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How to Measure Engagement in the Real World

When trying to measure engagement, be it in the real world or the digital one, companies often make mistakes.

In the digital world, startups often watch their subscribers climb nicely, then spend a month or so high-fiving each other only to see a sharp drop that rarely recovers (this is called the shark fin graph). The mistake here was assuming subscriber count to be real engagement. People were logging in, weren't getting what they needed, and leaving, without the company understanding what went wrong. In real world products, engagement is harder to measure. It is also often ignored, as companies bask in the light of high sales. No one wants to imagine that their product isn't doing what customers are looking for. When they choose the competitor the next time around, everyone seems surprised.

What we need to be measuring is value, not visits or sales. Just because you sold a product, or have it installed on someones phone, doesn't mean they are getting value from it. And if little value is gained, few people stick around for long.

I get free cloud storage from Adobe, Microsoft, and Google. I only really use Google. Microsoft should be asking me why that is? What makes Google's cloud storage service a better fit for me, that I prefer to pay for it, rather than use my free storage with Microsoft? They've never asked. I wonder if they even measure it. A few years ago, a pool robot company asked for our help in designing their unboxing experience. When we asked for their engagement data, we got a lot about sales, and only a little about weekly use. How often do people clean their pool with the robot on year 1, as opposed to year 5? A drop in use might point to an unhappy customer. But this data was missing.

In the US, cable television had a massive subscriber base. It was only when streaming came along, and everyone started to flee, that they realized how little value they generated for their customers.

How Do We Do it?

So how do we measure value? We ask if our customers are doing what they subscribed to do. Are they using the product often or creatively? Are they diving deep or only using the basics?

In the digital world, this is often easier than in shop bought products. But harder doesn't mean impossible. Whenever we design an unboxing experience, for example, we always try and give customers a way to get in touch in the long term. We make sure the story doesn't end with an open box.

Warranty cards can also open a door to customer engagement, as customers register their warranty, companies can keep in touch and ask for feedback. Often, simply asking for honest feedback makes customers engage with the brand again, and raises satisfaction. Photo by Thought Catalog on Unsplash

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