We’ve been diving deep into customer communities. Why? Because we want to bust the myth that they’re not worth the time or effort. In actual fact, they can have a 10x ROI and contribute dramatically to your bottom line.
The Community Matters magazine exposes what customers want from a community and how to serve their needs. It also includes community-building advice from 10 ecommerce experts.
We also had each of the experts answer audience-submitted questions on a live, Ask Me Anything sessions this month. Watch the recording of the first session below. It features speakers from LoyaltyLion, ReCharge, Gorgias and Omnisend.
Not got time to watch? We’ve summarized all the key points in the rest of the article.
1. Are you an active member of a brand community and, if so, what is it that you love about it?
Gymshark has done a great job of building an active community. They’ve cultivated a space where people can exchange ideas and use their social channels in a way that makes learning enjoyable. Users share feedback on products they’ve bought or experiences they’re having and this has been a reliable way to make conversions.
Another great example is Peloton. During the pandemic, many people were required to work out from home. On the surface Peloton is a convenient solution. But it is more than that because they are also producing quality, engaging content. They made working out fun, which isn’t easy!
2. How do you think community building has evolved since the acceleration of ecommerce?
Fifteen years ago the experience was relatively one-sided because we lacked the avenues for engaging dialogue. Now we have behavior-based automation via email and other channels that enable a back and forth between business and customer. This has allowed for a greater degree of personalization and open communication.
With modern tools, it is easier than ever to create a community. However, brands are still finding it difficult to achieve long-term retention. Ideally, you need to lead with a great product. If you have a poor quality product customers won’t come back and you’re not going to engage the community.
3. How can you minimize people going backward through the Community Matrix?
Find metrics that you can use to measure your customers. For example:
- How recently did this customer make a purchase from you?
- How frequently does this customer purchase from you?
- What’s their average order value?
- What’s their customer lifetime value?
- How long are they subscribing?
Think about how you can tailor your messaging based on where they are in your customer life cycle.
If they haven’t shopped with you in a while ask yourself: how can I bring that person back into the fold with tailored messaging? Or, if they are recent and frequent customers, what can I do to never lose this person?
Think about your customers in a few different ways and then segment your messaging so you can engage them with relevant and helpful information.
4. How can subscriptions and loyalty work together to increase the customer lifetime value of community members?
Customers who stay engaged with their subscriptions tend to subscribe twice as long. Loyalty is one of the easiest ways to achieve this kind of engagement. Ensure that users are registering for a loyalty account pre-checkout before they subscribe.
LoyaltyLion makes it easy to enroll them automatically after purchasing via the standardized connectors in Shopify, Bigcommerce, and a variety of other platforms. From the get-go, you can notify subscribers that they’re a potential loyalty program member and follow that by rewarding them with points and gifts for remaining subscribed. Gamifying the subscription experience with a loyalty solution is an easy way to provide an additional engagement point.
Additionally, merchants should look at how long people stay subscribed on average. Examine the key inflection points they churn and know the right time to send a notification out or a reward or a content piece.
5. What’s the best way to re-engage Drifters and Lurkers?
You have to come back with something new. You can’t use the same messaging. Try a new product launch or a special offer incentive to get them reengaged.
An “unsubscribe” doesn’t mean the end of a relationship in quite the same way as it did a decade ago. Don’t be afraid to use new opt-in channels like SMS. Keep testing and iterating on what’s driving people to your product or service. And know that you can also rely on social media. Also, from a subscription standpoint, there are additional offers and discounts you can make.
Sometimes a Drifter or Lurker is simply not the right kind of customer for you. Alternatively, their lack of engagement could indicate that there’s something missing in your product or experience.
But remember, the life cycle of a customer or a subscriber is longer than a lot of merchants think. Launching fresh communication and giving people some time will yield great results.
6. What role do owned channels like email and SMS play in building a community at the beginning?
Owned channels like email or SMS channels are where you own the narrative and have power over how your brand is portrayed. It’s paramount to develop your brand voice through these channels. By writing marketing copy and thinking about how to engage with your audience you’ll hone in on exactly what you want to say as a brand.
In particular, Email is one of the highest ROI channels. You’re going to get $40 on average for every dollar you put in. Through this channel, you’ll be able to focus on what you want to stand for as a brand and how you want to build community. Think about Patagonia or Lululemon. Even though they’re focused on selling products, their message is clear and their community is a visible part of their brand.
7. Is there a role that customer support can play in building community?
Absolutely! To build a community you need two things:
- A great product
- A happy and engaged audience
Platforms like Loyaltylion make it easy to build community by having real loyalty plans. But you also need to provide pre and post-purchase support. You need to be able to answer questions immediately and give them stellar tailored support. Try to find that perfect balance between automation and personalization.
Showcase that you understand the purchasing habits of that customer. Some metrics you should use to judge customer support are:
- Key Response Time – “How long does it take to reach out to customers and acknowledge their inquiry?”
- Resolution Time – “How long does it take to solve the issue?”
8. Is personalization important to community building and where should you start?
At its core community is a group of individuals sewn together by a commonality. Your first step should be understanding what that commonality is. To achieve this you can capture the right kind of data during your first customer interactions. Then you can provide something that will resonate and lead them to convert.
Personalization goes a long way. For example, curation-type subscription models that use quiz builders to help customers form a unique subscription experience are great. There is a science to getting it right. Show customers that you’re looking to build something that fits their taste and they’ll engage with your brand.
9. One of the biggest benefits of community is acquisition and a lot of that comes from advocacy. What is one simple thing you can do to boost advocacy?
Reward advocates. When you find someone who loves your product, go old school: pick up the phone and call them. Talk to them and understand how they interact with your product.
If they’re the type who wants to shout about your brand from a mountaintop, give them a platform to do so and give them points when they convert someone. Gamify the process and tell people right away, “You are a partner in our brand”. This process may not scale but it is vital early on because it gives you the chance to create advocates organically and connect with your customers.
10. How do I find out what would make my community passionate about my brand? We’re trying to build a community in the athletic safety space, where do we start, beyond just befriending people on socials?
A stat from Community Matters: 50% of consumers are motivated to join a community or undertake community-based actions by a greater understanding of a brand’s story or history.
You don’t necessarily have to build a community around a shared love. It can actually be just about telling your brand’s story. Authenticity is a great way to start a conversation. You may not feel like your business is helping to solve a problem. However, if a customer is buying your products routinely then you are solving a problem for them. Internalizing and showcasing that in your branding and community building is huge.
11. Where do I start building a community if I have a small user base? Is there a point where it is too early to start building a community?
It’s never too early. If you’ve got a customer who has purchased once then you’ve got a customer who could repeat the purchase and spread the word.
At this stage, focus on delivering a great product or service: no surprises, fast fulfillment, smooth post-purchase experiences. If your customers love it they’ll start to become advocates for you. You don’t need to have a formal system in place yet. It’s more about getting out and doing it. These things are unscalable but they are key in the early development stages. You’re probably already doing a lot without realizing!
Additionally, look out for negative or constructive feedback. Listening to people who’ve had an unpleasant experience will help you refine your product and your support process.
12. Any new channels I should add to keep things fresh? What kind of channels do you find have the most engaged customers who communicate on a daily basis?
This depends on your brand and your audience. What channels do you already use? For example, if Facebook is where your audience is then a Facebook group is a great place to start the community.
On the other hand, if you’re a more established brand with more resources then you should look at designing a Sephora-style forum of your own.
Live Chat on your website is also an underrated option. 75% of customers who message into your business have the intent to purchase. Implementing some kind of live chat and having a pre-purchase conversation with your customers will keep them engaged and drive them towards a purchase.
13. Do incentives to purchase build communities that stay loyal? Or do you find members gained through incentives tend to shop and run?
Rewards don’t have to be incentives. They can be experience-based as well. Instead of a discount incentive, provide early access to your next sale or invite them to a product-tester panel. Experience-based rewards will keep people coming back and they don’t cost you anything as a brand.
Certain industries or brands attract more people willing to game the system. Recognize that they may not be the loyal Insiders you want. You can start with something and adjust your campaigns as you go. Discounts can establish a relationship and if you see people gaming the system then you can shift to an experience-based rewards system.
Have an adaptive approach that evolves over time. As you grow and you start to analyze the data you’ll be able to see where and when discounts are most effective.
Want the inside scoop on what customers want from a community?
Check out the Community Matters report full of original research exposing what “community” looks like in 2021. Or, if you’re ready to up your community game, book a time to speak to one of our loyalty experts now.