Welcome to the age of community-powered commerce

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The need for customer engagement is clear. Simply put, when you engage your customers, they buy more.

Fully engaged customers represent an average 23% premium in terms of share of wallet, profitability, revenue and relationship growth. (Gallup)

They expect it:

  • 70-90% of the buyers journey is complete prior to engaging a vendor. (Forrester Research)

And they need it:

  • 45% of buyers require person-to-person contact in the buying process. (ITSMA / CFO)

But it’s striking to note that in the face of such irrefutable need, Gartner Research finds that 70% of online communities – one of the foundational means to engage and help your customers­ will fail.

When you dig further into these inexplicably contradicting facts, it’s not hard to see why.

  • Monolithic communities are software design centric and do not align with the customers perspective of her journey.
  • The engagement modalities for a commerce community or a support community or a product innovation community are wildly different. The community must be purpose built
  • Finally, it’s extremely challenging to connect community activity and hard outcomes when transactions and community are not connected. And community managers are the biggest victims as they struggle to prove strategic value.

The market clearly needs a refreshed approach to how community and commerce comes together if it is to support every customers’ unique journey.

And with the coming explosion of software-defined goods, it’s only going to get more intense. Intel estimates that by 2020, over 200 billion Internet and software-enabled devices will be in the market. As a result, the need to assist buyers at every step of their journey is going to increase exponentially.

Why Commerce Needs Community

Because customers want it

Mike Fauscette, GVP at IDC Research recently said, “Companies need a way to connect with prospects and customers in a trusted environment. Adding frictionless purchase options inside the community adds value for buyer and seller. In our 2016 Social Business Futurescape, we predict that by 2020, 30% of all purchases will be made through an online community.”

Because their customer journeys vary significantly, both in transaction and emotion.

If the goal of one customer’s journey is to buy a simple product such as a phone charger, you need to provide him with the quickest form of validation such as user ratings, and get him to the shopping cart, pronto.

If the goal of the journey is to get support for a more complex product such as a washing machine, throwing her into ratings may add anxiety and purchase uncertainty. The right purchase is more important than a fast purchase. A well-written expert blog post or even a Q&A facility baked right into the product page might be better.

If the goal of the journey is to learn and share her experiences with other cancer patients or diabetics in a product community, she doesn’t want to be rushed into a purchase. She wants to stay for a while and learn and contribute. And if she has beaten the odds, she wants to pay it forward.

Respecting these varied journeys is the essence of meaningful and sustainable community.

Creating Sustainable Marketplaces

Carsten Thoma, President of SAPs Customer Engagement and Commerce business said it best:

“Every customer’s purchase experience is different. Todays digitally connected customer expects that you serve them not only during transaction but through the entire customer journey, and on their terms. Modern ecommerce entails hand holding the customer, from awareness to consideration to purchase and advocacy.”

By rethinking the interplays between communities and commerce, we can truly begin to create sustainable marketplaces that respect how the consumer wants to engage and transact with us.

Welcome to community-powered commerce.

See more coverage:

On CMS Wire

On CRM Magazine

On TechCrunch

Sameer Patel
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October 21, 2015
Sameer Patel

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