3 Brands Building Community to Battle Purchase Anxiety
Community is a powerful tool for brands. Just look at Tesla. When the company fell behind on shipping the Model 3 and shares were slipping, its customers rallied around the brand. Dedicated Tesla owners showed up at showrooms to volunteer their time, helping with deliveries, and teaching new owners about the car’s different features. Asked why, Tesla owners cited a passion for the environment and preserving American jobs. When customers love your product and what your brand stands for, they’ll want to share that joy with others. While most brands aren’t facing the logistics “hell” that prompted this massive call for customer support, a loyal customer community can be a major asset for battling one of online retailers largest barriers to sale: purchase anxiety.
In the world of online shopping, purchase anxiety runs rampant. Will it fit? Is it high quality? Am I getting the best deal? All of these doubts coupled with the endless options of online shopping have consumers abandoning their carts — even when they would have quickly made the purchase in-store. These concerns often get down to a level of specificity that even live-chat customer service representatives and thorough product reviews can't give us the answers that we're looking for, and the best person to put these fears to rest is someone who already owns the product.
By building a community that brings together current and potential customers, businesses can combat purchase anxiety and convert the overwhelmed shopper. These communities are forming naturally across the internet. In fact, 27.3 percent of shoppers research products in branded communities before they buy. When brands intentionally create spaces for these communities to flourish, they can leverage these customer insights as a powerful sales tool.
Still, building a brand community isn’t as simple as adding a customer message board to your website. The community needs to be tailored to fit your customers’ needs. Here are three brands that are successfully building communities online to give consumers an exceptional, worry-free shopping experience:
Sephora Insiders: A Beauty Community Baked Into the Shopping Experience
Shopping for beauty products online can be stressful, as it’s challenging for customers to feel certain about the quality of the products as well as the appropriate shade to purchase unless they’ve previously tried the item. To address these concerns, Sephora has used its Sephora Insiders loyalty program to create an online platform for customers to share their honest reviews of products, makeup tips and tricks, and even build friendships with other Sephora fans. In a forum, Insiders discuss everything from the best deals in an upcoming sale to the newest makeup looks that members have created, all complete with photos of the final results. Posters can tag the products they used within their posts, providing quick and easy access for other members of the community to purchase the product. Similarly, when browsing the product page, Sephora imports relevant posts from the discussion board so that shoppers not only see written reviews of the product by Insiders, but a rich feed of video and photos that gives shoppers an idea of how the item looks on its own and can be combined with other products to complete an entire look.
Sephora has also incorporated a community live chat feature enabling shoppers to ask questions and provide answers to their fellow browsers as they shop. When shoppers ask a question, it’s displayed to all others who have the chat box open. A shopper who has an answer can message the questioner directly. This real-time feedback can spur the unsure consumer to feel confident about their product selection without wandering off site, which lowers the chances of losing a customer to a competitor. By harnessing the beauty expertise and product love of its customers, Sephora has created an unparalleled social shopping experience for all of its visitors, from the casual holiday shopper to the beauty-obsessed expert.
Amazon Kindle + Goodreads: Trust Alleviates the Anxiety of a Bad Book
It’s hard to choose a new book to read in a bookstore, and even harder when the bookstore has the “endless aisle” of Amazon.com's Kindle marketplace. With so many options, it can be paralyzing to choose. While advances in artificial intelligence (AI) can help auto-generate suggestions, consumers are most likely to trust recommendations from family or friends. To combat this purchase anxiety, Amazon has integrated the social reading platform Goodreads (acquired by Amazon in 2013) into its Kindle interface to help readers choose which book to read next out of the endless sea of options. Rather than having to rely on the reviews of strangers, and discern whether reviews are authentic or fake, members of the Goodreads community can follow their friends and favorite authors to see recommendations from readers that they trust.
Based on a user’s taste in books, Goodreads automatically recommends that users join “book clubs” of community members with similar interests, increasing their pool of trusted recommenders beyond personal friends. The social aspect of Goodreads incentivizes reviews, providing readers with a platform to discuss the books they're reading with others. The application also shows users what books are trending, and allows users to vote on awards. When a book sounds interesting, Goodreads’ users can add them to their “read next” list, which automatically syncs to the Kindle homepage for ease of purchase. All of this provides the avid Kindle reader with trusted advice on what to read next, inspiring them to select a new book with the confidence that they’ll enjoy it.
Poshmark’s Community Stylists Help Shoppers Overcome Fashion Fears
When it comes to fashion, it can be difficult to take the looks that you love from the runway and magazines and make them work for everyday wear. Social commerce platform Poshmark places community front and center to help buyers find and style the items they want. Buyers can follow closets of sellers they love, and favorite, share and comment on specific items that catch their eye. The community members can comment on each other’s items to learn more information about the fit and condition before they purchase.
Shoppers can also request to “get styled” by sellers on the app. They can submit a request explaining their occasion, personal style, size, and budget, and sellers act as curators to piece together outfits and looks based on items for sale in the community. This dynamic social community not only makes shoppers more comfortable buying clothes online, but it provides them with the expert insights and confidence to develop their own sense of style.
When purchase anxiety runs amuck, the best remedy is advice from a trusted peer. Each of these brands have put their own unique touch on building a customer community to hear and address customer concerns. To nurture a community for your own brand, start by identifying what passions unite your customers. From there, you can build a community for them to connect that fits your brand. You'll see the benefits as customers become your brand's greatest advocates.
Peter Sheldon is senior director, strategy at Adobe, a provider of creative, marketing and document management solutions.
Related story: Why All Retailers Need to Be Aware of PWAs