Buying is Better Together: Community in Retail
When shopping, consumers rely on recommendations from friends, family and peers more than they trust advertising from brands. Because of this, there has been a rise in shopping-focused communities — both those that are managed by brands and those that are independent platforms. Here are a few interesting examples of retail communities that bring shoppers together:
- LEGO Ideas community: On the LEGO Ideas community website, customers can share unique builds they’ve created using LEGO products with other brand enthusiasts. These submissions serve as proposals for new LEGO products to be available commercially. If an “Idea” gathers at least 10,000 votes of support from users and is chosen by LEGO to become a sellable product, the original designer receives 1 percent of the royalties. Through friendly competition with an incredible prize promised, LEGO keeps its most enthusiastic customers continuously engaged.
- lululemon free events: Lululemon doesn’t sell apparel; it sells a lifestyle. It just so happens to be that lululemon's products are the best to help you enjoy that lifestyle. Every week, stores across the country push their clothes racks aside to make room for free yoga classes, while others host complimentary running clubs. This summer, lululemon opened its first ever fitness studio inside a store, where consumers can take yoga, weight lifting, and high-intensity interval training classes (for a fee). If visitors forget their gear, they can borrow a lululemon outfit to work out in and then return (which lululemon then hopes you liked so much you will purchase). The location also has a meditation area and a café where patrons can hang out together.
- Sephora Beauty Insider community: The Sephora beauty community is a website and app that serves as a destination for beauty lovers to find inspiration, ask each other questions, and get recommendations in an unsponsored, real-time, “real talk” social setting. Sephora has made sure to make this not just for casual makeup fans. To fully engage in the community, clients must be a member of Beauty Insider, Sephora's complimentary loyalty program.
- Influenster community: While the previously mentioned communities are brand driven, a great example of a consumer-driven community is Influenster. Influenster is a product discovery and reviews platform with over 6 million community members. Consumers from around the world head to the site to share photos, videos, write reviews, and give recommendations about products while also viewing, reading and interacting with content from other members. From beauty products to pet food to alcohol, members can learn more about the products they’re interested in and discover others their peers are excited about.
- Pinduoduo: Community in retail has gone even further overseas. In Asia, there's a wildly popular social shopping e-commerce platform called Pinduoduo that allows users to participate in group buying deals called “team purchases.” Shoppers can invite their friends, families and social networks to order products they want together in bulk directly from the manufacturer, which gets them a better deal. On this platform, consumers go beyond engaging with each other — they make purchases together.
Community isn’t just beneficial for shoppers; brands can learn a ton from their customers as well. By facilitating and engaging in customers’ conversations, businesses can glean valuable insights about consumer preferences and behavior. In 2020, we will continue to see more iterations of retail communities that bring shoppers together both online and in person.
Lucas Tieleman is senior vice president, product management at Bazaarvoice, a leading provider of product reviews and user-generated content (UGC) solutions.