A Razorfish Analysis of Customer Engagement in Transition

Change. As marketers, we have always accepted it. Markets change; brands gain momentum and then lose energy; and new mediums come along. Consider the advent of television in the 1950s and how it changed the rules of marketing for decades.

The change marketers face today is different than what has come before, in both its pace and its potential, which is why we’ve used the term “liminal” as the title of this book. The word liminal isn’t just about change, but about being on the cusp of something new. In the context of marketing, it reflects the fact that, for the first time, customers have an immediate voice and an ever-expanding array of channels in which to use it. If marketers are to survive—and thrive—in this new world, they need to re-examine how to engage with customers, across generations and levels of technological savvy.

Thus, we undertook the research in “Liminal” from the ground up, so we could understand how people engage with companies, what they are looking to get out of those engagements, and what channels they prefer. It’s not enough anymore for marketers to have a top-down mentality, simply making sure they have a presence on multiple channels, but to understand what makes some customers still use an 800 number, while others reach out to brands on Facebook.

Here’s the problem: the above assumes your customers want a relationship with you. They don’t. Yes, they will engage with you, yet only if it is on their terms. The findings in “Liminal” demonstrate that, in the future, marketers will need to find ways to sustain those engagements over time, regardless of channel, whether they are traditional, emerging or new.

You have long known it is necessary to take charge and build relationships with your customers. We hope you will find that “Liminal,” because it focuses on what customers want out of engagement, combined with the an eye toward the ever-expanding array of channels, will help you realize the opportunities that lie with this liminal world—for both you, and your customers.

John Zell
VP, Global CRM Solutions, Razorfish


  1. Posted February 1, 2011 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Hi John-Your report provides excellent insight. As a technology company providing both social and traditional loyalty focused SaaS solutions, our clients number one question is, what new and old school customer touch points do we require to increase engagement? Our answer is, start by asking your constituents. Ask them how they want to engage and build their needs into the plan. This question sounds fundamental, however the answer is critical to the success of building an engagement process which allows brands to connect with customers. Cheers, Brad Ball, President, LoyaltyMatch OnDemand

    • johnzell
      Posted February 1, 2011 at 6:30 pm | Permalink

      Brad, thank you for reading our report – you certainly touch on the heart of our findings.

      We find a consumer-driven approach is critical to truly understanding your consumers, how they want to engage with you, and addressing each Engagement Types unique needs and expectations, particularly in this time of great transition.

  2. Posted February 2, 2011 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

    Hello John,
    Great report and insight here. I think so many brand’s worry too much about having a presence on every social media platform available that it becomes more of a popularity contest and who has more twitter followers and facebook fans then about the content and their interaction with consumers. Making your consumers feel like a valued part of your brand is crucial is building that consumer base especially with today’s social media capabilities. If a brand is going to have, for example, a twitter presence, they should make sure the interaction isn’t just one sided–if a consumer tweets you, then acknowledge them and tweet back…consumers want that. If they are going to take the time to follow your brand, they want to be acknowledged and feel important to the brand. All it takes is that 2-way communication effort to create a more personal relationship between a customer and a brand.

    • johnzell
      Posted February 3, 2011 at 4:36 pm | Permalink

      Hi Jessica. Thanks for you note and I’m glad you enjoyed the report. The emergence of social channels as outlets for consumers to express opinions, preferences, and satisfaction with a brands products or services has created the opportunity to lengthen not only the depth of the dialogue, but also the period of time that interaction takes place. So, to your point, moving beyond the popularity contest.

      And you’re exactly right, it really is all about the two-way dialogue. And it really is all about feeling valued. How a brand can make their consumers feel valued can manifest itself in a number of strategic and tactical ways. This is where digital, brand, design and engagement all come into play.

      While this idea may seem intuitive or even a natural evolution, it is this simple fact – not bombarding consumers with messages, and the ability to sustain a meaningful dialogue over a period of time, that is not only an interesting change in consumer behavior, but a significant opportunity for marketers to capitalize these elongated two-way dialogues.

  3. Darcy Kelley
    Posted February 3, 2011 at 2:17 pm | Permalink

    Hi John,
    Can you pls advise whether Liminal exists in sub-report format, or as data cuts, specific to the pharma, biotech or healthcare verticals?

    • johnzell
      Posted February 3, 2011 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

      Darcy, unfortunately the study did not include pharma, biotech or healthcare verticals. With that said, we do regularly work within these verticals and have been having numerous conversations about a lot of the topics we covered in the research. If we could be of any assistance, or answer any questions, feel free to contact me directly at john.zell@razorfish.com.

    • Chad R. Maxwell
      Posted February 7, 2011 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      Hi Darcy! Great question. John is right in that our study didn’t specifically cover the pharma, biotech, or healthcare industries. One thing I would add, however, is that our in-depth interviews about engagement were industry agnostic so the engagement elements may have cross-industry applicability. With that in mind, we think the engagement elements are strong / relevant enough to hold up across various verticals; we believe, however, that the magnitude to which each of them manifests itself will vary. So for example, Darcy, I suspect that “Trust” may be a much more important engagement need than “Consistency” for healthcare. And how those engagement elements are delivered for healthcare across the touchpoints will vary as well, and this is the diagnostic / assessment nature of the LINKS approach.

  4. Ning
    Posted February 7, 2011 at 6:45 pm | Permalink

    This is a great report! It’d be interesting to see, in future postings, the speed and direction of how the current “transitionals” change and how this picture may vary in BRICs.

    • teresacaro
      Posted February 9, 2011 at 12:39 pm | Permalink

      Thanks Ning and fantastic idea. Let’s chat directly on how we can bring that to life.

    • Chad R. Maxwell
      Posted February 9, 2011 at 6:40 pm | Permalink

      Hi Ning. I think mapping the “transitionals” and really looking at change over time for brands, engagment styles, and how that relates to LTV is a strong and interesting potential from this approach. For example, I imagine the chart on pg. 48 as a dynamic chart that can help us build experiences that change the value buckets. It’s a great exercise to spark strategy.

  5. Posted March 15, 2011 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    In fact, what a great site and informative posts, I’ll upload backlink – bookmark this web site

5 Trackbacks

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Nathan Almquist, Research Services. Research Services said: Customer Engagement in Transition: http://twurl.nl/rsohv4 [...]

  2. [...] hold on! A new report by Razorfish that looked at how consumers want to interact with brands finds that control is actually the least [...]

  3. [...] recent in-depth study on customer engagement by Razorfish reported, “…engagement is more than just a channel. It’s a dialogue; it’s the ability to [...]

  4. [...] recent in-depth study on customer engagement by Razorfish reported, “…engagement is more than just a channel. It’s a dialogue; it’s the ability to [...]

  5. [...] what about the conversation? Or “MONETIZING THE CONVERSATION”? Fortune cites a Razorfish Liminal study pointing out that customer “relationship” management (er, CRM), as a concept to interact with [...]

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