Whenever we take a trip somewhere, we almost instinctively check AirBnb for lodging.
While there are tons of other options, AirBnb has managed to do something their competitors haven’t: build a fiercely loyal brand community, thereby becoming the go-to lodging marketplace.
Why them? They call themselves a ‘community marketplace’. With their community-based, ‘belong anywhere’ values, they are far more than a property listings marketplace. Their explosive success is a result of their harnessing of their powerful community.
Yes, people may want lodging. They may want to buy things that are useful or give them status. But what they want above all is human connection. They want something meaningful. And any large or small business that wants to take things to the next level needs to be able to provide that to them.
A Brand Community Fosters Loyalty
We can’t stress it enough: a brand is far more than just its product.
A brand is its community.
Brand community is based on attachment — or loyalty — to a certain product or brand. It’s shared values, a shared ethos, shared lifestyles.
Instead of creating an ‘us and them’ dynamic, you’re creating an interactive setting for your customers: a ‘we’.
The only ‘us’ and ‘them’ that should exist are your community and their rivals: Playstation vs. Xbox, Apple vs. Microsoft, Fender vs. Gibson, Coca-Cola vs. Pepsi… you get the picture.
When you build a community around your brand, you get tons of benefits:
- Reduced support costs — being in direct contact with your customers reduces your need for call centers and some forms of customer service.
- Direct customer feedback — in these groups, community members can express exactly what issues they’ve had with your product or discuss possible improvements and feedback.
- Customer loyalty, engagement and retention — customers are a part of this group because they love your products and services. The feeling of belonging they get through this online community will keep them coming back for more.
So how does an ecommerce brand go about building, developing and engaging their brand community? For one, it’s important to remember that building a community is not about marketing or customer acquisition: it’s about building customer loyalty and community engagement (with the customers you already have).
Your community is there to serve the people that are already in it. According to the Harvard Business Review, “brand loyalty is the reward for meeting people’s needs for community, not the impetus for the community to form.”
The recipe to start an engaged community comes down to two things:
1.Get To Know Your Customer
To build loyalty and essentially a dedicated community, you’ll need to understand who your target market is.
You’ll have to track customer behavior, conduct research through surveys and interact directly with your customers. Find out what your most popular product is among repeating customers. Find out what their values are. What are they talking about?
Use audience insight tools and analytics to find out who your customers are and where they come from.
Perform market research to understand trends. Data is your most powerful friend.
Get personal: get in direct contact with your customers and get to know what they like about your brand and how you could help them make the most of your product.
2. Create Useful And Unique Content
Now that you know you know what your customers need, want, think, breathe and bleed, create content for them.
Teach them how to use your product. Teach them how to wear your product. Talk about trends in things they’re interested in.
Do they like funny things? Make them laugh.
Are they more into environmental issues? Make them cry and then show them how they can make things better. Be strong with your values and people will be excited about your brand.
Ruby Cup ®, a Barcelona-based menstrual cup company, has a fiercely loyal community.
But they sell a product that people only need to buy once every ten years. How could they get loyal, repeat customers?
On top of their Buy One Give One program and social outreach, they regularly provide content that keeps their customers engaged: they teach their audience about their bodies, how to reduce period shame, and how to help women around the world live the best lives they can. They consistently engage with their audience on social media with Instagram stories, giveaways and educational material.
Then, when limited edition products come out (ecological and sustainable toothbrushes, notebooks, t-shirts, or tote bags), their customers rush to purchase.
Their strong values and quality content are the cornerstone of their tenacious community.
Community Engagement = Best Customer Experience
According to Hootsuite, the customer experience is “built throughout the customer journey, and includes every step within that journey, from the first moment awareness to the end of the relationship with the brand.”
Customer engagement is how the brand interacts with the customer. And the bigwig, heavy shot, head honcho of the lot is community engagement. That’s how your customers will interact with one another.
It’s not about starting a Facebook group and having thought leaders spill their wisdom upon the hungry many. It’s about everyone involved having a say and having an equal role in building the community. Hence the term community engagement.
Finally, An Engaged Community Is Also Prime Marketing
A brand community shouldn’t be used as the primary marketing strategy. That said, loyal customers will talk about your brand on social media — and you’d be smart to reward them for sharing your content.
The social proof that your own community provides is the best way to acquire new customers and shorten the sales cycle.
What community are you a part of? Are you loyal to any brand?