Two-thirds of consumers look to other people’s opinions when making buying decisions. At the same time, Google says, 60 percent of people begin shopping on one device but ultimately make a purchase on another one.
In this environment, conventional marketing doesn’t cut it. Consumers don’t fit neatly into segments (“Nascar Dad”), and the “path” to purchase is a multi-touch, cross-device journey that’s unique to each shopper.
Your business needs new ways to engage consumers before the sale. And online communities, which facilitate conversations between brands and customers—while also allowing customers to talk to each other—have a large and growing role to play.
How do communities contribute to pre-sale engagement?
Communities enable you to know your customer
When every shopper follows their own purchase journey, it’s vitally important to know your customer and understand their preferences. That means talking to them one-on-one, when possible, and surveying them to better grasp how they shop and why they do business with you.
Communities enable brands to interact with customers on both a 1-to-1 and a 1-to-many basis. And by offering powerful survey tools, they make it possible for organizations to conduct customer research at scale.
Communities allow you to reach consumers where they are
Communities share important similarities with two platforms consumers are already using: the mobile web and review websites. M-commerce is expected to grow by 30 percent next year to more than $200 billion. Meanwhile, review sites are an important part of today’s consumer journey. Eighty-two percent of internet users browse reviews at least some of the time, YouGov says.
Not only are the best communities responsive (mobile-friendly), they allow real people to share their opinions of a brand’s products. When community moderators encourage honest feedback, consumers can have real conversations and share their experiences.
Communities empower you to actively engage consumers
Whether it’s on external channels like social media or owned platforms like a community, being responsive to questions—or enlisting other customers to answer questions on your behalf—helps move shoppers towards a purchase.
On a branded community, customers can not only engage with brand representatives (i.e., you) but read and write product how-tos. That facilitates more sales and increases customer satisfaction, in a virtuous cycle that keeps the community growing.