The One Thing You Shouldn’t be Operating an E-Commerce Community Without

Written by  March 22, 2009

You are part of a community. Right here, on this site, you’ve chosen to be a member of the eCommerce Optimization Community.

See how easy that was? The similar thread all readers of this site share is the hunger for practical how-to information for increasing eCommerce sales. Your customers have the same common thread for your products or services.

Let’s continue the community conversation by digging further into how product and service organizations keep themselves in business.

As mentioned, online communities are not much different than physical ones. To be successful, you need to let folks know who you are and what you sell. Once you’ve got them in the door, you need a plan for turning one-time customers into repeat customers.

The key for turning one-timers into repeaters: Interaction.

You wouldn’t let an in-person customer walk through your store without saying a word to them so why do it online? One of the best things you can do for your E-commerce site is to offer opportunities to interact.

Here are five great opportunities for you to create community interaction on your site:

1. Blog. Post information related to your products, services, staff, life, etc. Keep it as serious or light-hearted as you want. Your goal is to have a space where you can post items that may not be not be considered relevant on the rest of your site. Need inspiration? Check out the Zappos.com blogs as an example.
2. Offer Voting Privileges. Consider adding voting or recommendation capabilities to your site. Allow users to suggest options for other users. Consumers will almost always go with peer recommendations over what they perceive are targeted marketing campaigns.
3. Add Widgets. The name may be cute, but their role on your site could make a huge difference. Add widgets to your front page, your check-out page and other popular pages to promote new products or services.
4. Host Fan Clubs. This can be part of your blog or a separate entity all together. Because your customers are your greatest fans, give them an opportunity to create their own “club.” Create online buttons or catch phrases your customers can use on their own sites, blogs or e-mails. There’s no better advertising than free advertising.
5. Host forums. Depending on your product or service, you may have customers with questions. Creating a space where users can ask and answer questions is a great way see what people think of your products and services as well as your own customer service.

And of course, concoct creative combinations of the previous 5 opportunities. Let your imagination run wild. Let’s say your site sells cat toys. Why not set up a contest where customers vote on the most popular cat toys. Ask your Fan Club members to write reviews for the top five vote getters. Post the reviews on your blog, forum or front page and let the e-commerce begin!

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