It seems common sense that building an eCommerce brand means focusing on growing your audience, right? Having an audience is crucial to creating brand awareness and eventually converting your audience into paying customers.
But what if the best way to grow your audience is to stop trying so hard? At least directly. The best way to grow your audience may be to allow it to grow itself!
How is it possible to create a self-growing audience?
Start with a small audience.
You will still need an audience to start. If you’re building your eCommerce brand from scratch, spend some time on audience building.
This can be done using various strategies – paid ads, creating social media channels, crafting customer personas, using physical mail campaigns, optimizing your website for SEO, guest blogging, collaborating with other businesses, and more.
Once you’ve got a fair-sized audience, with a minimum of 10k followers on a social media channel or newsletter, it’s time to switch your tactic. If your audience is smaller, you can still shift your focus; it may take more time to take off. It would be best if you continued doing some or all of your audience-building strategies. Still, it’s time to transition your main focus to creating a community out of your current audience.
Why focus on the community over the audience?
Everyone wants to be a part of something. Brands no longer sell products – they sell movements. Hair care brand Aura doesn’t sell shampoo and conditioner; they sell an individualized hair care experience that’s as unique as you are. The clothing brand East Coast Lifestyle doesn’t sell sweaters; they sell pride in your roots, heritage, and the place you call home.
They are finding a mission that allows customers to feel like they’re joining something bigger than themselves. They’re not buying a brand; they’re making a statement about who they are and what they value. And this is heightened when they share this experience with others.
Lower customer acquisition costs
Customer acquisition is getting more expensive. With the cost of paid ads increasing and consumer trust in ads decreasing, it’s never been more expensive to win over a new customer. In 2019, Recur released data showing that out of 700 subscription-based companies, customer acquisition costs had increased by 60% in the previous five years. And that was before Apple made it more difficult to target specific consumers with third-party cookies.
Increase the customer lifetime value
Right now, It’s far more lucrative to retain customers and increase their lifetime value than to gain them in the first place. So building a brand community is critical for eCommerce brands because it not only encourages customers you’ve acquired to stick around long-term, but it has the bonus of growing itself through word of mouth.
Word of mouth is practically free advertising. People who love your brand share it with others – it costs you nothing! When you encourage or incentivize word-of-mouth marketing, it becomes even more powerful, allowing you to harness the social influence of your audience to attract others to your community.
Build brand trust and loyalty
Communities make your brand a part of your customers’ lives rather than just a product they happen to use. Communities make us feel better about ourselves. They justify our purchases. They build trust with your brand and make it harder to buy from a competitor, lest you give up that community. Think of how divided people are when it comes to mobile phones. Some people are so loyal to the community around their particular phone that they would have difficulty switching to another brand.
Ways to build a community around your brand
When you’re looking to build a community surrounding your eCommerce brand, it’s important to have a mission or deeper reason why people would want to choose your brand. Create an emotional link between your brand and your customer. Are you a clothing brand that wants to promote body inclusivity? Are you a video game accessory brand that wants to help people build connections and memories with their families and friends?
Be authentic about that reason – don’t choose something you don’t truly believe in, hoping to connect with people. Unfortunately, consumers are wisening up to brands who try to capitalize on social causes or movements,s and it will likely do more harm than good.
Nurture genuine relationships
Building community means building genuine relationships and connections with your consumers and fans. Interact with your customers. Follow them on social media and comment on their posts – especially if they’re showing off your product. Letting them know you see and support them goes a long way.
The Be Brand knows its audience. With a customer base of 20–40-year-old women, primarily working moms, they know the people in their audience love things like coffee and shopping at Target. So alongside their products, they’ll host Starbucks or Target gift card giveaways.
The Be Brand’s former Engagement Manager Abby Bishop also made sure to have 1-on-1 conversations with all 300+ ambassadors throughout the week. This attention to building connections is how The Be Brand has grown and built an incredible group of brand advocates. Learn more about The Be Brand’s secrets to building a strong community.
Responding to reviews is another great way to build rapport with your customers. Don’t be afraid to respond to both positive and negative reviews. You are admitting that your company fell short, and offering to make it right can strengthen bonds with your community. It helps more than doubling down and arguing publicly or even not addressing public complaints.
Give your brand a personality.
Please get to know your community and reflect on them. Are you building a community of sassy Gen Z’s with an off-the-wall sense of humor? Or a group of mommy bloggers who want to compare parenting methods, share their struggles, and gush over their children? Pay attention to the language and slang your community uses and implement this in your copy. Watch out for trends in emojis and social media posts to help you stay relevant and relatable.
How to incentivize word of mouth
Customer loyalty programs, individual influencer campaigns, and brand ambassador programs build communities and incentivize your consumers to spread the word about your brand. This is where the real power lies.
Once you’ve built your community, it’s activation time. Invite them to join your loyalty or ambassador program through your newsletter, forums, social media channels, purchase confirmation pages, and anywhere else you interact with your community members.
You then have endless opportunities to ask your community to participate in marketing tasks and reward them for doing so. As your community promotes your eCommerce brand, your audience grows,s and you can continue focusing on turning your new audience into members of your community.
When done right, this creates a perpetually growing audience.
Community-led growth over product-led growth
While leading with your product can expand your audience, it’s constantly up to you to get your product in front of people. This may lead to some repeat customers, but you’re likely to get a higher turnover rate without the draw of something more important than the product. The next time your customers need makeup, a swimsuit, a fitness supplement, or whatever it is you produce, they may try another brand, as nothing is tying them to you in particular.
Unless your product is incredibly revolutionary or one-of-a-kind, your customers will have no reason to stay loyal to your brand and are more likely to shop around, aim for what’s on sale, or pick whatever they come across first when they’re looking.
Community gives people a reason to stay with your brand over competitors, improving customer retention and increasing customer lifetime value.
If you have an audience, it’s time to stop putting the main focus on attracting new audience members. Instead, nurture your audience and allow them to grow your brand awareness and reach.
Appeal to people’s need to be a part of something,g and you will grow.
Trelawney Erwin is the copy and content writer for Brandbassador, the all-in-one influencer marketing platform that allows brands to build awareness and drive revenue through a community of micro-influencers and brand ambassadors. Trelawney’s expertise is in eCommerce and ambassador marketing.