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How retailers can win by building communities

Blog
8th March 2018

It is no secret that many retailers are struggling in the UK at present. Many are worried that major brands will fail because they cannot meet the expectations of the connected customer, but there are some examples of positive change. One strategy I have noticed in the past couple of years is the development of a community – fans if you prefer.

Developing fans for your brand, or building advocacy as the marketing people say, is an activity that some brands have been quietly doing for years. It usually doesn’t require an enormous budget, just some organisation and the ability to really connect with the lifestyle of your customers.

The immediate benefit is that advocacy is worth far more than advertising. If you are thinking about buying a new TV and you ask your family and friends on Facebook for a recommendation and one friend responds with detailed information on the latest range from Samsung then that means a lot more than seeing a Samsung ad pop up when you are reading the news. In fact, that kind of advertising is intrusive and annoying. It’s more likely to make you avoid that brand.

A good example of a brand that has nurtured their community and created a global fan base is Harley-Davidson. Their Hog Club is probably the biggest community of motorcycle enthusiasts in the world. It doesn’t require much from the brand to help organise the club, just a website that allows people to connect and arrange events and perhaps some sponsorship for the larger events. Members regularly arrange group rides without any brand involvement and yet when a group of 20 Harley-Davidson enthusiasts roars past causing all heads to turn what else is that but fantastic advertising for the brand?

The beauty retailer Sephora created an online community called ‘Beauty Insider’ connecting customers of makeup and beauty products with experts. Membership is tied to customer spending patterns so customers receive recommendations based on their skin type and colour and past purchases – loyalty inside the community is enhanced by personalising the experience. A community user may not even be actively looking for a product, but a recommendation of a highly relevant new product can easily lead to a purchase.

The community message is that retail is still alive. Brands may be failing, but often it is because they have not moved with the times and accepted that customers are connected. Brands that can merge the online and offline environment and can also build advocacy have the opportunity to tap into the increased retail spend. Those who fail to change will just be a note in the retail history books.

How retailers can win customers back? Let me know what you think by leaving a comment here or get in touch directly via my LinkedIn.

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David Turner
Article by: David Turner

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