At a time when the organic reach of brand social posts is on the decline, you need a better way to engage customers. Communities have the content and tools to help you do so.
A branded community attracts customers both pre- and post-sale, driving engagement through all stages of the purchase journey. Because a community is a platform that you own—in contrast to your profile on social networks—it makes an ideal complement your e-commerce funnel.
How exactly do communities enhance engagement on the consumer purchase path?
Pre-sale: Research and reviews
Prior to making a purchase—especially a big one—consumers have lots of questions. To find answers, most will turn to internet research. According to Synchrony Financial, 85% of people kick off a big-ticket purchase online (even though 82% of them go on to buy in-store).
In this stage of the purchase journey, many people turn to online reviews to narrow their options. Two-thirds of consumers trust other people’s opinions when they’re making a purchase.
Communities, which let members post or comment on product reviews, are a natural destination for shoppers who want to educate themselves prior to making a purchase. The TomTom community —one of our largest—is a good example of this; its sportswear forum lets members weigh in on TomTom’s products and make suggestions to each other.
Another reason to encourage reviews on your community: many shoppers begin their research on a search engine. User-generated community content is a great way to attract search engine users, as it will often appear at the top of search engine results pages even for “long tail” search terms.
Pre- and post-sale: Q&A
Communities are designed to facilitate questions and answers. The earliest iterations of communities, the forums that still exist in some corners of the web, are nothing more than long threads of questions and replies.
What’s different about modern communities is that they have compelling, rich media-enabled, responsive designs—and moderators who can edit content and flag answers as correct.
Q&A is helpful for consumers who are gathering information and need additional product details. Anyone can post to a public community, as long as they create an account (which we make even easier with SSO sign-in options).
Q&A is also widely used for after-sale support. Some inSided customers, like SoundCloud, rely on their communities as their primary support channel.
Communities can drive engagement long after the sale. Gamification tools encourage community members to write and reply to others’ posts, while ideation allows product managers or marketers to conduct research in cooperation with community members.
There are many creative uses for ideation. Some companies gather feedback on product features, while others co-create customer communications. SNS, an online bank, used its community to pilot commercials with its customer base.
Ideation can drive customers back to your website even if they don’t have a support question. Inviting customers to participate in a survey or share feedback on the community will boost engagement long after you’ve made a sale—and give you a chance to renew customer relationships that can produce more revenue in the future.