Today’s market is fueled by the power of the consumer. For the first time in history, consumers can purchase goods and services from companies and brands from across the globe. All of this means one thing: increased options and higher expectations.
Successful companies adapt to meet these rising expectations in myriad ways, including turning agents to advocates, communicating with customers on their channel of choice, resolving issues quickly with a personal touch, and using data to create a personal experience for each customer.
One of the best and most cost-efficient ways to invest in your customer experience is building a brand community. A gathering of loyal customers in a space to share knowledge, experience, and feedback has a wide range of benefits. Here are some ways that brand communities can solve your customer service needs and add value to your brand. Plus, a few examples of companies getting it right.
While it’s increasingly difficult to attract and retain customers, customers are still looking to align themselves with a brand or a company. A study from Accenture found that 80% of lost customers said the brand could have done something more to keep them as a customer.
Take Sephora — the beauty brand does a great job at fostering community among its customers through its online Beauty Insider Community. The expansive forum gives makeup and beauty product lovers a space to ask questions, share ideas, and connect with other enthusiasts to solve problems. The brand also offers significant customer loyalty benefits through its Beauty Insider program, including exclusive experiences, member discounts, and free samples and birthday gifts. All of this adds up to a brand community that helps Sephora customers feel connected to the brand — and other loyal followers. The result is a dedicated community that’s more likely to recommend the brand to friends and family, effectively making them an extension of the customer care and marketing team.
Not only are brand communities a place for loyal, engaged customers to connect, they’re also a built-in research and development hub upon which insightful brands can base their product development. Take Paramount Pictures and their recent revamp and re-do of their live-action film adaptation of the iconic Sonic the Hedgehog. After Paramount released a poster of the new film adaptation of Gen X’s favorite hedgehog on the movie’s official twitter page, they quickly realized that fan reactions were less than favorable. When Paramount then released a teaser of the film at the Las Vegas Cinemacon, they faced another flurry of disappointed tweets and disapproving comments from fans and former Sonic game designers.
Paramount went back to the drawing board, completely redesigning the Sonic character, pushing the film’s release back nearly a year, and even releasing this statement from the film’s director Jeff Fowler:
“Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear… you aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be… #sonicmovie #gottafixfast“
Thank you for the support. And the criticism. The message is loud and clear… you aren’t happy with the design & you want changes. It’s going to happen. Everyone at Paramount & Sega are fully committed to making this character the BEST he can be… #sonicmovie #gottafixfast 🔧✌️
— Jeff Fowler (@fowltown) May 2, 2019
Paramount may have spent money and time on their product redesign. But thanks to their brand community they were able to retain customer loyalty, build a more trusting relationship with their audience, and create a better product (Sonic the Hedgehog ended up grossing more than $300 million worldwide).
If you’ve ever attempted to build a website from scratch, you’ve likely looked into Squarespace. The website design provider offers customers a wide range of customizable templates, provides advanced data and analytics, and delivers engaging content that teaches users how to optimize the platform. But perhaps the best part of Squarespace’s service is the Squarespace Forum. Users can ask questions, offer their advice and experiences, and troubleshoot alongside peers and unlikely product experts. This forum fills a crucial void in the Squarespace customer service ecosystem: if and when customers aren’t able to find their exact answer in Squarespace’s original content or chatbots, they can find it from their fellow entrepreneurs, artists, and DIY-ers.
Not only do Squarespace customers receive coaching and advice from others who speak their language, but Squarespace saves time and money by being able to rely on their built-in community for self-serve support needs. It’s a tech support potluck where Squarespace provides the ingredients and the kitchen, and the Squarespace community shares recipes, techniques, and meals. Brand communities naturally reduce the volume of customer support cases from email, phone, and social. All of this means massive savings for brands like Squarespace, as 49% of businesses with online communities report annual cost savings of 10-25%.
Building a brand community helps your customers, and your business. It frees up your customer care agents, and turns your customers into brand advocates.
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