As businesses have changed over the centuries with advances in technology, so have the tools and techniques that businesses use to market their products and services. Marketing, in its earliest form, was mainly about communicating the features and benefits of the products or services that were being sold.
In the early 2000s, however, the growth of information technology led to the development of Marketing 2.0. As it became easier to target consumers based on segmentation and personalization, the focus of marketing shifted from the product to the consumer.
Marketing campaigns became more focused on who the consumer was and what they wanted rather than on the features of the product. In the past two decades, the rapid strides in technology have led to rapid changes in marketing too, and marketing has quickly moved on to marketing 3.0 and more recently marketing 4.0.
Marketing 3.0 vs Marketing 4.0
With the growth of social media and the transformation of the Internet, marketing 3.0 came about. The idea of Marketing 3.0 is for marketers to rise above how their products or services will serve consumers and instead focus on consumers’ human soul – by committing to and working for social, economic, and environmental causes in ways that would touch customers’ souls.
Marketing 3.0 is about “going beyond customers’ material needs and desires towards what moves them at a human level”, and to align brand strategy accordingly. Over the past few years, Marketing 3.0 has been widely adopted by companies across the world and has proven to be successful.
As the digital economy booms and disruptive technologies like IoT (Internet of Things), cloud tech, 3D printing, and mobile internet threaten to change the way business is done across industries, Marketing 4.0 has also made an appearance.
Marketing 4.0 deals with how mobile internet is deeply influencing consumer behavior and how companies need to adapt their marketing strategies in the face of rapid technological advancements.
In the face of new communication methods and a continuous bombardment of information, the challenge for brands is to maintain a brand voice that feels unique and authentic: this is a brand’s most valuable asset in an increasingly transparent and connected world.
The other important element in Marketing 4.0 is that marketing productivity is increasing as connected devices become more ubiquitous on the backs of artificial intelligence and loT.
However, this needs to be complemented by human-to-human connectivity in order to strengthen customer engagement for a marketing strategy to be truly effective.
Digital communities: a necessity for today’s businesses
Marketing 4.0 talks about moving from traditional concepts of marketing, like segmentation and targeting of customers, to a more customer community-based approach.
Since technology advancements have made people all over the world more connected, companies’ marketing process now needs to incorporate input from and engagement with customers who are now inter-connected through online networks.
Another aspect to this is that customers also demand a seat at the table now. With rapid cycles of innovation and technology-led interconnectedness, customers also want to be a part of important decisions when it comes to their favorite brands. Brands that don’t leverage this through online communities risk losing potential business.
Finally, 53% of brands say that social media is a top driver when it comes to customer engagement and brand building. This is twice as much as email and 4 times as much as a traditional website.
In 2016, Facebook had the highest customer penetration rate at 63% and a 15-day engagement rate, Instagram followed at 27% with an 11-day engagement rate, Twitter at 25% with 7.5 days, and Google+ at 17% with 3.2 days. This is why research shows that 81% of companies in 2015 had community-type support channels, up from 67% in 2012.
Benefits of digital communities
Having active and engaged online communities has some important benefits for brands.
Continuous improvement of product and customer experience due to quick feedback
Digital communities give customers a voice. Any new feature or product that a brand launches finds near-instant feedback via active online communities. This helps shorten cycles of innovation and helps companies make improvements very quickly, especially when it comes to digital products. This helps improve customer experience exponentially.
Measuring customer satisfaction is much easier
With an active online community, measuring customer satisfaction becomes much simpler.
By using online polls or qualitative surveys, brands can measure customer satisfaction levels. This applies not just to customer satisfaction of the product or service as a whole, but could also apply to specific features or changes. Getting targeted customer satisfaction scores in real-time is possible with an engaged digital community.
Having an online active community that learns from each other, is proactive, and helps solve customer issues, which helps attract and retain new customers.
Communities of startups like Airbnb and Masterclass help users knowledge improve by learning from each other and enhancing their experience of the product.
Customer support moves to customer advocacy
Instead of conventional methods of customer support that seek to resolve customer issues, the engagement in online communities allows brands to move towards customer advocacy.
Brands use online communities to make their customers’ satisfaction and happiness the focus of their attention. This changes brand perception to one that truly and deeply cares about its customers.
How to build an effective digital community?
Here are some tactics you can use to build a strong and engaged online community for your brand.
Start early and have a long-term plan
It’s never too soon to start building an online community, even if you start with something as simple as a discussion forum. Many brands start building their community as soon as they launch their product or service so that initial users can try the product or service, give feedback, and discuss it with each other. Of course, make sure you have a plan in place for how your community will change and grow with time.
Encourage and reward creative content from customers
Many brands like Starbucks and Kraft have forums where they enable their customers to send recipes that use their products. This encourages their customers to contribute creative content and other community members to benefit from this user-generated content. Many brands also recognize and reward customers for contributing content.
Supplement online communities with offline efforts
Offline efforts like local meetups can really help cement the efficacy of online communities. According to Marketing 4.0, in today’s online-first world, the right offline efforts can create a differentiator for a brand.
When used effectively, digital communities can really engage customers at a deep level and help transform the essence of the brand and its perception in the minds of users.
Having a thriving digital community is not just desirable, but can be essential for certain businesses that want to get ahead in today’s dynamic digital landscape.