The survey results confirmed that engagement is on the minds of online marketers but that there is little industry consensus on its meaning or metrics. In fact, the survey revealed that many marketers are using a very limited set of metrics to assess engagement. They continue to apply traditional and familiar metrics to this somewhat novel concept, ignoring factors that may be the keys to understanding the true relationship between engagement and revenue.
Online marketing has the power to create unprecedented interactions between brands and consumers, and it offers a broad toolset for measuring that interaction. Marketers who avail themselves of more of these tools will be better equipped to translate engagement into dollars.
Findings. Most survey respondents claim to be measuring engagement as part of their marketing efforts. But it is telling to note which factors they consider to be indicators of engagement. Although the marketers describe engagement as promoting a "deeper connection" with consumers, the majority of respondents believe that the traditional metrics of conversions and brand impact (metrics with which most advertisers are very comfortable) are the most valid evidence of that interaction.
Here are a few key results from the study:
Where do we go from here? Despite the confusion, the industry-wide interest in engagement stems from a very valid desire on the part of marketers to connect more deeply with consumers. It represents a clear shift in thinking, revealing that connecting with consumers is becoming an online marketing goal in and of itself, instead of an afterthought in media plans designed simply to solicit cheap clicks and conversions.
The measurability, effectiveness and interactivity of online advertising are leading marketers to recognize its unique value as a brand-building tool. However, as this study indicates, it's a tool they are still learning to use and evaluate. Advertisers will have to think outside the conversion box in order to fully exploit the brand-building power of online marketing, focusing more on metrics such as time spent interacting with an ad and Web site. Analyzing these factors in relation to overall sales will provide marketers with unprecedented insight into what motivates their target markets to buy and how they can drive sales in new ways.
The engagement furor will likely serve as a catalyst for a much-needed change. It is time for marketers to broaden their performance measurement horizons, incorporating exposure, duration of interaction, and other signals of brand connection into their notions of successful marketing. The analytical and reporting tools are out there. It's now up to advertisers to use them, interpret the results and formulate strategies accordingly.