Senior Vice President Strategy & Solution Management SAP Hybris
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Leverage communities to drive marketing impact

5th Sep 2017
Senior Vice President Strategy & Solution Management SAP Hybris
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Technology has enabled customers to access endless amounts of information at the touch of a button. While the positives of this are undoubted, it also means that marketers have to work harder than ever to gain and maintain the attention of customers or risk losing out to competitors who can more readily meet their needs.

Businesses therefore need to not only ensure they have the right data but make better use of it to gain a richer understanding of their prospective customers. This requires a shift away from marketers’ traditional focus on simply improving segmentation and targeting to create more personalised offers, and instead guarantee they reach the right buyers.

Failing to deliver the right content to prospects at the right time can be hugely detrimental. Should they deem the message irrelevant they will simply go elsewhere in search of the information they need.

The greatest dropout of online prospects occurs during the product discovery, exploration, and buy phases of the buyer journey. These pre-purchase phases are the critical moments for marketers to deliver relevant messages and content that will drive purchases, but failure to properly connect prospects with the content they need will result in missed sales opportunities.

The age of community

Savvy businesses are beginning to recognise that communities can play a vital role in supporting prospects on their buyer journey and encourage post-purchase engagement. Case in point; hair care manufacturer ghd cites its loyal and engaged community as a critical factor to its continued success. It went beyond traditional eCommerce by not just building an online marketplace but by creating a place where consumers and stylists could congregate. The ‘Showcase’ section of www.ghdhair.com became a “feed based” content zone for professional stylists. It allowed them to create individual profiles and upload to the site their own images, videos, tips and ideas. The site became a tool for the creative community – a way for users to highlight their craft by uploading their own content. Because the average customer might only purchase a ghd straightener once every two or three years, the community element to ghd provides an additional draw, encouraging consumers to re-visit and engage with the brand on a regular basis.

Communities provide a more in-depth level of content and engagement that isn’t found within social media or short-lived promotional events. Discussion boards, Q&A sessions and opportunities for open dialogue with prospects and customers yield a much richer understanding of what matters most to them. This information, coupled with customer data, is priceless in building effective marketing strategies.

Businesses are recognising the interconnection between fostering improved community interactions and driving better customer engagement. As community content grows (much of it user-generated), it provides a trove of information to help prospects find the answers they need to make a purchase. This is why communities are considered to be important for driving better customer engagements.

However, just having an online community is not sufficient to accomplishing this goal. To realise the full value that online communities can offer, marketing teams must first:

  • Understand what data the business needs to support marketing goals and align services to capture that data. A solid understanding of customers’ needs, opinions and preferences underpins successful marketing. Broad segmentation of prospective customers does not enable the level of personalisation or customisation that tech-savvy customers now demand.
  • Use communities to capture greater customer insight and drive user-generated content. Discussion boards and Q&A threads offer a deep dive into customers’ interests, needs and challenges, which businesses can capture to improve targeting, personalisation and overall customer purchase satisfaction. Communities also provide user-generated content for other customers to read and respond to, which can be highly influential in driving purchase decisions. That same user-generated content can also be captured and repurposed across broader marketing campaigns.
  • Make communities more than just a single stop in the buyer journey. They are not just a resource for providing customers’ answers, they also need to encourage people to make a purchase. Instead, they offer ongoing opportunities for customers to engage with each other or for businesses to share stories, troubleshoot challenges and explore new products. Conveniently, they can be utilised as a marketing tool across the customer journey, from product exploration to product usage. Businesses that use communities in this way will improve brand awareness, build customer loyalty and enable more effective marketing through user-generated content. This is a win-win, as it provides advantages for customers by enhancing online experiences and better enabling purchases, and helps businesses by reducing online dropout and improving dialogue with their customers.

As the benefits of communities are realised, businesses will gain a deeper understanding of consumers. In an overcrowded space, the businesses that will survive and thrive in the digital age will be those that can cut through the noise by creating richer online engagements and deliver more relevant marketing messages.

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