In e-commerce, vibrant communities prosper. At the beginning of the pandemic, HigherLogic reported that 81% of their clients saw an uptick in online community engagement. Reaching shoppers at their points of passion is what sparks deeper connections and long-term relationships that retain valuable shoppers for longer.

However, the more we’ve talked to our merchants recently, the more we’ve realised that consumers are far less community-minded than everyone believes. Only 7% of consumers chat in the online community of brands they enjoy shopping with, and only 10% post about the brands they like on social media.

It’s true; communities are important. But most retailers don’t know what their community looks like and it’s potential to be an ROI-positive initiative. So what’s the next step for businesses who are struggling to see the power of their community?

We’ve carried out research to understand who makes up a community. In this blog, we’ll explore the four community personas we’ve identified, the Community Matrix, and show you why community really matters.

Introducing the Community MatrixCommunity Matters

The Community Matrix shows that communities comprise four different profiles: Lurkers, Supporters, Drifters, and Insiders.

Each profile offers different levels of value to your brand (based on participation and interaction). They also need different levels of marketing effort to maintain relationships with them.

The goal is to reach a community of Insiders (bottom right quadrant). They need low marketing effort, but they are of the most significant value. They routinely undertake the most community-based actions most beneficial for your brand and your bottom line – such as referring friends, creating user-generated content on your behalf and leaving product reviews.

Deep diving into each of the Community Personas

Let’s briefly look at the “behaviours” of each of the four personas and how you can move them towards being fully active and engaged community Insiders.

Firstly, Drifters.

Community Matters

These customers comprise 14% of a community base, but sadly they're ghosting you. They don’t engage with your brand in any meaningful way outside of purchases.

They may visit your site from time to time and make the odd purchase, but that’s where the emotional connection ends.

Right now, they’re unengaged, but they have potential. They’ve made a purchase – that’s the hard part. They already trust your brand, and with some TLC, you can strengthen that connection.

Lurkers make up 17% of a community base.

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Lurkers are Drifters with a glow-up. They like you – but they like you from a distance.

83% of Lurkers log in to complete a purchase, meaning that they’re open to a relationship with your brand. You’ve managed to engage them, and they’re interested in your brand, but they’re not ready to fully participate. With a little more effort, they’ll start contributing to your community.

Supporters, making up 51% of the community base, are by far the largest group to contend with.

Community Matters

A Supporter is your classic community BFF. They engage with your marketing, tell others about you, and feel emotionally connected—28% click-through on marketing emails and improve your engagement metrics.

However, many brands fall into the trap of thinking these are the best type of community members. But it takes a lot of work to get them to do community-based actions. So you’ll have to put some effort in to convert them into Insiders.

Last but certainly not least, Insiders.

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This group makes up only 18% of your community base, but they’re worth so much more. Insiders are your biggest cheerleaders, and they’re continuously driving incremental gains for your brand with their community-wide advocacy. 54% create original posts about stores they like on social media rather than just sharing or commenting as Supporters do.

Insiders are powerful. They will immediately impact your acquisition and conversion metrics, but they’ll also drive enormous value in other ways. They help you understand how to improve your customer experience and are the best people to undertake market research with. Their feedback likely even ends up driving your product direction.

Take our quiz to understand the persona that makes up the majority of your community.

So why does community really matter?

When customers feel connected to brands, more than half (57%) increase their spending. It’s clear that a thriving customer community improves the bottom line. But there are other benefits for your brand too, including:

Cost-effective acquisition

A community will boost word of mouth (WOM) and brand conversations. A brand community creates an opportunity and safe space for your members to talk about your brand and drive organic WOM. Researchers have found that a 10% increase in WOM translates to between a 0.2 and 1.5% increase in sales.

Greater conversion

A community will improve the sense of trust around your brand and lead to greater conversion. 75% of consumers say that UGC makes brands appear more authentic. And 88% of people trust online reviews written by other shoppers. Social proof increases trust. The sense of authenticity doesn’t just convert new shoppers quicker. It creates ongoing trust that keeps new shoppers coming back, buying again, and getting in on the community themselves.

An open and honest feedback loop

A community will help to provide future direction for your brand. 71% of companies use their community for market research, and 66% turn to them for product development. With some investment, your community can become your most valuable source of feedback through reviews and user-generated content. This open and honest feedback loop is valuable for you and your future business. It’s also helpful in making sure that customers feel like a key part of your onward journey.

Higher customer lifetime value and brand loyalty

A community will create longer-lasting, emotional connections. Not only do engaged community members spend more, but they contribute to a positive community ROI by talking about you, chatting with other customers, recommending you, and recruiting new members. This kind of long-term loyalty can create sustainable growth.

On the topic of loyalty, Insiders (the best kind of community member) respond the best to loyalty programs. Our research showed that 82% of Insiders belong to their preferred brand’s loyalty programs, versus 28% of Drifters. Clearly, it’s worth putting that little bit more effort into converting Lurkers into Supporters and Supporters into Insiders. Your community

It’s time to ask yourself if your customer community bringing you incremental gains? Having read about the four types of community members, are you still sure that you have a community? Lurkers, Drifters, Supporters, and Insiders will all respond differently to your loyalty program. And each group needs to be nurtured in different ways.

Our research has shown that focusing on building a diverse community the right way will be beneficial to your business. Not every customer will turn into an Insider. So you need to come up with innovative ways to manage Supporters and convert Drifters and Lurkers into more engaged community members.

Every customer community is unique. And every marketing or sales strategy is an opportunity for you to engage your community in a way that is tailored to your brand.

For examples of leading communities to learn from and to understand what customers want from yours, download the Community Matters report.