The Dirty Little Secret Of Today’s Online Community Sites

Michaela Zwinakis

Leading enterprises around the world are embracing community and social sites to strengthen their brands and improve their businesses. Yet according to a new Forrester Research report, sponsored by SAP, three out of four e-commerce companies say they are missing out on sales opportunities on their community sites.

Although customers are actively engaging with these brands – generating content, asking questions, and posting reviews – this customer engagement is occurring separately from the buying process. And while an intent to buy often underlies this engagement, a transaction is never guaranteed.

Furthermore, social communities are hardly a surefire recipe for success. In fact, according to Forrester, only 28% of businesses believe they are fully harnessing the sales potential of their community sites. So a large majority of companies are missing out on a great number of buying opportunities, and that’s not good news for the bottom line.

Purchases are increasingly made in communities

While community sites don’t necessarily guarantee sales success, they provide significant opportunities. IDC’s Social Business Futurescape predicts that by 2020, 30% of all purchases will be made through an online community.

We also know from our new Forrester research that 70% of e-commerce companies have found that customers who read user-generated content are more likely to purchase products.

However, the key to increasing sales with the aid of community sites depends on providing prospective customers with relevant content at the right time – namely during the buying process – and preventing them from navigating away from your site to do their own product research.

Decreasing customer dropout rates

The Forrester Research report illustrates that 54% of online customers today drop out during the explore and buy phases. Providing potential customers with the ability to ask a question or read a review during the purchase process will likely decrease the dropout rate that many organizations are experiencing today.

Some of today’s most successful businesses are achieving this by combining the power of communities with immediate, accessible commerce options. Connecting commerce and community enables smoother, easier, and more reliable purchasing decisions.

Take a customer who is researching a new pair of sneakers. The marriage of commerce and community means that upon reading reviews and having his product questions answered, he can immediately initiate a purchase by using a conveniently placed “buy” button – no dropouts, no missed opportunities.

Drive sales with community

2015 was declared the year of the branded community. Forward-thinking companies are taking the next step and improving the customer experience by combining commerce, content, and communities. This might just make 2016 the year of branded community-driven sales.

Download the new Forrester Research report to learn how your business can begin driving sales with the power of communities.

Michaela Zwinakis

About Michaela Zwinakis

Michaela Zwinakis previously held the role of Group Vice President of Solution Management at SAP who was responsible for leading Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC) Solution Management.