The ‘back half’ of the engagement cycle


coupon.jpgADOTAS EXCLUSIVE — The “back half” of the engagement cycle, motivation and purchase, is where campaigns often go astray.

Last week, I wrote about the touchpoints of the cycle: awareness, recruitment, engagement. But once you’ve engaged with the consumer and hopefully raised their interest level in your brand, how do you motivate them to actually buy the product?

How do you measure the relationship between the engagement and the purchase? If the product can be purchased online, the cycle can flow fairly smoothly toward purchase. Offers like instant discounts or free shipping can create motivation to move on to purchase immediately after engagement. Follow-up emails with similar offers can motivate those who delay purchase, and traditional online methods like cookies and click-tracking can measure the results.

Goods sold primarily in offline retail stores present unique challenges. Marketers need to find ways to bridge the online/offline divide and maintain the connection with the consumer through the cycle. Coupons have proven to be a successful tactic to motivate a consumer to make a purchase while continuing to measure and learn. It’s a simple tactic—give someone money to go buy something—but effective.

High redemption rates for online coupons prove their efficacy in motivating a purchase. Points and reward programs, loyalty cards, and other tactics that only realize their full value when a purchase is made similarly provide strong motivation to complete the purchase.

Unique serial numbers and IDs allow you to measure individual purchases and close the loop on your engagement marketing campaigns. Closing the loop and tying the completion of the cycle back to all that data and metadata collected throughout the cycle is critical. It ties the whole cycle together in a way that allows deep, meaningful analysis.

Avoid the trap of the “too convenient” offer, as well. To get maximum value from the engagement cycle you have to measure, learn, and re-engage; when you can get all that metadata about the cycle and know that it’s relevant. You have to try to remove unknowns from the equation and demonstrate a clear correlation between the engagement and motivation and the purchase.

The consumer has to attribute the desired action, at least in part, to the engagement. They have to do it on purpose.
If there’s a high likelihood that the consumer wasn’t motivated by the engagement—by the value they received—then the data around that transaction loses value; the chain is broken and the learning lost.

So, for example, when a loyalty card program makes it easy for a consumer to load up offers they didn’t consider and choose, and get a discount when making a purchase without the motivation of knowing the offer was available, a great deal of the value to the client is lost—the cycle is interrupted. As you create new and interesting ways to move consumers through the engagement cycle, take care to preserve the motivation, the deliberation, and thus the value for the brand.

Measure, Learn, and Re-Engage

All the engagement and all the data and metadata in the world is pretty useless if you don’t learn anything from it and use it to do a better job next time. You’d might as well just total up the sales and be happy you moved some product off the shelf. Thinking of your online promotions and interactive marketing as part of an engagement cycle helps focus on the ongoing nature of the consumer relationship, provides context and purpose for those databases you’re building, and most important of all, leads to more sales.

An Example

A current campaign being created by Gaia Online provides a nice example of the engagement cycle at work. (To honor their client’s confidentiality I’ve changed the industry and specifics, but the tactics are real.) A bricks-and-mortar ice cream parlor is sponsoring a quest within Gaia Online’s virtual world, and the service can use past behavior and other tactics to make likely participants aware of the program and its potential rewards.

Groups of users have to find ingredients to create their own sundae, which serves to both make more people aware of the program, as users invite friends to join them in the quest, and to recruit additional players into the engagement cycle. Once the ingredients have been assembled, they can be turned in at a branded, virtual ice cream parlor where the brand can engage them and in return for their effort and time with the brand, exchange their ingredients for a virtual sundae. In Gaia, such objects have value, and can be sold in a virtual marketplace, or they can be exchanged for a coupon to be printed out and taken to the brick and mortar ice cream store.

The coupon creates a strong motivation to visit the store and make a purchase. A “buy one get one” coupon goes one step further and motivates the user to bring a friend along to the store. At the store, the friends receive an offer to take back to the virtual world and trade in for their more virtual ingredients. The engagement cycle is not only completed, but offline energy is injected back into the online cycle. Throughout the program, participation can be tracked, measured, and correlated to other behaviors that help the brand better understand the participants and their relationship to the brand. Brilliant!

Keep your eye on the bottom line, turn your funnel into a loop, and run your own engagement cycle. It can be very rewarding!

— Express your opinion, comment below.


  1. Great post Jeff! I agree that “closing the loop” – being able to track the purchase back to the individual who received the email offer – is critical to making multi-channel couponing work. Our clients have found that capturing email addresses at the POS is an achievable goal, and that you can generate real revenue from online programs even if you don’t have an eCommerce site of your own. Borders UK was one client of ours that did exactly what you discuss here, increasing their in-store average order value by 38% using online coupons.


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