An e-commerce business is primarily involved in selling goods and services to customers or other businesses online. By 2022, the worldwide e-retail revenues are projected to grow to 5.4 trillion US dollars.
This also means that there will be a surge in competition in the e-commerce industry. So how can you keep your business successful in such competitive times? You can do so by providing your customers with resources and benefits that other e-commerce businesses are not.
This is where an online community can help you. Read further to discover a whole new business strategy to grow your e-commerce business.
What is an Online Community?
An online community is a group of people having different demographics who come together on the internet to share their common interests and visions.
In the case of a business building an online community, it is mostly to provide an improved customer service experience.
You are creating a peer-to-peer support group, where people can talk about your products, discuss their pros-cons and get solutions. People from different branches of your organization can join in and provide valuable knowledge to the customers.
An online community can help businesses make real connections with people and to market their products at a lower cost than any other marketing strategy.
Platforms to Build Your Online Community
You can either create a branded online community using tools like WordPress or Slack. You can also use social media sites and discussion forums for building free communities. However, one of the most overlooked options to build an online community is newsgroups on Usenet.
Usenet is a discussion forum that consists of subgroups known as newsgroups that discuss various topics ranging from technology to politics. Businesses can utilize these groups to target customers from their niche and hold regular discussions with them. Various Usenet service providers can help you in either building a newsgroup for your product or joining one that suits your business needs.
Discussion forums in Usenet are better at community building because they have people sharing the same interest in the same groupings. But this is not the case for social media sites. These sites are composed of people who have nothing in common at all. This makes it difficult to target your niche community.
Benefits of an Online Community for Your E-Commerce Business
Now that you understand what an online community is. Let’s see how building a community is beneficial to your e-commerce business.
1. It Revamps Your Entire Customer Support System
An e-commerce business is 80% centered around customer service. The selling part is only 20%. If you can provide exceptional customer service, your customers will come back for more. But what businesses fail to understand is that customer service is not the work of just one department in your company. It’s an organizational effort.
Oftentimes, customers are unsatisfied with services because they had to wait hours to connect to your support team or there was a lack of coordination among different branches of your company, resulting in poor communication.
What if these customers could just go to the internet and get your product’s information, tutorials, manuals, etc in one place and can also connect with other customers to discuss product experience.
This, in addition to your already competent customer support team, can differentiate your online business from competitors.
2. Helps Understand Your Customers
The only way to increase your sales is to understand what your customer’s demands and expectations are. An online community can help you with this.
There are several market tools like feedback forms, online surveys, and product reviews to understand your customers. But what is more personal than the company itself communicating with its customers like friends?
When a company itself communicates with its community, to understand their needs and demands, it encourages their trust. This will distinguish you from your competitors.
3. Helps in Collecting Customer Data
Online communities can be a medium of collection of both qualitative and quantitative data for product research. You cannot collect this type of diverse data on e-commerce listing pages or other social media sites.
An analysis of their online behavior, demographics, and psychology can be used for reasonable service delivery.
4. Augments Product Innovations
What is the second step after understanding your customer demands? It is to inculcate those demands in your product.
You can make improvements in your products by directly talking to the people who use them. The online community is your best friend for deciding upon product innovations. They will also not hesitate to try out your new products if you are sincere enough to encompass their desires.
5. Increases Engagement and Helps Acquire New Customers
Online communities are significant in increasing your online engagement. For example, your community members can mention your products in their Instagram stories or tag you on Facebook posts.
This increases your online engagements and can even gain you, new customers. A lot of this engagement also generates traffic to your website.
6. Increases Your Customer Retention Rate
Everyday, a new e-Commerce website is launched. Customers have so many choices now. Thus, retaining customers is becoming harder than finding new ones.
Online communities help form stronger bonds with businesses. They are formed around a theme that everyone in that community supports. If a common social cause is linked with it, the bond becomes emotional.
When you bring a human touch to your business, you are convincing the customer that sales and revenues are not your only concern and that you also want to focus on their difficulties.
The more the discussions, likes, surveys, or question-answer in your community, the more is their everyday engagement. This ultimately leads to customer retention.
Infographic created by Fiserv, an omnichannel commerce company
7. Reduces Business Costs
Think about how you can make real emotional connections with your online community. Take up a social cause that is dear to your entire community, hold discussions on it or hold online activity around it.
This way you will be able to make a strong online community that becomes ambassadors for you. This saves on your other marketing costs like paid ads.
Calling customer care for each small question has become very frustrating for customers. The blessing comes in the form of an online community.
You can provide “do it yourself” links, videos, tutorials, and expert articles to help customers figure out their problems on their own. In branded communities, customers can tag the concerned person from different departments and receive answers promptly. This increases their trust and confidence in the company.
Furthermore, customers can help answer each other’s queries as well and suggest different products to try. This does not mean you can eliminate your entire support team but it can definitely save you some manpower and time spent on returning emails, calls, and other support variables.
8. Product Feedbacks Are Honest
What is a more honest product feedback than customers talking to the business directly and listing their issues? With online discussion centered around your product, you can expect credible responses about your product.
You can even file similar complaints and questions together so it becomes easier for you to answer them. Moreover, you can use these cases to formulate a better product.
9. Creates a Loyal Customer Base
An online community always sticks together. You are not only creating customers but brand ambassadors and influencers who will talk about your product with everyone they meet.
Word of mouth is the oldest marketing technique and your online community becomes your offline marketers as well. Most businesses give their community special discounts and early bird offers to encourage trust and confidence in them.
These personal touches can help you make loyal customers and keep them coming back for more.
10. Generates Brand Transparency
In the current scenario, if e-commerce wants to rise above its competitors, it needs to offer something special to its customers. Through online forums, you are offering your personal accountability to the customers and answering their questions like their friends.
For example, if a cosmetic e-commerce company is transparent about its ingredients information and continuously updates its community about them, it garners their respect and reputation.
This kind of openness is highly valued by customers.
Online communities can effectively help e-commerce websites in their growth. Future-focussed companies are investing in it for the same reason. Although the main idea behind an online community is customer service, it all trickles down to increased revenues and greater brand loyalty.
If you are someone owning an e-commerce website, investing your time and resources in an online community is the most pragmatic and affordable decision you can make.