One of the biggest challenges for modern online brands is how fleeting the interest and engagement of customers can be. You wonder how some brands manage to cultivate a community that swells up in support on social media, blogs, and videos while most brands barely manage to maintain email interested email subscribers. There are many things that go into cultivating an invested community from your customer base.
But the entire process starts with providing your customers with a sense of identity and belonging in your company. You want customers to feel like they are more than just an order number or a customer service request. Getting your customers invested in your brand starts at your website. More specifically, at offering accounts and profiles so customers can make a place for themselves and each other. Customers feel more involved with a website when they have a personal account, profile, and an on-site community.
Building a profile page, writing in the forums, and commenting on blogs makes your website feel more like a social media platform and gets customers invested in their involvement with your company and brand. Today, we're exploring the best features to include when you add customer accounts and social opportunities to your company website.
Let's start by assuming that your website probably already has something that resembles user accounts. At the very least, customers likely have an email-password login that allows them to reference saved credit card information, their shopping history, and current cart. These things tend to come standard with a business website design and are generally considered a basic must-have package for any business that plans to sell things or services to customers online.
But if your website doesn't have user account basics, then that's part of the reason why you're not getting any traction building a community. You can't build a relationship with customers if your website doesn't remember them from one visit to the next.
Now for the advanced techniques. For everyone out there who's business website already features standard customer accounts, why stop there? After all, you're not looking for 'standard' customer engagement. The first and easiest way to upgrade your customer accounts is to give them a profile page. More than just a dashboard that allows them to change their email, password, and card details. Think more along the lines of social media, with a public profile page that customers can craft for themselves. Including a photo/avatar, a self-describing bio section, and a variety of interests and details about themselves should they choose to share.
As humans, we have a basic narcissistic desire to answer personality quiz questions and create flattering profiles of ourselves, and your customers are no exception. The more detail you let them add to their public profiles, and then look at how pretty it looks when they're done, the more (some) customers will invest in building those profiles. Especially if you complete the engagement by giving them others to interact with, and a reason to look at each other's profiles. Getting customers to spend an hour on your website joining your online community is as simple as that.
Social media sites know what they're doing. They're not just building a customer community; community is what they sell. So it behooves us to continue taking pages from their book. Another great way to do this is to allow your customers to personalise how they see your website. Or even just certain sections of your website.
The most basic way to do this is to offer an additional'dark-mode' or 'night-mode.' This is an aesthetically pleasing variation of your site with dark pages and pale text. Many people prefer dark web pages, especially for night owl users who tend to log in after dark. Night mode turns the background page a dark gray (not true black) and the text a white or pale gray. Even better, you can customise your night mode to uniquely highlight your brand colors by letting them stand out against the dark background. From teenagers to midnight programmers, single additional skin/theme will be incredibly pleasing for customers who have light-sensitive eyes or are browsing at night.
Taking this further, you can also offer a small variety of color or image themed skins for your website and give your clients an opportunity to choose. If you are using a popular website platform like WordPress or Drupal, then there are already thousands of alternate skins/themes already available. You can choose the best of these and offer them to your customers. But never offer a skin or theme that has not been fully vetted by your web dev, many include flaws because not all web-artists are well-rounded theme developers.
Another example from Twitter is the accent-color customisation. Add a few elements to your website that can be color-adapted, then allow users to pick their favourite color, showing them the effect on their website experience in real-time as they choose the color. This experience alone is fun if you've ever tried it. The accent color feature gives users the ability to customise their own browsing experience and to personalise their profile's appearance in your website's social features.
Finally, you can talk to a professional web developer about designing a few custom themes that perfectly suit your website. This is the best solution for any business with a custom website or a desire to hand-craft their customer's visual experience in every theme. A custom theme can uniquely showcase your brand, content, and products in a way that no premade theme can. This is your chance to design something beautifully functional and aesthetic instead of trying to fit your brand into a premade, one-sise-fits-most design.
Of course, the real key here isn't just getting customers to personalise their experience of your website. You also want them to feel connected as a community of like-minded patrons of the same brand. The community you build becomes support on social media, participants in online brand events, and a growing society of internally encouraging return customers. Simply by joining your online community, customers becoming more invested in the brand and indicating their long-term interest.
Build your website an active forum and open up your blog comments section. Why? Because social interactions will keep them coming back time and time again, connecting with each other and your brand. Forums and lively comment sections give your audience a place to connect and a way to create constant interaction that static company resources never could. Simply by making your website a place where people -can- meet and talk will make it a better place to nurture your online community. Consider seeding your comments with staff remarks to help them get started.
If you really want to go all-out in getting customers invested in your brand as more than just a supplier of products, create an internal social platform with friends and messaging that connect on-site accounts to each other. Let customers reach out and get invested in the relationships with each other and encourage their ongoing engagement. This is the final key ingredient that transforms your business website, a place to read about and buy goods/services, into a social hub for your online community.
Finally, you also use customer accounts to connect more deeply and consistently with customer service. Customers don't want to be a ticket number; they want to be "Mrs. Amanda Meuller, who has been buying Christmas presents from you for three consecutive years." They want to speak to the same customer service rep every time they call in -- when possible -- and they want your company to be better at solving their problems because they have been loyal customers. And you can offer this.
Modern CRM technology makes it easy to create an in-depth record of each customer that is accessible by the customer service team each time a customer makes contact. And the history of each customer service they request also goes into their file. This allows your company to 'remember' everything about your history with a customer, even if they are dealing with a chatbot or a new rep each time.
When your reps can 'recall' that customers have 'had this problem before' or which solutions they've already tried, customers will feel invested in. And invest in your brand in return.
Building detailed and versatile customer accounts on your website is a key ingredient to building a large online following and enriching customer engagement. If you want your customer base to get invested in the brand as more than a provider of goods or services, build them a place to invest in. Give them detailed accounts, a social platform to meet and discuss things, and invest in a continuous customer service experience.
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