This year saw an explosion in the number and variety of suppliers offering communities technology. Unlike Standing on Giants, many new players aren’t yet working at enterprise level, but one thing’s for certain – demand for communities is on the up.
It’s no shocker that start-ups often adopt a community approach to business. Listening to customers and adapting accordingly is usually what they’re about. However, what’s been interesting to witness in 2017 is well established brands, traditional businesses and non-corporate member organisations also looking to communities to solve the problems they face.
So as organisations of all kinds adapt to a digital world, here are five predictions for the coming year…
1 Improved mobile experiences
Many older online communities offer a mobile experience that simply doesn’t cut it. Let’s face it – if you haven’t got mobile right, you won’t exactly be attracting new customers in their droves. To take the leap, brands currently offering a poor mobile experience will have to switch to more nimble platforms. Luckily, migration is easier than ever and besides offering a better mobile community experience, I think this will also get the ball rolling for other innovations in mobile. Expect developments.
2 Community/app integration
Currently, most companies – whether banks or online retailers – do not include community functionality in their apps. 2018 will see organisations moving towards custom-built community apps, or seamless integration with external platforms via API. Either way, with a fully customised community experience available at the tap of a button, brands will be setting a precedent for whole new kinds of communities in the coming year.
3 Bringing customers into the heart of business
Most established communities are currently customer support focused. For years, brands like O2 and Vodafone have been maximising the potential of customer service communities. But rather than letting these bubble away in the background, brands are realising that their community members have expertise in a huge range of disciplines, from marketing to finance. The future will see brands looking at what needs to be done to tap this potential, involving community members with everything from new product development to campaigns, PR and even sales.
4 New ways to showcase content
Historically, content sharing has been customer-led, with consumers disseminating branded material on blogs or social media. But with whole eco-systems of people ready and waiting to engage, until recently, brands have been missing a trick. In 2018, we’ll see much more multimedia content accessible through branded online communities, as well as some very interesting content strategies for putting stuff out there and drawing new customers in.
5 More communities in healthcare and retail
With occasional exceptions (such as beauty brand Sephora) surprisingly few retailers have embraced the community approach so far. But with retail putting such a strong focus on brand loyalty, an effective online community is practically perfect for this sector. Likewise in healthcare, the nature of the industry lends itself well to online community support and growth, so be sure to watch this space, too.
For both disruptive start-ups and traditional businesses, 2018 looks set to be a big year. Particularly for established organisations, the technical and cultural challenges of creating a successful community present no small feat. But the potential rewards far outweigh the efforts. There’s some exciting stuff ahead, and Standing on Giants will be right on the frontline. Stay tuned!
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Vincent is Standing on Giants in-house community guru, futurist and troubleshooter. The source of our methodology he’s a fiery advocate for genuine customer-centric business.