Over the years, thousands upon thousands of studies have confirmed the same thing; humans crave connection. People are inherently social and place a high value in finding groups in which we feel we "belong."
More and more, brands are finding that they can leverage this deep human desire for connection to build communities for their customers to interact within their brand's ecosystem. These communities have the power to increase brand loyalty, improve customer success, and increase revenues, all without the traditional ad-spend and consumer research price tags of marketing past. But the value of communities goes beyond ad-savings and reaches into the more intangible values of consumer loyalty and human connection.
What makes a brand’s community so valuable, and how can you successfully implement them to create maximum value?
People trust referrals over advertising
In 2015, Neilsen’s Trust in Advertising report found that 83% of global consumers ranked referrals from people they know as their most trusted source for making buying decisions. This ties in directly with our inherently social nature. We trust those closest to us to have our best interests at heart, so the words of those we know in the communities we trust are weighted much more heavily than impersonal advertisements or anonymous online reviews.
By building a community around your brand where people can meet like-minded individuals they connect with beyond just a product or service, you are more likely to gain consumer trust. Not only that, communities can become self-sustaining flywheels, a place where you can attract, engage, and delight your customers, who in turn bring in more customers for you to engage with.
Communities improve customer success
Branded customer communities provide a place where consumers can connect with other consumers to get help and support. Brands can also use these communities to collect valuable information about customer pain points and interact with customers directly to address their evolving needs in real-time.
These communities can act as constant, active focus groups, providing valuable insight into your customers' minds, how they are currently using your products, and how you may be able to improve current products or develop new ones to meet their changing needs.
Communities build brand loyalty
By building a community around your brand and regularly responding to community members' comments, questions, and concerns, brands can build increasing amounts of consumer trust. The more consumers feel they can trust a brand, the more loyal they become.
Brand trust is a high-value commodity that money can't buy; it must be earned. As the Pareto Principle states, around 80% of your sales are likely from the top 20% of your customers. Building a community around your brand makes it easier to identify your top customers and continue to focus on maintaining their loyalty and support through brand engagement and other incentives.
So, how can you build a thriving brand community into your business strategy? It has to be one that engages your customer base, builds brand recognition, and loyalty that will make revenues rise with your reputation.
Build a community that serves its members
This is the foundation of any successful brand community. To extract value from your community, you must first provide value to your members. This value can come in many forms. For example, Sephora has built a robust online community called Beauty Talk, where customers can ask questions, share ideas, and get tips and tricks from other makeup enthusiasts, all while also interacting with Sephora brand reps who share the latest products that are relevant to the interest of the group.
By providing a community that acts as a service to its members, you naturally encourage membership and offer a high value to your customers that they will then, in turn, associate with your brand as a whole, bringing them value.
Incentivize your early members
The hardest part of building a community is the beginning, where you are bringing people together in a new and untested environment. By offering incentives such as discounts, free products, or other benefits, you can attract your most loyal customers and begin stoking the fires of conversation.
Incentives don't need to stop once the community grows. By offering regular incentives, you keep your community members engaged and excited while achieving your brand goals, whether those be more referrals or increased sales of a new product. By giving your community members special incentives, you build the feeling of being "in" on something unique and exclusive, further improving your customer loyalty and brand connection.
Prioritize nurturing community over promoting your brand
The key to success with any community is to build a safe space where people feel like they can come and connect with other like-minded individuals. By nurturing your community and generating authentic engagement between your brand and the community that addresses their needs and provides genuine support, you will do more to build your brand awareness and image than merely utilizing your community to test an advertising campaign.
At its heart, building places where people can come together and have their needs met while connecting with other like-minded individuals is something any modern brand should incorporate into their business strategy. By doing so, you will tap into a nearly unlimited resource for customer insight and outreach.
Modern consumers are equally more isolated and more connected than ever before. While more physically distant, they are flocking to online communities in droves to satisfy everything from entertainment to learning new hobbies to self-improvement. Companies that tap into this shift in consumer behavior will undoubtedly reap the benefits of happier customers that remain loyal longer and help build a brand known for bringing their customers tremendous value in exchange for their loyalty.
At Scope, we've not just built a marketplace; we've created a community for vendors, customers, and experts to come together to find solutions to their most challenging product problems, from onboarding to continued support and maintenance. We believe in harnessing the power of the people.