Is Community Commerce the Key to Outstanding Retail?
First, to the question, how important is it for a retailer to build a community of its own, I would answer, primordial. In a land of plenty, it is important to be able to rely on a population of people who will stick around because your brand has become, to a certain amount, an extension of their own identity. By doing so, your brand is given the guarantee of surviving, at least longer than others who lack of it, amid difficult times and certainly outperform in periods of flourishment.
This brings us to the second question, how to build a community? There are two approaches to this: the first, addressing the community as a “group of people”, in which case, the answer is subject to vary because a community consists of individuals who are each driven by personal motives. That is largely unpredictable. The second approach would be to address the community as a “group of consumers”. And that is easier to predict because, irrespective of our unique identity as individuals, when we spend money for a commodity or service, we all expect the same things. Mere satisfaction has evolved over the times with the advent of technology and emergence of eCommerce juggernauts like Amazon and Alibaba. Consumers expect personnalisation and convenience.
So when it comes to community commerce, I believe it is not an “egg and chicken” story. When tackling the topic, retailers should focus on the “commerce” part before doing anything else in order to reconcile their own aim of selling the maximum number of things to the maximum number of people and the motives of their community of consumers. Successful commerce is enabling consumers to buy whatever they want, whenever and wherever they want. This is the promise that consumers are looking for. It was easier 30 years ago when there was only one shop down the road. In our current omnichannel era, it is harder to offer that same promise on every channel, without the help of the right technology. If you are assessing the market to find what fits for your business, bear in mind that tech should be a friend and not a maze to handle. It is the most efficient when it makes daily operations easier and enables a frictionless shopping journey on all channels. Once this is sorted, retailers will have all the liberty to focus on building THE story that we all look for as individuals.
Therefore, arguably, community commerce is not the key to outstanding retail. Seamless commerce is. And for those who have that part right, community-focus comes into play to distinguish themselves from the others that offer an equally frictionless buying journey to their consumers. It is indeed true to say that a brand needs a story. The more unique and firmly established it is, the more likely it will stand-out. If you take it down to a human being level perspective, we all have our own identities and should not derive from it as we interact with the world around us. I believe the same is very much true from a brand’s perspective and it is key for it to focus on where it comes from when penciling its own brand story. However, it is not the only prerequisite to win and keep consumers nowadays. Unified commerce is the key to outstanding retail. Community only comes later for tuning and make it all shine brighter.Anaïs Veerapatren