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Any ledger or LinkedIn coach tells you that you need a great product, supply chain, and sales strategy for your ecommerce business. That's all true, but often consumer brands directly lack a major strategic focus – community development. Companies like Glossier treat their customers as influencers. BestBuy has an exclusive network of "Tech Insiders". Curology has a community strategy embedded right into their business model, and Sephora has their #SephoraSquad which is redefining what an influencer is for a modern brand. All of these organizations have staff leading their community efforts, and it works.
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What "community" means
Community means something different for everyone. Today I see community development teams managing influencers, lawyers, partners, creators, clients, ambassadors, superfans, celebrities, employees, insiders and more. Modern teams have borrowed from community nomenclature, while those still catching up treat individuals in each of these categories as separate factions. Communities are a group of people with a common interest and goal. They have similar goals, they are loyal to each other, they are actively present and participate in similar activities.
What kind of community is it not?
Community is not a network. Communities are value driven and the combined value of each additional member creates a compound effect. Therefore, a new community member should know the rules and trust other members before joining.
Why is community important for ecommerce brands?
The business reasons for developing a community are obvious, but only a handful of companies have truly mastered large-scale customer communities. Community is often the secret weapon for DTC companies because it becomes their moat. Those who are value-oriented are also actively committed to your products, which in turn lowers marketing costs.
Ecommerce brands that have successfully built communities surround themselves with people who are excited to roll up their sleeves and provide product feedback. This is one of the easiest ways to get direct to consumer brands and get community members involved. To date, some of the largest CPGs are paying millions to test groups to test their products and provide feedback. Smart brands don't have to pay a penny for test groups. In fact, in the long run, they will likely benefit more from direct customer feedback.
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Now communities are difficult to nurture. One way to think about early adoption is to understand the intrinsic value of joining a particular community. Do members get a gift or something unique like one on one with the founder? The best incentives are related to the things that don't scale. Founders should actively recruit community members by contacting one on one. You should include everyone on a regular basis and keep showing repeat values. Community engagement teams should encourage new members to share stories, share experiences, and explain why they decided to join the community in the first place. The external validation takes place cyclically and feeds the value loop again and again when new members join. People want to feel special and connected to the brands they buy. Most ecommerce communities shouldn't be big. There should be attraction or exclusivity in the group and people should have a sense of ownership for the brand's success. Ultimately, there will be a permanent effect where there is so much value between members that the community teams don't need to actively engage with members. The business use cases from here are even clearer. Teams can enable members to write guest content, post on social media, request reviews, attend exclusive events, and more.
Community success is success with new customers
Customer success is of tremendous importance to any company that sells a product or service. Special leadership positions like the chief customer officer have emerged to set priorities. As more and more companies develop specialized products, it makes sense to have the same level of specialization for community roles. Similarly, new tech companies will focus their marketing on community enablement and success.
Are community members and influencers the same thing?
Influencers and community members are not necessarily mutually exclusive. The best influencers for your business are those that align with your brand's worth and values. Influencers who are not part of your community are likely only adding to your marketing efforts, nothing more.
How do I know if my community is successful?
Your community's heartbeat can be measured using a variety of variables, such as: B. Membership Growth Rate, Member Invitations, Churn, Attendance, Net Promoter Score, and Direct Selling. Best practices for e-commerce businesses include regular meetings, assigning roles, and granting new member status through recognition. An effective way to maintain relationships is to have existing members introduce new members. This, of course, will create positive first impressions and catalyze relationship building between members.
What are the most valuable community opportunities?
For ecommerce businesses, teams should create economic incentives like referral codes / links to share with new members. Now that you've set up your community, it's time to think about a community newsletter, exclusive content, founder meetings, guest posts, product feedback, and customer reviews / highlights. Smart teams also use video reviews from their customers in their promotional materials.
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Should I assign a community representative or leader?
Sometimes communities get too big for one person to manage. In my experience after 30-40 members it becomes a full time job for one person. Some highly organized people can manage 50 people, but if you spent 15 minutes with each member it would be more than one full time job per week. When you think about segmenting your community and assigning roles to it, you are making sure leaders are extra focused on your values, trust the community, know the rules of engagement, and respect the brand. You should try to check in with these community leaders more often to make sure they're aligned with the goals of the brand and other members. This is one of the few ways you can effectively scale your community without adding more people to your team. Also, keep in mind that not all communities are meant to be scaled.
The most important thing in building your brand is that it takes time. Building real advocacy and influence begins with community. So make sure you authentically involve people who genuinely care about your products and core values.