Retailers that sell directly to consumers are facing a different set of marketing challenges than those seen 10 years ago. If you have walked into a mall lately, you’ve most likely noticed the sharp decrease in foot traffic. Gone are the days when thousands of shoppers visit the local mall on a Saturday trying to get the best deal. Instead of bumping into a fellow shopper, we are sometimes one of only a handful of people visiting a store.
Although it is common to blame e-commerce for this trend, it does not reflect the entire story. According to a 2015 study by PricewaterhouseCoopers, growing use of social media is most likely playing a role, too. Approximately one-third of consumers follow their favorite brands on social media, discover new ones to consider, or seek recommendations from their social community. But more important, most of these conversations are happening without the brand’s involvement.
To remain competitive, e-commerce sites must attract visits, build trust, engage with customers in real time, and establish compelling emotional relationships to create loyalty. And if retail executives have learned anything from the rise of social media, it’s how much people universally enjoy fostering an online community to share knowledge, expertise, and shared passions. Yet it’s not enough to exchange reviews, post blogs, and encourage five-star ratings. To deliver value that impacts sales revenue, the community must be part of the overall commerce engine and shopping experience.
Retail finds a new channel: consumer-driven communities
By building consumer-driven communities directly tied to top-line growth, marketing content doesn’t just make a case for the brand, but it is also optimized to drive commerce – and ultimately, revenue.
Here are three ways retailers can drive revenue with community content optimized for commerce:
- Attract and retain consumers. Everyone shops differently. However, you can bet that more than 75% of your consumers are going online to research your product and compare it to similar offerings in the market, according to the National Retail Federation. To attract shoppers and influence the conversation about the brand, retailers need to be present at every step of the journey – especially during the research phase. By meeting consumers on their terms, community-driven commerce delivers reviews, peer support, and social sharing through an SEO platform to reach a greater number of potential buyers at influential moments of the buying decision.
- Build up buying confidence that drives conversions and revenue. As social media become a more natural and common part of how people interact with each other on a global scale, the more influential these networks become. To foster authentic interactions and establish trust, consumer-driven commerce offers Q&A forums, blogs and product reviews, and product ratings submitted by community members – not marketers. Consumers can follow relevant people and topics to engage in meaningful discussions such as suggestions for related products and the best answers to questions.
- Lower the cost of acquiring new consumers. Loyal, engaged consumers are what makes a brand successful. By connecting with shoppers on an emotional level, consumer-driven communities drive long-term relationships that build credibility. And by incentivizing these brand advocates to contribute content, experiences, and their personal feedback, the total cost of consumer acquisition decreases.
Without a doubt, the digital economy has indeed disrupted the retail market. Consumers are becoming more purposeful and deliberate in their buying decisions – leaving behind the days of impulse shopping. It’s time to go where your consumers gather and provide a forum for honest discussion – all while showing your brand in the best light possible.
Check this video to get a glimpse into how your retail business can drive more revenue from consumer-driven communities.
This article originally appeared on The Future of Customer Engagement and Commerce and republished with the author’s permission.