As we move into the middle of 2023, the business landscape remains uncertain and volatile. CEOs must stay ahead of the curve to remain competitive and address challenges such as digital disruption, the global economy, geopolitics, the talent war and a highly competitive market landscape.
To succeed in this environment, CEOs need to take a mix of defensive and offensive actions. In a recent McKinsey survey with top-performing CEOs, developing advanced analytics, enhancing cybersecurity and workplace automation are examples of measures that can help. Companies like Diageo and Sun Life already see the value of applying advanced analytics for competitive advantage. Another essential step is to enhance cybersecurity, as JPMorgan Chase has done by investing in modernizing infrastructure and developer tools, embedding cybersecurity controls into the business, and training employees to be vigilant.
CEOs dominate the technology landscape, ensuring their executive team owns the company’s technology strategy.
According to McKinsey, one CEO’s written survey comment summed up the mindset with which CEOs are approaching digital trends: “A CEO also has to be the chief technology architect. Think of the executive team—not just the chief digital officer—as owning the technology strategy of the company. There is too much at stake.”
To deal with high inflation and economic downturn, CEOs are reducing operating expenses, redesigning products and services, and reassessing strategic and economic assumptions. So, considering this business scenario, how can building customer communities help CEOs? Building a customer community can help in several ways:
Customer self-service: Building a robust customer community lets you empower your customers to help themselves. When customers can find answers to their questions, troubleshoot issues, or connect with peers in a community, it can significantly reduce the need for customer support and service teams. This change can reduce operational costs related to staffing and training these teams.
Feedback and insights: By creating a community, you can gain valuable insights into what your customers like and dislike about your products or services. You can use this feedback to make changes and improvements that better align with customer needs, which can lead to higher customer satisfaction, loyalty and revenue. This shift can help reduce the costs of launching unsuccessful products, conducting expensive market research, and investing in marketing campaigns that don’t resonate with your target audience.
User-generated content: User-generated content (UGC) can be a powerful marketing tool for your brand. By encouraging your customers to share their experiences and content, such as product reviews, photos, or videos, you can create a wealth of authentic, user-generated content that can help promote your brand and products. UCG can help reduce the costs of creating marketing content in-house or hiring outside agencies.
Product ideation and co-creation: A customer community can also serve as a platform for creativity and co-creation. Soliciting ideas and feedback from your customers includes them in the product development process. Involved and engaged customers leads to more successful products that better meet their needs. Co-creating this way can help reduce the costs of launching unsuccessful products or conducting expensive market research.
Generally, any company that values customer input and feedback can benefit from building a customer community. High performing CEOs know they need to focus on delivering products and services that meet their customers’ needs, and this is where a Customer Community can also help:
- Engagement: An online customer community can provide a platform for customers to engage meaningfully with each other and the company. By providing a space for customers to share their experiences, feedback, and ideas, the community can foster a sense of belonging and encourage customers to become brand advocates.
- Customer feedback: Building an online community can provide a platform for customers to share their opinions and feedback about the company’s products or services. The company can create offerings that better meet customer needs and preferences by involving customers in creation or service development.
- Brand loyalty: Companies can foster brand loyalty by creating a sense of community among their customers. Customers who feel part of a community are likelier to become repeat customers and recommend the company to others.
- Customer support: A customer community can also provide a platform for customers to support one another. By sharing tips and advice, customers can help each other get the most out of the company’s products and services. Customer-to-customer support via communities reduces the burden on the company’s customer support team and improves the overall customer experience.
- Competitive Intelligence: Engaging with customers in a community setting allows companies to gain valuable insights into their customers’ preferences, behaviors and needs. Communities help companies stay ahead of the competition by identifying emerging trends and staying on top of shifting consumer preferences. Additionally, a customer community can serve as a platform for customers to share their experiences and feedback about competitor products and services. Communities provide valuable information about competitors’ performance and where they may fall short of meeting customer needs. By analyzing this information, companies can adjust their strategies to meet customer needs better and stay ahead of the competition.
- Social purpose: By building an online community, the company can also demonstrate its commitment to social ideals by providing a space for customers to engage with each other and the company around shared values and interests. A brand purpose can help the company build a stronger sense of community and connection with its customers, leading to increased customer loyalty and retention.
There are several examples of successful case studies of companies building customer communities, including Sephora, Starbucks, Apple, Nike and Lego:
- Sephora’s Beauty Insider Community is a vibrant and engaged online community where customers can discuss everything beauty-related, from makeup tips to product recommendations. Members can earn points for purchases, product reviews and other interactions to redeem discounts, products and exclusive experiences. Sephora leverages this community to gain valuable insights into its customers’ preferences, trends, and behaviors, as well as to drive brand loyalty and increase sales.
- Starbucks has also built a strong community of loyal customers through its My Starbucks Idea platform, which allows customers to share ideas and suggestions for new products, services, and store experiences. Starbucks uses this feedback to inform its product development, marketing, and customer service strategies, which has helped the company stay ahead of trends and customer demands.
- Apple has a robust online community through its Apple Support Communities. Customers can find help and support for their Apple products and share tips, tricks, and advice with other Apple users. This community helped Apple provide top-notch customer service and support while building brand loyalty and advocacy.
- Nike: Nike built a large community of runners through its Nike Run Club app. The app allows runners to track their runs, set goals and connect with other runners. Nike also hosts local running events and has a strong social media presence which further strengthens its community.
- LEGO: LEGO has a very active online community called LEGO Ideas, where fans can submit their own LEGO designs for new products. Other fans can vote on their favorite designs, and LEGO may choose to produce the most popular ones. Fans develop a strong sense of community by collaborating with other customers.
- Lululemon: Lululemon’s community of fitness enthusiasts connects through various events such as yoga classes and running clubs. These events help customers stay active and create a sense of community around the brand.
- Airbnb: Airbnb has built a community of travelers who use the platform to find unique and affordable accommodations worldwide. The company encourages hosts to create personalized experiences for their guests, which helps to build a strong sense of community around the Airbnb brand.
- Glossier: Glossier built a community of beauty enthusiasts through its online blog, Into the Gloss and social media channels. Glossier encourages customers to share beauty tips and product recommendations, which helps create a sense of community and authenticity around the brand.
In conclusion, these companies successfully leveraged their online presence to create a sense of community among customers, increasing brand loyalty and advocacy. Companies gain valuable insights into customers’ needs, preferences, and pain points for information to improve their products and services.
Overall, the key to success is to be proactive and forward-thinking regarding product innovation and customer experience. By staying ahead of the curve and investing in these areas, companies can build a substantial competitive advantage and ensure long-term success. Building customer communities can play a crucial role in helping CEOs achieve this goal and create leaner, stronger, and more customer-centric organizations.