possibilities are endless! However you choose to attend events, prioritize connecting with your target customers and building rapport with them face-to-face.
Alternatively, you can host your own events. From seminars, webinars and live streams to workshops and in-person events, hosting your own events lets you connect with your audience and build your brand image. Partner with complementary businesses and industry experts to really boost the impact of your events.
Example: Workshops by The Happiness Planner
The Happiness Planner launched in 2015 as a planner brand that combines Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) and Neuro-linguistic Programming (NLP) techniques into everyday agendas to help people live a purpose and passion-driven life.
This commitment to helping people find happiness from within can be seen in their workshops and events. The Happiness Planner’s online workshops feature guest experts and cover a variety of wellbeing topics from stress relief to self-love and breathwork. These workshops are closely aligned with The Happiness Planner’s brand values to help them better connect with consumers with shared beliefs and values.
Consumers can catch up on past events too. Giving customers the chance to re-watch past workshop recordings extends the longevity of these events, further extending The Happiness Planner’s brand reach and engagement.
5) Join forces with another brand
Building brand engagement doesn’t have to be a solo mission. You can join forces with another brand to boost your engagement levels. Brand partnerships are a powerful tool for building your brand visibility and engagement.
Find a brand partner that shares your audience, but isn’t a direct competitor. Your ideal collaborator could be industry adjacent, an integration partner, or something your customers frequently use alongside your brand. You should be able to leverage each other’s existing audience to grow both brands’ reach and engagement.
Brand partnerships could involve collaborating on a limited edition product line, hosting an event together, or creating an exclusive challenge. Have fun with brand partnerships and choose a partnership tactic that mutually benefits both parties.
Example: Urban Decay x Marvel palette
To celebrate the launch of Marvel’s She-Hulk TV series, Urban Decay and Marvel joined forces to launch an exclusive She-Hulk beauty palette. The beauty industry celebrates creativity and teaming up with the Superhero entertainment industry gives beauty-lovers the chance to unleash their creative side with new makeup looks. The colors of the eyeshadow palette are influenced by She-Hulk with neutral shades, purples and greens. The eyeshadow names are inspired by the TV series with names like “Brains and Braun” or “Crushing It”.
This limited edition palette builds brand engagement by encouraging beauty enthusiasts to share their looks online. Look at branded hashtags for past Urban Decay collaborations such as Urban Decay x Game of Thrones to see how consumers love to engage with the brand by sharing their looks.
6) Run competitions and challenges
Everyone loves a challenge, so why not find fun, challenging ways to spark engagement? Encourage healthy competition by creating challenges and contests for your brand audience.
Offering prizes for entering can ramp up engagement while getting involved in community challenges and contests can make people feel like they are part of something bigger. When designing a challenge, be sure to create a sense of FOMO (fear of missing out) and inspire desire by showcasing what customers can gain from participating.
Challenges and contests could be anything from social media quizzes to raffles, leaderboards, puzzles, and games. Have fun and create a challenge that’s bound to boost engagement.
Example: Shreddy’s fitness challenges
Shreddy is a fitness supplement brand that also has a fitness transformation app. Shreddy app users can sign up to fitness challenges for a chance to win life-changing prizes.
Shreddy challenge participants have the chance to win weekly prizes for taking part in weekly challenges and sharing their attempts across social media. Weekly prizes range from a business coaching brunch with the CEO to a brand gift card, a city break, and 1 month of mortgage or rent paid in full. Plus, anyone who completes the full fitness challenge in the allotted time frame is entered into the grand prize draw where they could win £5,000 cash.
Shreddy encourages participants to share their progress on social media. They also have a challenge forum within the app to allow participants to connect with other Shreddy customers and challenger participants.
7) Share exclusive offers
Words such as “exclusive”, “VIP” or “invite only” create an air of exclusivity around your brand. These exclusive offers and experiences trigger emotionally-driven decisions. Research found that targeted personalization and exclusivity increased the likelihood of purchase and the purchase amount given.
Whether it’s a sense of having something that others don’t, the fear of missing out, or the desire for immediate gratification, terms of exclusivity can work wonders for emotionally-charged brand engagement.
Share exclusive offers that customers can only access by being a part of your community such as by joining your mailing list, attending an event, or by being an existing customer. Your target audience will feel compelled to be part of your community to access exclusive offers. In turn, you’ll form stronger 1:1 relationships with your target audience and strengthen brand engagement.
Example: The Spill Club by Ruggable
Ruggable encourages shoppers to become a Spill Club member to earn perks. Spill Club members earn points for every $1 spent, exclusive birthday and anniversary gifts, early access to new arrivals, and exclusive member-only sales, among other perks.
Signing up is free making it a no-brainer for consumers wanting to save on their shopping. The exclusive perks of the membership encourage repeat purchases and nurture member relationships making it a winning strategy for increasing brand engagement.
8) Partner with influencers
Influencer partnerships are a surefire way to enhance brand reach and engagement. Invest in influencer marketing by collaborating with influencers that are aligned with your target audience. Like any partnership, influencer engagements require communication, collaboration, and strategy.
Influencer marketing works best when backed by strategy. Develop an influencer marketing campaign focused on a key goal — this could be boosting engagement, driving sales, or something else. Work with influencers that feel genuinely connected to your brand and audience, and tailor your strategy to each influencer to get the most out of the relationship.
Influencer partnerships provide social proof for your brand and expand your reach outside of your network, factors that will both enhance brand engagement levels.
Example: Doe Lashes influencer marketing strategy
Jason Wong, the founder of Doe Lashes, pinpoints influencer marketing as the catalyst for his brand’s success. Jason launched Doe Lashes with just $500 and leveraged influencer marketing to grow the brand.
Doe Lashes engages beauty influencers and content creators to produce user-generated content promoting their line of lashes and beauty products. In just one month, Doe Lashes grew to $2.7K daily sales through its influencer marketing strategy.
Speaking in a podcast with Shopify, Jason described influencer marketing as being the “bread and butter” of their brand.
9) Tell your brand story
Every brand has a story. Telling your brand story could draw the attention of your audience and encourage them to engage.
Your brand story portrays your history and motivations in a certain light. Through the stories you tell as a brand, you build your values and take your audience on a journey. Brand storytelling is emotional. It hooks people in and makes them feel connected to the brand in one way or another. This connection often leaves people feeling inspired or influenced, encouraging them to keep engaging with the brand.
If you really want to build brand engagement, tell stories that resonate with your audience. These stories can be told through social media, advertising, branded content, or even interwoven in your brand’s tone of voice and history.
Example: TOMS’ brand story
TOMS may be a shoe brand but to Blake Mycoskie, the founder, it’s about more than shoes.
Mycoskie has been quoted as saying, “I realize the importance of having a story today is what separates companies. People don’t just wear our shoes. They tell our story.”
The TOMS brand story is one based on improving life for everyone. From the One for One model designed to give away one pair of shoes for every pair sold to their commitment to giving one-third of profits to support grassroots organizations.
The TOMS brand proudly lives its values through its brand story. Every decision made within the company backs up its story of community-wide impact and improvement. From achieving B-Corp status to its sustainable collection and its marketing messaging, TOMS story is loud for all to hear.
10) Reward loyal customers
Brand loyalty deserves to be rewarded. Rather than focusing on building brand engagement from new prospects, double down on existing customers by developing a loyalty program.
Loyalty programs reward customers for continued service. Each time a customer interacts or shops with the brand, they will be rewarded. Brand loyalty rewards may include points, money off, or exclusive offers.
According to Loyalty Lion, brand loyalty is driven by a combination of brand trust, exclusivity, personalization, identity, and great user experience. Developing a loyalty program that focuses on enhancing the customer experience will boost your brand reputation and engagement. For every $1 invested in brand advocacy, you could generate 650% ROI.
Example: The Never Fully Dressed loyalty program
Never Fully Dressed is a DTC fashion brand that mainly connects with its target audience through social media. In a world where vertical video, snappy songs and emoji are widespread, Never Fully Dressed embraces these digital elements in its brand marketing.
The Never Fully Dressed loyalty program consists of three tiers: pink, gold, and black. Each tier has an associated emoji and customers can move up through the tiers by spending more money. As they move up through the tiers, loyal customers can unlock greater perks including surprise gifts and secret sales at the highest tier.
11) Create fun freebies
Last but not least, never underestimate the value of fun freebies. Now, I’m not saying constantly discount stock and throw in freebies with every order. Frequently discounting stock will negatively impact your average order value and could cause customers to expect more sales in the future.
Instead of discounting inventory, focus on offering fun and valuable freebies that complement your stock. This could be anything from online quizzes to style consultations, playlists, recipes, a podcast series, or phone wallpapers. Whatever freebies you choose, make sure they align with your brand and resonate with your audience. The key here is to provide value for your audience and keep them coming back for more.
Example: Fun freebies by Glossier
Glossier started in 2014 off the back of Into The Gloss – a beauty website where people could share beauty news, reviews, and inspiration. From here, Glossier began as an online skincare and makeup brand.
As a nod toward its digital heritage, Glossier’s library of freebies focuses on digital offerings including wallpapers, music, stickers, quizzes, recipes, Zoom backgrounds and e-cards. Glossier fans can show their love by downloading the freebies and joining in with the fun. The “Glossier Showroom” playlist on Spotify has over 5,500 likes showcasing how people are loving the Glossier freebies and engaging with the brand, even when they aren’t shopping.
Wrapping up — Embrace creativity to build brand engagement
Take your brand engagement strategy to the next level by embracing creative brand-building tactics. Look beyond the likes of sales or trying to go viral on social media and focus on creating genuine customer experiences.
Put your customer at the heart of your brand and find new ways to build your relationship and, in turn, you’ll find customers willingly engage with your brand, recommend it to friends, and keep coming back for more.