Creating an online customer community: 4 ways to drive revenue growth

The importance of customer loyalty cannot be underestimated. When you have a loyal community of shoppers you can depend on them to spread the word about your brand, advocate on your behalf and drive revenue growth. 

Creating an online customer community is all about retaining valuable shoppers so that you can develop your brand. Short-term discounts and initiatives that lack purpose won’t contribute to your revenue growth long-term. A lively, growing community will also make you stand out from your competitors and create buzz around your brand.

But, marketers face many hurdles when building a customer community. It’s sometimes seen as a vanity metric, difficult to measure, and hard to convince your company to focus on it. But, brands with communities can see over 4,000% ROI

In this blog post, we’ll explore four ways to build a community that really drives revenue.

How to create an online community

1. Communicate your values 

Make sure that your brand values come across loud and clear then use these values to grow your online community. This establishes a common bond between the user, the brand, and the customer. 

Authentic communication that speaks to your community strengthens your bond. 

“It’s the age of authenticity and brands need to get real if they want to connect with their audience. 86% of consumers say that authenticity is a key factor when deciding what brands they like and support.”

Make sure you portray your brand values and clearly communicate what you stand for in your welcome emails. Members will be able to get behind your brand from the outset and emotionally connected customers spend more. This will also prevent your emails from sounding too salesy and snore-worthy. 

Balance Athletica is a company that’s got it right when it comes to communicating its values. In their welcome email, you get a sense of their mission and find out they’re a family-run business. They enthusiastically communicate that their goal is to empower customers. And they also explain that their community is the place to receive updates on everything new and exciting.  

The personality of the brand is clear from the first interaction. It is authentic and purposeful. They are not just about drawing in customers, they want to unite shoppers around shared values so they feel part of a community of like-minded individuals. This strengthens the bond between customer and brand and improves their loyalty: 54% of customers say they would be loyal to a brand if they become part of a community of like-minded individuals. See the other key drivers of customer loyalty in our set of five cheat sheets.

2. Incentivise engagement and interaction

Creating a brand community doesn’t just happen by chance. It takes hard work for your brand to get the conversation going. So how do you build up excitement around your brand and your community? 

Solution: implement a loyalty program that rewards customers points for following you on social media and publishing content on your behalf. This spreads awareness of your brand across the platforms where your customers talk to each other and spend time online. 

User-generated content (UGC) is powerful for acquiring new customers and building trust: 

90% of consumers say UGC holds more influence over their buying decisions than promotional emails and even search engine results”

Never Fully Dressed rewards points for a follow on each of their social channels. Then, on these platforms, they post engaging IGTVs and UGC content that gets the conversation going between community members. Read our full case study on Never Fully Dressed to see how they increase their repeat purchase rate by 64%.

Ultimately, customers will be more likely to interact with a brand that speaks to them in an exciting and personal way. You have to make the engagement worth their time.

3. Create a feeling of exclusivity

Customers should be made to feel like they are getting something in return for their loyalty and the energy they’re putting into your community. That’s why you need to give them something exclusive back in exchange. 

Plus, customers expect VIP treatment from brands they show loyalty to. 79% said being able to unlock exclusive benefits makes them loyal. When you provide exclusivity it gives customers the feeling of status and strengthens their emotional connection to you. 

With loyalty program tiers, you can give members perks varying in exclusivity depending on their CLTV. Supernatural’s tiered reward system moves customers up the levels,  “Magical”, “Mysticaland “Ethereal”. 

At the highest tier level, “Ethereal”, you receive early access to new products, exclusive promotions, and surprise rewards. 

A tiered system offering exclusive rewards like this takes advantage of the goal-gradient effect that states: “as we get closer to achieving a result, we accelerate our behavior. This is why a 10-space coffee card pre-stamped twice will get completed faster than an eight-space card with no stamps.”

A tiered loyalty program will show your customers that there is always something of value within reach. This gives customers a reason to be part of your community and engage regularly with your brand. 

4. Make referrals easy

You don’t want your customer community to go stale. You can invest a lot in it but you need to put actions in place for it to be self-sustaining. This is why you’ve got to encourage active community members to invite new members who are like-minded. 

With a referral program, reward shoppers for recommending your brand to others. Members brought in through referral programs trust you quicker and are will spend more (according to research referred customers spend 200% more than customers acquired other ways).

Manuka Doctor makes referrals easy for their shoppers. They incentivize referrals with loyalty points

Offering these kinds of perks will encourage loyal customers to bring more members into the community. This will prevent the hype around your brand from petering out. An incentivized referral system expands your online community and creates a buzz around your brand. 

Summarizing how to create an online community

Build a community around your brand and you’ll always have a group of reliable and enthusiastic customers supporting your brand and growth.

When setting out to build an online community here’s what to bear in mind:

  • Communicate your values in authentically 
  • Incentivize engagement through a well-designed loyalty program
  • Create a feeling of exclusivity – every customer wants to feel special and a valuable part of the community. 
  • Make referrals easy

The importance of customer communities for generating revenue is evident. Now it’s time for you to start getting involved and growing your own online community. 

If you want to get started, connect with a Loyalty Analyst and we’ll be able to work on building an online community for your brand together.

About the author

Mollie Woolnough-Rai

Mollie is a Senior Content Marketing Executive at LoyaltyLion. After graduating from UCL in 2016, she has worked both in-house and at marketing agencies providing expertise in content for both B2B and B2C clients. At LoyaltyLion, Mollie manages our content, making sure our readers get the best quality resources about customer loyalty and retention.