If consumers have access to a nearly endless number of products from thousands of sellers, how can companies stand out from the pack?
One key way is to create a superior buying experience. And many organizations are achieving this by delivering timely, relevant content to customers in one central location – namely, an online social community with user-generated reviews, Q&As, product ratings, and more.
By incorporating this information directly into your e-commerce platform, customers no longer have to venture away from your Web site to conduct their own product research. And when they’re finally ready to buy, they’re more confident in their purchase, happier with their items, and, potentially, more loyal advocates of your brand.
Despite the years-long existence of customer communities, questions continue to arise about their role in commerce. Here are answers to four commonly asked questions about the potential benefits of communities.
1. How can community content drive organic traffic?
Most of us can relate to this kind of buying experience: Before you buy, you search online. At this stage, you’re not yet aware of which products might actually work for your needs – you’re just exploring. When you search, often what comes up first in the results, beyond traditional advertising, is online community content. This is because community content often ranks very well with search engines.
The reasons behind the high ranking in online search results are simple, but powerful, and they have to do with people. People write questions and discuss topics using keywords that an everyday person might use when searching for a product or solution.
For example, a search of “What kind of running shoes are best for a person who over-pronates?” might lead to a community conversation about shoes, because the search query matches a forum thread title or the language style used in the community.
Additionally, insightful and interesting online community content is often shared or reposted to other blog or social media sites, increasing the community page relevancy.
But most of those traditional online community pages end up being dead ends. Consumers don’t have a call to action or an offer for another product that might meet their needs. This represents an opportunity for businesses to provide online community content that allows consumers quick access to e-commerce actions.
2. How can community content successfully drive conversions?
Online shopping experiences often start on different digital experiences: a product landing page, a social media site, or a mobile app. In each of these cases, online community content can significantly help customers move through their buying journey, as they ultimately become more confident that a particular product is right for them.
But achieving this requires implementing community content into the product catalog experience, enabling customers to view key information – such as reviews, Q&As, discussions, and blogs – associated with the products they’re considering buying.
3. How can communities help drive sales of complex goods?
With smart devices and other software-driven products, many previously “simple” devices have become much more complex for consumers. Customization and personalization make something as simple as purchasing a pair of shoes a much more complicated buying experience.
Consumers also face technical challenges in purchasing smart devices and software-driven products that can communicate with one another. In fact, they may need to answer a variety of questions, including:
- Does this product support the protocols and standards I need for my particular application?
- Which of these devices works best together in combination with one another?
- What kinds of solutions can I build with a combination of different products being used together?
By providing customers with Q&As that support their product evaluations – and even escalating unanswered questions to call center representatives – you can reduce buying anxiety and increase the likelihood of a successful purchase that won’t result in post-sales support issues or product returns.
4. What insights can a community solution built for commerce provide?
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, companies want to know much more about their consumers’ buying journeys, including:
- What questions were asked before a decision was made?
- How many conversations and interactions did it take to make a final purchasing decision?
- Which social content – blogs, reviews, Q&As, etc. – helped influence a purchase?
- Which pieces of paid content actually drove sales?
By being connected with the actual commerce catalog, and knowing exactly which questions relate to which products, you can provide deeper, more meaningful engagement metrics around what drives successful conversions. This, in turn, enables companies to repeat successful transactions and create happy and loyal customers.
These insights also become the guideposts by which companies can better manage and scale their online communities. Often, they only have engagement metrics that community managers can use to measure results – rather than more robust information that indicates whether the inbound Web traffic and click-through actually led to a desired outcome, for example.
By connecting precise data about customer discussions and purchasing journeys, you can gain unparalleled insight into how online communities influence conversions and drive sales.
We’re just getting started
Interactions beginning on a public community can easily transition into a private space. This opens the possibility of further reducing barriers, so companies can build stronger and more successful relationships with their customers.