More often than not if we have questions about a certain product or brand, we check out the forums or community of users. We try to find if our concern has already been raised and addressed making it easier to gather answers. Big thanks to the internet for bringing together like-minded people and allowing them to do the things that an ideal community would – help each other out.
For eCommerce businesses, building an online community may be seen as a massive investment to make for the efforts to sustain one can be cumbersome and can become unmanageable if it grows further.
However, if you truly are an entrepreneur that grabs every opportunity to grow your business, you might see that building an online community can be an important marketing tool.
What an Online Community Builds
Much like every community that you are already a part of – family, neighborhood, your social circle or your professional network, an online community also brings together people of common hobbies and interests, profession, type of business, or of the same locality. The ultimate thing that a community builds is loyalty and trust. And in business, those are the very things that you need to get from your clients or customers in order to sustain your business and keep it growing.
So, it’s more than just a trend. An online community, especially if managed well and right, can be a valuable asset of your business. It is a sales, marketing and management tool that can help you scale your business. It displays the credibility and integrity of your brand based on the size of your online community.
Benefits of Building an Online Community
1. Provide your customers easy access to product information
Any customer of yours would need specific information that may not be present in whatever print material that’s part of the packaging. They can raise their questions or concerns about your product that they purchased in the online community that you built. Most common would be how to troubleshoot problems when they happen or what a certain part of the product does, how frequent will the periodic maintenance be in case it is necessary and many more.
There will always be one or even several who would pitch in an answer or share a similar experience. In this way, your customers will have a better understanding about your product increasing its customer value.
2. Provide you valuable information for your brand and product development
You don’t have to look far for your market research. If you are in the process of developing a new line for your brand, your online community will serve as your test market or your information source. You can throw in a question or a request for an opinion or ideas for a new product that you have in mind. Then as you gather their responses, you can make an informed decision whether to go on with developing a new product or not.
3. A window to promote your existing and new products
The potential market for your existing products or for new products is in your very own hands. Yes, the online community is your ready market. You don’t have to go through hell and high water to search for new customers for your products.
You can do your special promotions, offers, and even do user testing with your online community
4. Good Feedback Mechanism
Most of the members of your online community, especially if it’s an exclusive and closed community, are users of your products. And, instead of doing a one-on-one survey to get feedback, you can just throw in your questions to the community. In this manner, not only will you get the feedback that you need for your products, it will also encourage engagements with your customers.
Unlike trying to gather individual feedback through a customer survey or feedback form. It will be easier and cost-effective to just ask and respond through your online community.
5. Free and fast customer service support
This is also one of the benefits of an online community that can help you boost your business’ productivity and improve customer support. If you happen to be online, then you can outright provide the solutions as you would in a normal chat. If you are not online, there will always be one or several members of your online community who can actually do the customer service support for you.
6. Already have a target audience to do your upselling or cross-selling
The better you get to know the members of your online community, the better you can market your other products. If you know the needs and demands of your community then it’s easier for you to upsell or cross-sell your other products.
7. You create a networking space
The online community will open a window of opportunity for some members to engage and network with the other members. You will not only be encouraging discussions between members, you will also be encouraging connection, business networking or matching, if ever there is any.
The Network Effect
The more that your online community grows, the stronger the network effect will be. But, what is this network effect, anyway?
It, in a way shows that as the members of your online community increase exponentially, all the other factors that go with it – credibility, integrity and loyalty will also escalate. This then improves the value of your products.
So, if ever you have the opportunity to build an online community, grab it. You can gain more than you can imagine. If you know of other benefits of building an online community for your business, please do let us know so we can add them to the list.