If a retailer hasn’t already caught wind of the online communities bandwagon, they better hop on soon. As many as 70% of companies who use communities believe that their customers have high purchase confidence, compared to 48% of companies not using communities, according to a survey from SAP SE and Forrester Consulting.
Online communities such as Sephora’s BeautyTalk or the forums at Threadless can take place on a retailer’s e-Commerce site, a social media page or a third party site to enable consumers to share insights, ideas and questions on anything related to a brand’s experience. Interactions between the retailer and the consumer via communities encompass the entire buying lifecycle:
Pre-purchase: 69% of companies believe that customers depend on access to community content when making purchases;
Purchase: The majority of businesses believe that communities accelerate buying decisions (75%), increase purchase likelihood (73%) and improve buyer confidence (59%); and
Post-purchase: 66% of companies expected to increase purchase satisfaction by using communities to help inform purchases.
However, only 50% of organizations appear to have adopted their own online community, meaning that half of brands are still missing out on an integral piece of the retailer-consumer relationship that can drive loyalty down the line.
These communities can play a critical role in numerous venues, whether in marketing, assisting the buying process or providing customer service support both pre- and post- purchase.
For example, communities can both help improve segmentation and targeting by providing a more in-depth understanding of customers’ desires and preferences, and also by sharing user-generated content, which has a more powerful influence on purchase decisions than brand-generated content.
Communities also offer a platform for sharing customer service content such as Q&As, FAQs and product knowledge, which can help buyers find the answers they need prior to making a purchase and avoid running into problems post-purchase.
Finally, using community content can help boost confidence and satisfaction by offering customers opportunities for both pre- and post-purchase engagement. This stimulates greater customer interaction and drives ongoing customer loyalty.
Forrester conducted online surveys of 788 business professionals involved with online customer interactions to gather results for the SAP-commissioned report: Supporting the Online Customer Journey Through Communities. Respondents were surveyed in three phases, focusing on professionals working within customer service, marketing and e-Commerce