Communities of Commerce
The pinnacle of commerce, in other words your ideal shopping experience, is where you purchase a socially ethical product at a preferred price from someone you trust to become a member of that particular tribe. The whole experience makes you feel good, perhaps happy. Certainly a few of these features explains the desire and success of Starbucks, Apple, Harley Davidson, and Zappos.
Creating these tribes isn’t easy. The products, company, and employees have to be extraordinary. The reward, however, of a loyal customer base as your greatest advocates is worth the trouble. A search reveals 27+ million impressions for Zappos and Apple’s top “i” products register over 1 billion. We love to talk about these companies because they do remarkable things such as excellent product design and customer experience.
Communities can shape a business in other ways too. Over the past several years, a few companies have tapped into the creativity of their tribes by incentivizing the work. In exchange for their time and output, the company rewards the community member through recognition or payment. Threadless, a crowdsourced t-shirt company out of Chicago, and 99 Designs, a crowdsourced spec design company, are perfect examples. Both companies have the community submit designs that are then ranked by the larger community or client. If their work is chosen as the winner, the designer gets paid.
With the right technology, communities can also self organize online. Toward the end of last year, droves of people joined social buying sites such as Groupon or Living Social. The services blast out discounted services and products within your local area. The services are issuing in a new age for the tired coupon. As good as the services might be, the sleeping giant of social commerce will awaken in the next year — Facebook. Only a few businesses used their Facebook page in 2010 to allow customers to make purchases without leaving Facebook (in app purchasing). Based off the success of Groupon, Facebook will put a focus on enabling businesses to sell directly and for users to push the product and brands through their network of “friends.”
Community commerce is not listed as a trend to watch in 2011 by the firm JWT, several individual trends point to this larger theme. Below are the individual trend titles from JWT with a snippet of my take in regards to each.
- Buy one, give one — Like Tom’s Shoes ore OLPC (one laptop per child), you buy one and another gets donated for someone else
- F-Commerce — customers buying other company’s products directly through Facebook goes mainstream
- Group Manipulated — electronically enabled group purchasing
The challenge is to figure out who and/or where your community is, how to establish a relationship, and how to empower, maybe through incentives, them to establish a sustained feedback loop for your business. Joseph Jaffe’s book, Flip the Funnel, is a must read to understand the concept and a launching pad for ideas on getting to a sustainable tribe.
- Book publishers could easily start a buy one, give one program.
- Local printers could spin the buy 1, get 1 concept by having customer’s sponsor local non-profits or community organizations, i.e. print for the school/community center/food bank
- Electronic assembly, some might say curation, of information pertaining to a certain tribe can be printed in what would otherwise be un-utilized time. A beta of this is already being done in the UK by The Newspaper Club.
What do you see?