Sam Makad is a business consultant. He helps small & medium enterprises to grow their businesses and overall ROI. You can follow Sam on Twitter, Facebook, and Linkedin.
Wondering how an online community can help you? Learn benefits and examples of online communities that impact profits, sales, people productivity, improve customer service, employee retention, and more.
The primary goal of every business is to grow their revenue and stay profitable. But in a high competitive environment, remaining good isn't enough. And it just so happens that creating virtual communities on the internet also has its share of benefits for business goals.
You can benefit from online communities in many ways. It saves customer service costs, helps customers in decision making, attracts more customers, improves customer retention, and many more.
If you have not thought about starting your own private branded online community, you will want to reconsider after reading this article. Here are some benefits of virtual communities with examples.
1. Lowering customer service costs
Hardly anyone is that keen on calling customer support. But unfortunately, sending an email also does not guarantee a quick response; if a customer is in a hurry, it can be a bad situation.
Instead of relying on customer support, encourage your shoppers to take a proactive approach and find answers. FAQ pages are an excellent example of how to provide solutions.
But a community that is made up of members who rely on each other is another great way to save money on the business end and give customers more satisfaction.
Being part of a community is great by itself, and if there are individuals who help each other out, you stand to gain a lot without doing that much but leaving it in the hands of your audience.
For example, Apple Support Community lets you find answers, ask questions, and connect with Apple customers worldwide. Thereby lowering customer support team tasks as customers answer each other's issues and resolve them efficiently.
2. Accelerates the buyer’s journey
Finding answers to technical questions is one thing, but what about if there is a problem of having to choose one product from multiple options?
Bigger businesses offer a wider variety of products, and new customers will be overwhelmed by available choices. These days, reviews and other advice left by previous customers are worth a lot. According to Ready Cloud Suite, 87 percent of shoppers trust online reviews as much as they make word-of-mouth recommendations.
Therefore, having a system where customers help each other with reliable advice accelerates the buyer's journey and helps those who are first-timers.
For example, Airbnb has a Global community to Share knowledge, get inspired and meet other hosts. In addition, it has several discussion rooms to find answers to many questions, thus helping make decisions faster.
3. New customer acquisition
A business will have a tough time sustaining itself if there is no influx of new customers. Online communities will attract more people in two ways.
The first is organic traffic. The variety of content, like articles and forums in online communities, helps search engines. For example, appearing on the top pages of Google indicates you are an authority. Therefore, users are more likely to click on your URL.
The second is a plethora of information and genuine feedback from long-time customers in communities, which helps attract new customers.
For example, the Tesla Motor Club is for those who share a common interest in cars. Every time your friends and family use a referral link, the Tesla owners' club community gives its customers a chance to earn rewards, thus capturing new clients.
4. Increased retention and customer loyalty
Invesp has published research that reveals that it costs about five times more to attract new customers than to keep the old ones. As such, customer retention is one of the significant priorities for businesses.
Creating an online community gives your fans another reason to visit the website. They get attached to other members, and the connections built throughout the years contribute to retaining your most loyal customers.
A community is primarily self-sustainable and does not require a lot of maintenance. You can leave one of your employees as a moderator and even automate some processes to make the person in charge's work easier.
For example, McDonald’s Community offers an exclusive private social community designed for McDonald's lovers where they can earn points, help develop new menu items and taste test new products. These reasons help its customers to build long-lasting relationships.
5. Feedback and driving product innovation
New and fresh products and services are needed to stay ahead of your competition and make more sales. And what better way to find out what the market needs than directly from your customers?
Communities can be instrumental in designing your next idea, and their feedback should be considered when you decide that it is time to launch something new for your business.
For example, The Walmart Customer Spark Community is an invite-only online community for shoppers who agree to provide their opinions and feedback. Walmart will give points that can be redeemed. This helps businesses to gain insights to help them design products and services.
6. Effective marketing and selling
Brands are looking to work efficiently, and with that said, online communities benefit from that efficiency.
Leveraging your customers early will give you an advantage because they will ask questions, offer solutions, and help new customers by suggesting where they should spend their money. A happy customer will continue to buy from you.
For example, The Decathlon community lets you participate in online events and classes and work out with friends virtually.This indirectly helps Decathlon market its products, and lets participants create a need to purchase.
7. Building reputation
One more benefit of online communities is that the members can discuss the products and services offered by businesses. If they are happy, it's more likely that they will share their experiences in communities and beyond. This reputation will spread outside the community and can also increase global reach.
For example, Nike has its community app, Nike+ Run Club, a space to meet like-minded people and achieve their personal goals. In addition, it can easily integrate shoppable features or other links to Nike stores. Thus it helps Nike establish the company as the standard in athletic wear globally.
The idea of creating a community from scratch might sound too much. However, identifying a purpose and moderation can make them powerful marketing strategies. Regardless of where you are, there’s an online community for you to join and start discussing. Or maybe it’s time to create your own.
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