E-commerce brands are constantly competing with one another, and it can be tough to come up with new strategies to make sure your brand acquires and retains customers over the long term. Rather than ramping up your traditional marketing, you should build an e-commerce community for your current customers to rally around.
Let’s break down how to build an e-commerce community (essentially a gathering place of customers and sellers to discuss products) for your brand and the benefits of doing so.
The Importance of Community for E-Commerce Businesses
There are many reasons why building and maintaining a thriving e-commerce business community could bring long-lasting benefits to your brand.
Builds Long-Lasting Customer Relationships
E-commerce communities allow your brand to build long-lasting relationships with your target customers. For example, when a help desk specialist speaks directly to a customer on a brand forum (essentially a forum where customers can write posts and threads about topics relating to your brand’s products or services), that customer will never forget the interaction. Being responsive, communicating 1-1 and becoming a trustworthy resource for customer info will encourage repeat visits. Repeat visits, coupled with positive experiences, make repeat and hopefully lifelong customers
If it’s a positive experience, you’ve earned yourself a lifelong follower. These long-lasting consumer relationships are excellent for improving your brand’s cash flow in the years to come, especially since it’s cheaper to keep a customer than to sign on a new one.
Improves Customer Retention
When people invest their time and emotions in a brand, they are less likely to leave it for a competitor, even if it has a shiny new product on display. An e-commerce community creates a time investment on behalf of the customer. This is because a community allows your e-commerce customers to coordinate and communicate with each other, building up relationships along the way. When people feel like they are part of something bigger, they are less likely to remain loyal to that community for any reason.
Bolsters Brand Awareness
Additionally, an e-commerce business community can improve brand awareness. This is especially important in the earliest days of your business when you are trying to spread the word about it far and wide.
A community is a great platform for your most diehard customers to talk to each other. The more they talk and post content, the more mentions you’ll get across the Internet, and the more people will be drawn to your business. It’s a great way to succeed in growing sales and making more profit.
Better Customer Service
Most importantly, e-commerce communities give you ways to offer better customer service to your audience and to reduce costs. Buyers expect top-tier customer service these days, and having a forum or community hub will help you achieve that with searchable FAQs, self-service, and relevant topic discussions.
Handling any issues or answering questions directly makes your brand seem more responsive to consumer needs and tastes. It’s a great way to ensure your target audience feels appreciated by your company.
Build a Brand Community with These Strategies
Now that you know why you should build an e-commerce community, let’s break down how you can do it with a few smart steps. Here’s what small business owners can do today:
1. Create a Community Hub
A community hub is where your users and customers can share content, post pictures, and engage in other social media activities. First, consider creating a community hub on your e-commerce store website instead of a third-party platform so that it’s easier for customers to access. That being said, a Facebook group could work for a community hub for time and cash-strapped small business entrepreneurs.
Of course, it doesn’t have to be as robust or feature-rich as Facebook. But having a hub that you control gives your community members a place to communicate and coordinate without relying on big social media companies. It can be very handy if said companies ever crash, for example.
2. Feature Customer Images/Reviews
Next, consider featuring customer images and product reviews on your website’s landing or front pages frequently. Customer images can be featured as part of image contests, which can drive brand engagement. You can offer prizes like discounts on new products for contest winners.
By featuring customer reviews, you’ll bring the benefits of your testimonials page to the front page immediately. Be sure to rotate the customer reviews often so that visitors know you are constantly receiving new positive reviews, not just recycling the same old five-star reviews over and over.
3. Add a Forum
Forums are ideal places to listen to customer concerns, answer questions, and engage with your community. Your customer service representatives can us this channel to speak to your target audience.
4. Expand to Social Media Platforms
Odds are your company already has pages on platforms like Facebook or LinkedIn for building your networks. Ff you aren’t yet, strongly consider it. Be sure to link to your community hub or forum on these social media platforms, then directly expand your community presence there. Hiring a customer service or social media manager may be wise to tackle this work, as it can be quite a lot.
5. Start an Email Newsletter
If you haven’t already, you may also wish to start an email newsletter with a service such as Aweber. Sending email newsletters is a great way to market to your core audience passively, especially repeat customers.
Email newsletters are also excellent for bringing people to your community pages or forums. You can add links to your community hub, announce the above-mentioned picture contest, and more using email newsletters.
Plus, you can get more email addresses for your newsletters using your community pages. For example, you can require users to sign up for an email newsletter to join your loyalty program or participate in the forum.
6. Add Community Engagement to Blog Posts
Lastly, be sure to add opportunities for community engagement to the regular or cross-posted blog posts your site receives. For instance, you can add a call to action or ask customers what they think about the blog post at the end of the content. You could dedicate a whole blog to engagement. Or you can have a comment section at the bottom of each blog post to drive reader engagement.
As you can see, building an e-commerce community is easier and more worthwhile than you may have originally thought. Get started building an e-commerce community for your brand ASAP, and you’ll see the benefits in no time.
Nahla Davies is a software developer and tech writer. Before devoting her work full time to technical writing, she managed to serve as a lead programmer at an Inc. 5,000 experiential branding organization whose clients include Samsung, Time Warner, Netflix, and Sony.