CX IS THE ONLY GAME LEFT IN TOWN
Today’s fastest growing companies are thinking strategically about every single customer touch point — from pre-purchase to post-purchase to longer-term loyalty — and this enhanced focus is bearing positive results in the marketplace: 81 percent of companies with strong CX capabilities continually outperform their competition (Peppers & Rogers). Providing a seamless customer journey is no longer a guaranteed differentiator, but rather the new “playing chips” for competing in almost any industry sector, both B2C and B2B.
CX has also become crucial to a brand’s overall customer acquisition efforts, as consumers are becoming increasingly immune to traditional online advertising, often opting out of the exchange altogether by installing an ad-blocker. Online content and word-of-mouth (WOM) recommendations are now the major reference points for how consumers make decisions, and communities — across social media, microsites, mobile apps, and more — form the vital battlegrounds where those interactions take place.
By tapping into the authentic dialogue afforded by online communities, brands can accomplish an array of strategic goals — fostering valuable conversations amongst advocates, gathering unanticipated insights about where the market or consumer needs may be headed, and ultimately inspiring longer-term loyalty through a deeper and more multi-faceted relationship with customers.
RECAPTURE LOST TRANSACTIONS AND BOOST NEW CUSTOMER ACQUISITION
ADDRESS CUSTOMER PAIN POINTS:
An immediate source of lost revenue for companies springs from customer interactions that are abandoned at some point in the path-to-purchase. These are people who have expressed an intent to buy, and a particular interest in your product — but something caused them to look away and spend their money elsewhere. Learning more about how customers navigate this journey enables brands to diagnose issues with predetermined touch points, and uncover new pain points they didn’t even know existed. These learnings reveal clear paths towards recapturing lost revenue streams, while also generating unsolicited ideas about potential product innovations or ways to differentiate your brand messaging.
PROVIDE VALUE BEFORE SOMEONE BECOMES A CUSTOMER:
Another great way to get ahead of the competition is to provide value to customers before they ever open their walls. Best Buy’s Geek Squad service helps people diagnose and repair their electronics, regardless of whether they bought the item at Best Buy or a competing retailer. Well-executed content initiatives — like mattress company Casper’s “Van Winkles” online publication that reports on all-things-sleep — further help customers sift through a complicated marketplace overloaded with information and choices. Such projects require an upfront investment, but they create a more meaningful impact on your target audience than traditional advertising campaigns. Even if those consumers decide not to buy, your brand will be top-of-mind when they are finally ready to make a purchase.
ENCOURAGE REPEAT PURCHASES AND REAP EXPONENTIAL REVENUE GROWTH
90% OF BRANDS PLAN TO COMPETE ON JUST CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE WITHIN THE NEXT 2 YEARS
SERVE AS AN EDUCATIONAL RESOURCE FOR YOUR CUSTOMERS:
Many brands have seen success using their product or service as a springboard to foster relevant peer-to-peer conversations within their broader industry sector. For example, The UPS Store’s Small Biz Buzz online community has established itself as a go-to resource for over 350 small business owners across the country, creating a new source of online traffic that eventually translated into in-store visits. Well-intentioned attempts to inform your customers and help them make decisions can transform a transactional experience into an on-going relationship. And by forging stronger connections between a brand and its target audience, these initiatives make it harder for a competitor to insert themselves into the conversation.
SOLVE TANGENTIALLY-RELATED CUSTOMER PROBLEMS
Brands can further inspire customer loyalty by helping people solve problems that are related to their product or service. Ahead of the 2018 tax season, H&R Block launched its “Get Answers” portal, filling a gaping need for more accessible advice around the complicated filing process, and the community generated a 15 percent lift in new business for the company (Momentology). Online communities can also help brands uncover and promote innovative product applications, such as KraftRecipes.com, which solicits recipe ideas from members and makes it easier for other people to find and recreate those dishes.
INSPIRE NEW BRAND ADVOCATES IN A ‘POST-ADVERTISING’ FUTURE
DESCRIBE A CLEAR CALL-TO-ACTION FOR YOUR ADVOCATES:
Even your most loyal fans lead busy and unpredictable lives, meaning that your team needs to make it as easy as possible for them to advocate on your behalf. Rather than vague directives encouraging fans to share their love on social media, marketers can more effectively galvanize their advocates through targeted calls-to-action (CTAs). For example, ELLE regularly engages its local community members to help drive attendance around upcoming pop-up events in their area. On the flip side, it is equally important for brands to validate those positive actions and ensure that community members are being heard. This can be accomplished through gamification features — benefits like reward points and %-off coupons for future purchases — or the sharing of exclusive “sneak peeks” and insider information such as survey results, clips from internal meetings, and more.
FOSTER INTEREST-BASED COMMUNITIES:
Brands can further solidify their competitive advantage by positioning themselves as the leading champion for a passionate group of people or hobbyists that use their product or service. Harley Davidson’s HOG community is one of the leading examples of this idea, a network that spans both the online and offline worlds, and whose adventurous mission resonates deeply with how its members identify themselves. These efforts can also work in a B2B environment, with professional-oriented communities like Oracle Community and SAP Community Network serving as a central hub of information and collaboration for developers who also use those companies’ products. Brands that succeed in building these unique communities effectively create a moat around their business, cementing their reputation as the default industry leader, making it harder for new entrants to offer a compelling counter-narrative.
ONLINE COMMUNITIES – YOUR BEST CX STRATEGY
As almost every industry shift towards customer-centric business models, CX has become the major competitive differentiator that will determine future winners and losers. Companies with superior CX capabilities continually outperform their competition, with industry research showing that CX leaders saw a 43 percent gain in stock performance over a six year period, while CX laggards suffered a 33 percent decrease in value (Forrester Customer Experience Index). A heightened focus on the customer is leading many established and emerging companies to rethink traditional customer relationships altogether.
While social media platforms offer a sampling of fertile environments to listen and interact with audiences, they also come with built-in limitations. No two businesses or customer bases are exactly the same, and community platforms like FUEL empower brands with a wider number of capabilities to build custom environments that are tailored towards the nuances of a particular customer base and the diverse needs of teams across the organization.
By creating additional touch points, and fostering authentic dialogues amongst consumers, online communities may be one of the last sources of sustainable differentiation for brands. Studies from AT&T and McKinsey have found that community members remain customers 50 percent longer, and visit branded online properties nine times more often, than non-community users (AT&T / McKinsey). Communities support every part of the customer journey — before and after the purchase — providing value to a wider group of prospective consumers and building deeper relationships with current customers and advocates.
If CX is the next big frontier for marketers, online communities are the vital battlegrounds where customer decisions are increasingly informed, made, and continually reinforced.