How to build a community around your e-commerce brand?

How to build a community around your e-commerce brand?

Reza Mokdad

Reza Mokdad

August 30, 2019

Consumers nowadays are flooded with options when it comes to online shopping, this makes it so hard for e-commerce brands to differentiate themselves from their competitors.

Forget the time when advertising was the main way for brands to attract customers. Today, running 2 or 3 campaigns per year will not help you anymore into growing your business and that’s because consumers’ behaviour have changed.

Consumers, now, are educated, well informed, and have access to an unlimited amount of information and data thanks to internet but, despite connecting us to the entire world transactionally, internet has created a huge social gap that is left unfulfilled. 

The most successful e-commerce brands understood it: it’s not about advertising and selling. Even if it still helps, it is not what will make you stand out from the crowd (and omg the crowd is huge). It is about filling that social gap for the customers. It is about creating a more “human” experience, it is about building a relationship that is beyond just a simple transaction. 

The recipe for success is about serving customers, solving their problems, educating them, building trust, and bringing them together behind a larger cause. The recipe for success is about building a strong community behind your brand.

In fact, marketing today has become so intrusive that people are tired from it. I mean come on, who enjoys being interrupted by 3 ads while watching their favourite YouTube channel?

Let me give you the answer: absolutely no one. (Yeah not even the person who made these ads!!)

Consumers today want to know what makes your brand different, and it has nothing to do with the 50 cents discount you launched yesterday. They want to know about your values, your story and what you do daily as a business to make the world a better place. 

"People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it. And what you do simply proves what you believe” - Simon Sinek

To stand out from the crowd, to reach and attract more customers, building a community should be at the center of your priorities. That’s why we prepared for you this list of X ways to help you build and grow your community but before we dive into it, let’s first define what a community is:

Community is a group of people that care about each other and feel they belong together. - Fabian Pfortmuller

To put it in a business context, building community around your e-commerce brand is about caring and creating a strong sense of belonging with your customers. This means that it is less about you and your business and more about the people you’re serving as a brand.

Now, let’s move to the 5 steps guide to build a community:

1. Build your brand identity:

It is clearly impossible to build a community around a business that you don’t understand, so the first thing to do is to build your brand’s identity internally. 

For that you will need to define what your brand stands for and what makes it different from your competitors. Think about why you launched your e-commerce in the first place (hopefully, it’s not just about making money) and what is the added value that you want to bring into your customers’ lives. It could be anything ; you might have created shoes for travellers like Tropicfeel did because you did not find the right product when you were travelling, or maybe 

During this phase, you will have to work on your brand’s purpose and core values. These will be the pillars on which your community will be built upon. 

To help you during this phase, you can ask yourself some of the following questions:

  • Which problems are you trying to solve everyday?
  • For which purpose did you create our brand?
  • What are your values? and which ones do you want to convey as a brand?
  • What is your vision for the future and how do you want to shape it?
  • Which impact do you want to have as a brand?

Once you define your values and your purpose as a brand, don’t forget to formulate in your communication efforts to make it easy for people to understand what your brand is all about, so that they understand which purpose they’re supporting when they choose to buy your products.

Another important point is to design your brand’s visual identity which should embrace and visually translate your brand’s personality and thus make it easy for people to recognize your brand (just like the swoosh!)

Tropicfeel, for example, has built a strong brand identity. They aim, through their products, to build a positive relationship with the environment by becoming a carbon neutral company.

They also encourage their customers to make responsible travel the common way. This helped them create their community of fellow travelers who share the same passion and are now ambassadors for the brand.

2. Understand your target audience:

Understanding your target audience is another important step for building a strong community around your brand. During this phase, you’ll need to make a deep analysis of your data to better understand who your customers are and what they are interested in.

This will help you to tailor the right messages and to better align what matters for you and what matters for your customers.

Take a look at the existing data on your website and social media and analyse their demographics (age, income, country, stage of life…). Try to bring out trends and averages, this will help you get a first insight on how your typical customer looks like. 

You can also contact some of your most loyal customers and schedule an interview with them. This will allow you to take a deeper look into your customers’ minds and will help you get more details about their behaviours and interests. You also have the opportunity to run surveys via email or on your website. Think about adding a promo-code or a coupon as an incentive for your customers who fill the survey.

To illustrate, Beardbrand found out, after analysing the results of a survey they launched, that a big part of their community members consider travelling as one of their biggest passion. To serve them better, Beardbrand decided to launch small and travel-friendly products specifically made to  optimize the experience of their customers while they are travelling (that’s what we call serving customers!!!)

3. Be a knowledge source about your industry:

Now that you have established your brand identity and that you perfectly understand your customers and their interest, the most important is to create content that brings an added value to them. 

Customers nowadays want to see unique, original and exclusive content, and since you already know their interests; make sure to create content that educates them, solves their pain points, and helps them in their daily life. This will show them that you care and thus will help you attract more members to your community and drive more engagement towards your brand.

Ensure that your content is aligned with your brand’s identity and it serves your customers.

This will help you become a knowledgeable source about your industry and will clearly differentiate you from your competitors.

4. Use storytelling and User Generated Content:

User generated content and storytelling are two great ways to attract more people and generate more engagement from your community.

User Generated Content is defined as any type of content that has been created and put out there by customers. It can refer to pictures, videos, testimonials, reviews, tweets, and blog posts. It is the act of users promoting a brand rather than the brand itself.

Sharing user-generated content on your website and on social media shows that you value your customers and their experience with your brand. It is also a great tool to build trust and reinforce the relationship between you and your customers. (and I mean come on, you don’t have to put any effort into it, customers do everything for you)

The easiest way to implement user-generated content is by creating a proper #hashtag for your brand on social media and encouraging your customers to use it while sharing their pictures, videos, and testimonials. This will allow you to have access to a large amount of real life stories, that you can use to storytell around the impact of your brand.

Storytelling about the origin of your brand and its continuous development helps you illustrate your beliefs and your cause and thus makes it easier for people to relate and create an emotional bond.

You can also reach out to influencers who are in your niche and who care about the same cause as you. These influencers have already a well established community that could also be interested to join yours. Actually, their influence is so considerable that 30% of consumers are more likely to buy a product recommended by an influencer as they relate more to them and value their opinions.

Daniel Wellington, for example, is one the brands that invested early in influencers marketing and user-generated content. Their content focuses on storytelling and sharing their customers adventures.

Their strategy proved to be so successful that the brand has almost 5 million followers on instagram and more than 2.200.000 posts overall with the hashtag #DanielWellington. 

Using these strategies will help you to grow your community by leveraging the power of social media and word of mouth.

5. Collaborate with like minded companies:

Working with companies that share the same vision and culture as yours is a great way to grow your community. It gives you the opportunity to leverage each company’s community and will help you reach a bigger audience. At the same time, it is a big statement about your engagement towards your cause and the people that support it.

The perfect example to illustrate this is the collaboration of Red Bull and GoPro. Both companies teamed up to produce incredible video content captured by GoPro’s technology during Red Bull’s events. According to Nick Woodman, the CEO of GoPro, this collaboration allowed them to upgrade their storytelling to a whole new level and helped them reach a broader global audience.

Collaborating on marketing campaigns with partners that share the same values and purpose is definitely a great way to create engaging content and leverage both communities to reach an even bigger audience (don’t worry the cake is big enough for everyone).

6. Conclusion:

To conclude, remember that building a community around your e-commerce brand doesn’t happen overnight. It is a task that takes time and effort, so make sure to constantly listen, communicate and remind your audience (and yourself) about your shared purpose. 

The key factor of success is to stay true to your values and to keep serving customers, this will undoubtedly pay its dividends.

And since I'm advising to build a community, who would I be if I was not applying my advice (the youtube ads guy maybe), feel free to join our community on facebook.

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