The explosion on social media has opened up further channels for company growth. Not only are platforms like Instagram and Pinterest rapidly growing in users, they also have become more and more appealing to businesses.
Last fall, it was reported that Instagram is now home to 25 million active business profiles. This could be due to the high amount of customer potential on the network, with 42% of women on Instagram surveyed in the US saying that they love to shop. But perhaps more attractive is the opportunity for brands to showcase their story. And the channels available in retail where this is possible are somewhat lacking.
Let Your Customers Explore Your Brand
Internet giants such as Amazon, Google Shopping and Alibaba offer no window for consumers to form a connection to a brand. Instead, their appeal is based on low prices, free shipping and convenience.
These USPs will always be necessary in our convenience-driven society, but perhaps the Amazons of the world have underestimated the power of a brand story. The connection with a brand is what causes more than 90 million accounts to tap and reveal tags in shopping posts on Instagram every month. The social network puts this down to Instagram allowing shoppers to visually explore their favorite products and stumble upon new ones that inspire them.
Personal Connection Goes Further Than Products
It’s one thing to generate a customer base who keeps up-to-date with your product assortment and shares a mild interest in your brand values, it’s quite another to nurture these buyers into emotionally connected customers.
But the truth is, this is where the real value lies. On a lifetime value basis, emotionally connected customers are more than twice as valuable as highly satisfied customers. This connection fosters customers who don’t pay as much attention to price change, but are more engaged in terms of your advice, communication and positioned for advocacy.
This sense of belonging to a brand, or brand community, also explains the rise in influencers and community marketing. The selling point is the attachment to the person or people in the community and the product comes second.
How to Foster Highly Supportive Customers
Given the chance, people want to evolve with a brand that “gets” them and whose products give their life meaning. But this personal attachment also means these engaged customers can tell when you are being ingenuine and going against your brand values.
That’s why, with this growing trend in brand connection, the expectation to stay true to these values is even higher. There may be less pressure to stay competitive in the business sense in terms of price and product selection, but the stakes are higher when it comes to expressing viewpoints on politics or ethics, for example.
These long lasting, meaningful relationships are established by creating a common purpose that encourages customers with similar opinions to form a community. The focus needs to stray away from making money, and lean more towards more meaningful values, or at least appear to do so from the outside.
The Key is Agility
Transforming your brand from product-driven to value- and community-driven is the fundamental first step to take. Reacting to the marketing this way, as this growing demand presents itself, also demonstrates competitive agility.
Once you’ve made this shift in your company, it’s time to showcase your brand values through the platforms available. At the moment, certain social networks like Instagram and Pinterest are blowing the competition out of the water as far as visual storytelling goes. Embracing new channels should come from a thought-through strategy on how best to leverage them, rather than letting the medium steer the fate of your business.
By opening your brand to the world, your customers are able to form an emotional connection to your company. This approach definitely comes with its rewards, but tread carefully. If you stray from your path, these highly engaged customers are unafraid to voice their suggested improvements for your brand.
Welcome Criticism From Those Who Know You Best
Emotionally engaged customers are eager to give their feedback. And tackled in the right way, they can help you stay true to your brand values, even when you yourself may not realize you’ve drifted from your core purpose.
Leverage the support of these customers and welcome their, at times, negative backlash. The commitment they show to seeing their community grow and your company flourish is stronger than the dispassionate buyers other detached businesses produce.