With more mobile devices than humans and over one billion people participating in social networks, today's customers are more networked and better informed than ever.
As smartphones and tablets become more ingrained into day-to-day lives, a growing amount of consumers expect to interact with brands across multiple screens simultaneously. A whopping 90% of consumers are moving between multiple screens in the same day, creating tremendous opportunity for companies to set themselves apart from the competition with multi-device marketing. Many marketers are already experimenting, but the challenge is to create a cost-effective, unified campaign that works for each individual platform.

Creating that cost-effective, unified campaign doesn't just mean giving customers a consistent message across any platform. It means engaging customers across multiple channels with unique experiences, relevant offers, and personalized incentives—and doing so across the complete customer engagement lifecycle, from initial discovery through post-sale engagement and support.

Here are five ways marketers can engage prospects through the buyer's journey.

1. Be part of the conversation

If a consumer is researching your product or service on Twitter, Facebook, or blogs from his or her mobile device, you need to listen and, if appropriate, engage in the conversation with valuable insight that responds to questions and guides the consumer's buying decision. If a prospect wants to order your product or request your service online, you need to be prepared to capture that order with a simplified and seamless process. If a consumer wants to pick up part of that order at a local retail outlet and have the rest drop-shipped to his or her home or office, you need to support that, too.

2. Use analytics for insight across platforms

Huge data volumes across platforms can make getting the customer intelligence companies need to deliver one-to-one marketing difficult. By adopting analytics solutions, you can turn Big Data into real-time insights and get a complete view of a customer's needs, preferences, and behavior on any device.

3. Personalize every interaction

Instead of trying to control the customer's journey, act as a guide or orchestrator of that journey and allow people to interact with your company and share their experiences in whichever ways they prefer. Map the customer journey, and make it the foundation for a new model for integrated engagement.

4. Build on previous customer experiences

Today's empowered customer expects you to understand who they are and what they've bought. They want you to anticipate their problems and provide prompt resolution. No longer will customers hold endlessly on your help line, replying to countless automate prompts or repeating their personal information and problems to multiple service reps.

To make ongoing interactions more relevant and personal, track experiences across platforms and make follow-up interactions a natural continuation of previous conversations.

5. Become a predictive business

Meeting customer needs is no longer enough. To gain advantage, companies must anticipate and deliver on them before they arise. Thanks to advances in technology, companies can. Employing insights from social activity and customer transaction data for instance, marketing organizations can identify prospects and use geo-location services to develop optimal offers and engage and influence them at the point of purchase.

As customers become increasingly adept at filtering out marketing noise, marketing leaders must listen and detect their signals. They must understand how and where to reach customers, and then figure out what matters to them and what they need at that specific moment in time to engage in a personalized and integrated manner across the entire customer lifecycle.

Customer engagement is no longer about forcing customers through a pre-defined marketing and sales funnel. It’s about connecting with and guiding them through a dynamic, consumer-led buying journey—from initial engagement in new channels like social and mobile through post-sale support—all with a consistent, branded, and integrated experience.

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Five Quick Tips for Engaging Prospects Through the Buyer's Journey

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image of Tim Minahan

Tim Minahan is CMO of SAP Cloud.

LinkedIn: Tim Minahan

Twitter: @timinahan