Healthy Online Communities, Create Healthy Sales Results

Healthy Online Communities, Create Healthy Sales Results.

eCommerce isn’t just about transactions anymore. Sure, in the early days of the desktop era, there was a time where eCommerce conjured up images of a user sitting alone on their PC buying a particular item in clunky mouse-click kind of way.

The ‘transaction’ was seen as being between an online user of a service, and the company that provides it.

In today’s hyper-connected mobile and social world, the process of buying and selling is as much about having a shared experience with a like-minded people, as it is about getting something fast and cheap.

3 Stages of Connection:

  • Customer to Customer

  • Customer to Leader

  • Customer to Idea

For smart players, eCommerce has become yet another way that business can use to create an even deeper connection with their customers.

After the events of 2020, the need for humans to ‘feel’ connected is more vital now more than ever. Hyper-engaged online communities, or ‘tribes’, are a compelling way to help people feel connected during a time of physical isolation.

Those eCommerce companies that have already developed healthy online communities before the Pandemic saw their bottom lines shoot up with +40% growth this year.

This type of sales performance is a reflection of much more than just being able to provide online purchase and contactless delivery.

It’s about providing people with an opportunity to have a ‘shared experience’ with other like-minded individuals. Marketing leaders such as Seth Godin describe this experience as something that is more ‘tribal’ by nature.

A tribe as defined by the Oxford Dictionary is “a social division in a traditional society consisting of families or communities linked by social, economic, religious, or blood ties, with a common culture and dialect, typically having a recognised leader.”

Oxford Dictionary, Definition: "Tribe"
In the context of this article, it’s about connecting people (customer to customer) and connecting them to a leader of their choosing (influencers and brand advocates) and making sure everyone shares the same idea (the brand ethos).

Human beings have always been hard-wired to want that sense of belonging. The advancements of technology in recent years and the Pandemic this year hasn’t changed that. Instead, if anything, it’s highlighted how important that is to us all.

Being a part of a tight-knit community has always increased the likelihood of survival. In a world of uncertainty, it reduces our risk to be part of a group.

Having a sense of deeper belonging has been directly related to the safety and success of human beings for thousands of years, and nothing in recent times has changed that.

Now more than ever, brands need to make an effort to tap into that primal emotion. Brands need to connect with their customers in more in-depth, meaningful and impactful ways. Striving for this type of connection has always been the goal of experiential marketing in the physical world.

In 2020, the question isn’t ‘should’ we be trying to build a community; it’s ‘how’?

How can brands achieve this? All of the tools that were traditionally used, such as events, are no longer available.

In a digital-only world – what can I do to build a strong online community?

To answer that, let’s break it down.

Remember; a weak community could easily be defined as a large group of people who may or may not have things in common with each other. Whereas a strong community is a group of people who share common interests, behaviours and they also share a broader purpose.

They want to and do, share particular things.

As a business, how do you create this?

There are three stages of connection that you need to establish. And if you do it correctly, each of these stages will build upon the other. Do the first one correctly, and the other two will likely fall into place.

Customers to each other

Customers to leaders/brand advocates

Customers to the idea/brand ethos

Customers to Each Other

The first and most important connection you need to facilitate. Not just because of the interpersonal nature of forming groups, but also because if you do this stage correctly (and by that I mean well enough), then the other two steps become relatively easy.

One of the main reasons many businesses don’t already facilitate customer-to-customer communication is because they fear negativity taking hold. “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch” is the type of thinking that supports segregation.

And whilst this concept is still absolutely right, you need to remember that your customers are already talking to each other about you.

Every review site, marketplace, or community noticeboard already connects your past customers with your prospects.

Customer-to-customer communication isn’t something that you’re going to invent. Instead, it’s about recognising this process and supporting your customers and prospects in their pursuit of it.

The ever-connected, digitally-savvy, social media addict is now the primary archetype of most customers for most businesses.

Luckily, Facebook’s family of apps such as Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp provide every business with an entire suite of powerful marketing tools and educational resources that allow you build a strong community for your brand quickly, and cheaply.

Nothing in the world has been as successful in bringing customers together at scale than Social Media.

Shopify’s integration with social media is now completely seamless. It gives anyone with a smartphone the ability to engage with their favourite brand, buy their product, and then share their experiences with other like-minded individuals in the blink of an eye.

This creative, content and commerce experience, allows businesses to engage with their community, to help them celebrate their own customer stories and purchase experiences with others. All of this available to almost anyone, from practically anywhere at any time.

Customers To Leaders

The first and most important connection you need to facilitate. Not just because of the interpersonal nature of forming groups, but also because if you do this stage correctly (and by that I mean well enough), then the other two steps become relatively easy.

One of the main reasons many businesses don’t already facilitate customer-to-customer communication is because they fear negativity taking hold. “It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bunch” is the type of thinking that supports segregation.

And whilst this concept is still absolutely right, you need to remember that your customers are already talking to each other about you.

Every review site, marketplace, or community noticeboard already connects your past customers with your prospects.

Customer-to-customer communication isn’t something that you’re going to invent. Instead, it’s about recognising this process and supporting your customers and prospects in their pursuit of it.

The ever-connected, digitally-savvy, social media addict is now the primary archetype of most customers for most businesses.

Luckily, Facebook’s family of apps such as Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp provide every business with an entire suite of powerful marketing tools and educational resources that allow you build a strong community for your brand quickly, and cheaply.

Nothing in the world has been as successful in bringing customers together at scale than Social Media.

Shopify’s integration with social media is now completely seamless. It gives anyone with a smartphone the ability to engage with their favourite brand, buy their product, and then share their experiences with other like-minded individuals in the blink of an eye.

This creative, content and commerce experience, allows businesses to engage with their community, to help them celebrate their own customer stories and purchase experiences with others. All of this available to almost anyone, from practically anywhere at any time.

Customers to the Idea

The last part of the puzzle is just as important as the previous two stages, albeit a little harder to specify and a step that takes a little more finesse.

This stage is about authenticity, and it directly relates to how powerfully you can pull your community together. Authenticity is the magnetic force that binds the members of your tribe to one another.

In the context of this post, it’s about your brand’s ethos.

Your ‘brands ethos’ are the traits, culture, goals, mission, and vision that it embodies. A brand’s ‘ethos’ is the connection between a brand and its community. It needs to manifest itself as an idea or ideology (without getting dangerous).

Your brand needs to tap into ‘why’ your prospects become customers, and your customers become advocates. What is it about your brand that they are buying?

For example, Patagonia is synonymous with sustainability. Buy the product, save the planet, connect with others who also want to save the world.

Patagonia has found the conversational context that allows them to connect authentically with their customers. The brand ethos is the glue that sticks a brand to the much-needed human connection that they’re customers craving.

Right now, is a time when all customers from all walks of life are desperately craving interaction and engagement. By showing your target audience that you actively encourage them to connect in their community that is governed by the leaders that they choose, you will see the benefit to your bottom line.



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