Design for Customer Engagement

I may take these posts down at any time. You should read them now.

If you are a Designer, Product manager or Developer, I wrote this series to help you succeed. If you don't read it, your product may fail unnecessarily. 

These posts give practical advice, based on scientific research, delivered in attention-span sized chunks, with examples. 

This page is just the overview. Read on!

customer lifetime value is built on beautiful, valuable, and enduring propositions

Customer Lifetime Value

Customer Engagement is the Holy Grail of digital product design. It brings traffic, clicks, conversions, and return visits. Customer Engagement is the bedrock on which strong brands are built, and the key to maximizing Customer Lifetime Value.
…so what is Customer Engagement? 

This post breaks down customer engagement into its component mechanisms. It follows the sequence of customer experience, traditionally described in marketing and advertising literature as AIDAS (Sheldon and McDowell 1923), which stands for: 
A - Attention (Awareness): attract the attention of the customer. 
I - Interest: raise customer interest by focusing on and demonstrating advantages and benefits (instead of focusing on features, as in traditional advertising).
D - Desire: convince customers that they want and desire the product or service and that it will satisfy their needs.
A - Action: lead customers towards taking action and/or purchasing.
S - Satisfaction - satisfy the customer so they become a repeat customer and give referrals to a product.
This model has been refined over the years (e.g., David Court 2009, Brian K. Walker 2011), but the basic structure of AIDAS underlies even the more recent proposals. It provides a solid framework to analyse: what makes a proposition engaging?

When people talk about a good book, they usually mean a good story. In the context of consumer engagement, when we talk about (a good) product, we usually mean (a good) proposition. This article prefers the term proposition, referring to the value a product offers to the consumer. (See here for a an analysis of the different modes of customer proposition.) The mechanisms of engagement discussed here apply to any product that makes a proposition to a consumer, including web sites, desktop applications, mobile apps, online services, and even advertisements. 

Arranged along the sequence of a customer's journey, the elements of engagement cluster into three broad categories: Immediacy, Persuasion, and Relevance. Engagement itself has three main properties, changing in value throughout the customer journey: Direction, Intensity, and Persistence.

timeline view of the elements of engagement

Immediacy (0-1000ms)

You are driving home after working late, thinking about dinner, navigating effortlessly through traffic, stopping at signs and changing lanes, adjusting the volume of the music and wondering whether to pick up some cheesecake for dessert. Suddenly, a kid pops out from behind a parked car. Now you are paying attention to driving.

Most of your brain’s activity, all of the time, is unconscious. The unconscious parts of your brain are constantly scanning the environment to determine where to allocate your scarce and valuable conscious attention. This unconscious brain activity must recognize and prioritize a proposition before we can become consciously aware of it. The unconscious brain is highly attuned to immediacy. 

Immediacy means the proposition is readily perceived by the senses, especially by the sense of sight. The meaning of your communication must be available to your audience directly and effortlessly. Specifically, the meaning must be available without cognitive, empathic, or imaginative effort. 

In practical terms, this means your proposition must be available here and now, be easy to understand, easy to relate toeasy to picture, and readily accessible

The mechanisms of Immediacy are shown below (I've added links to related posts where available): 

Persuasiveness (1-5 sec)

Attention is a limited and precious resource, so humans have evolved a system of shortcuts to lead us to choices most likely to be reasonable and reliable decisions. The system works automatically, based on 6 types of cue: Reciprocation, Consistency, Social, Liking, Authority, and Scarcity (Cialdini 2009). These are the cues that lead people to take action.

The following posts discuss the mechanisms of Persuasiveness in detail:

Relevance (>5 sec)

You have their attention, and you have persuaded them to consider your proposition more carefully. Your customer's question now is: “is this proposition relevant to me?” 

Relevance is key to building Customer Lifetime Value because it drives return visits and recurring transactions. Propositions are relevant to your customer either because they align with personal interests, or because they carry value, impression, or outcome relevance

The following posts discuss the mechanisms of Relevance in detail:

Properties of Engagement

The subjective state of engagement has three main properties: intensity, persistence, and duration.

The following posts discuss these properties of engagement in detail:

Please Engage!

I will discuss each of the mechanisms of Engagement in detail in future posts, adding links to the items above as I write them
I believe these posts will lead you to develop better, more successful products.

I'd love to hear your questions and learn from your comments. 

Contact me if I can be of any service. I'll do what I can to say yes.


  • David Court, D. E., Susan Mulder, Ole Jørgen Vetvik (2009). The consumer decision journey. McKinsey Quarterly.
  • Sheldon, A. F. and G. R. McDowell (1923). The art of selling, Sheldon School.
  • Walker, B. K., C. Johnson, et al. (2011). Welcome To The Era Of Agile Commerce.

If your interests extend to theory and philosophy, please check out my other blog.


  1. Nice Article Maurice...the time scale mapping caught my attention...I did not understand the 10 ms partition though. What happens here? Is this the region where the Amygdala is in action?
    Here is something more specific on online purchase insights from Google, you might have seen before too:

  2. Thanks Kuldeep. The 10ms partition is a marker on the logarithmic timescale, which is indicative only. But yes, this happens in the pre-conscious parts of the brain.

    Thanks for the link. Here's another relevant one from Google: The Engagement Project.

    I see from the stats not many people are following the links to the sub-article(s). I'll make them more visible. Did you see the post on "Now"?


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