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 ShipBob, We Make Websites and Shoelace.
Not got time to watch? We’ve summarized all the key points in the rest of the article.
You should always start with raw data:
It’s getting harder to obtain first party data, so it helps to analyse what you already have.
The way you gather data will depend on how people join your community and where you host them. You can collect demographic data through email or through single sign-on tools like Google and Facebook. Even with email, you can enrich the data with tools like Clearbit.
Gathering data will be easier if you understand how communities operate on different platforms. There are so many channels to focus on, so you’ll have to be aware of your bandwidth and prioritize.
You need to have a clear brand identity. The way you display your loyalty program, and the program itself, is dependent on your brand identity. Is it about exclusivity? Or are you more focussed on having a broad community?
Some brands use exclusive product drops to promote their loyal community. These brands use their website to display their exclusive “opt-in” ethos and attract visitors to their community. Other brands might want to look for a broad community-based loyalty system that will use product pages to promote their community.
You can also promote your community with initiatives tied to loyalty programs. For example, when customers recycle packaging they can get additional points, or customers can offset the carbon footprint of their delivery and receive early access to products etc.
One of the best ways to promote your loyalty programs is through retargeting. Use a paid-social strategy to grow your community and target the right audience. You can set up a past-purchaser campaign for recent purchasers to join the community. These people are easier to convert than complete strangers.
Is there UGC online that’s already promoting your brand? If so, you can utilize that on your website and put it front and centre. This will incentivize customers to get involved in your community.
Organic content always draws the most attention. Interact with people that are using your product and incorporate their content. GoPro is a great example because their product was built for self-promotion and could be used to create content for social channels like YouTube and Facebook.
Customers often complain about brands that use repetitive ads. Similarly, loyal community members don’t like to be bombarded with ads that treat them like first time customers.
They’ve seen your brand before and if you keep having the same conversation then they’ll stop interacting with your brand all together.
The messages you send need to be suited to the audience. Separate your campaign structures so you can target people that have never seen your brand and people who have already bought from you.
Brands also suffer when they make assumptions about their audience and who they want to be targeting. Shoelace has seen that it works better to start broad and see where your creatives take you.
The biggest impact has been on the amount of data you can receive from Facebook and Instagram about your customers. You can no longer solely trust in your ROAS, CPA, or purchase revenue numbers from Facebook or Instagram. Attribution windows have become smaller as well. Some merchants used to be able to track 28-day attribution but now this is limited to seven days.
Merchants have had to look to places other than Facebook and Instagram. There have also been changes to Core Web Vitals and organic traffic. If you are looking to bolster your community work, you need to look into the upcoming changes in analytics.
Many ShipBob customers are loyal, in part, because they can own all of their customer data, and provide a custom unboxing experience. You can boost Insider engagement if you can control the shipping experience of the customer and make it interesting,
For example, ShipBob works Your Super. When you order from Your Super you will receive a custom box that arrives within a couple of days that contains engaging custom inserts.
These experiences are a great opportunity for UGC and help kickstart virtuous circles of promotion and engagement.
Is there a gap in the market? If not, make one. You’ve got to start somewhere.
Pick a platform and start engaging with customers. It’s important to research and understand that cultivating a community is a lot of work, but eventually you just have to try it for yourself. Whatever you have in mind today will evolve over time to suit the market and will adapt as your customer base grows.
If you’re starting from scratch there will be limitations. You have to be emotionally generous with yourself. Don’t set ridiculous benchmarks. Set a deliverable and focus on one thing at a time.
Instead of treating community like a whole new stream, look at the activities you’re already doing and see whether you can build a community there. For example, if you believe your community will thrive on reviews then make sure you’re incentivizing those reviews and using them to build up your community. Similarly, if you have a support team that is talking to people all day, get them to promote your community.
Why are you trying to build a community?
If you view it as a way to achieve cheap customer acquisition, that’s the wrong approach. People can tell if you’re being inauthentic. You can’t outsource a community to a freelancer. You have to be invested. The likes of Sephora and Peloton didn’t create their communities overnight. You will be rewarded if you provide value for your community.
It depends on your brand’s aspirations. If your community is exclusive you are hopefully getting email addresses and having engaging conversations. If it’s open, there is no accountability which can dilute the conversation and leave you vulnerable to spam. Keeping your community exclusive through a simple login is not that big of an ask for people who are genuinely interested in your brand.
You can even introduce a tiered system, where the lower levels are open to everyone and the higher community levels are exclusive to loyal members.
Some brands have VIP Facebook groups that are only accessible to customers. In those kinds of communities early access sales and seasonal launches do really well. You can segment your community to invest more time and effort into the people that are the most valuable to your brand.
Another great example is Lean Luxe. You need to be an active subscriber of their newsletter for a certain amount of time to apply to their community. It makes community members feel special and encourages them to engage.
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.
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