WALLDORF — Branded online communities are playing a key role in improving customer experiences, according to a study released today from SAP SE (NYSE: SAP) and commissioned from Forrester Consulting.
The October 2016 study, Supporting the Online Customer Journey Through Communities, found that while current adoption of online communities is near 50 percent, most companies see significant opportunities in leveraging communities more effectively. A majority of the more than 700 business professionals associated with customer interactions surveyed expressed confidence in the promise of online communities to improve customer experience through the entire buying lifecycle:
- Prepurchase: 69 percent of companies believe that customers depend on access to community content when making purchases.
- Purchase: 70 percent of companies who use communities estimate that their customers have high purchase confidence, compared to 48 percent of companies not using communities. Additionally, the majority of companies believed that communities accelerate buying decisions (75 percent), increase purchase likelihood (73 percent) and improve buyer confidence (59 percent).
- Postpurchase: 66 percent of companies expect to increase purchase satisfaction by using communities to help inform purchases.
SAP is helping to enable companies to deliver increased value from their online communities. Last year, SAP released SAP Jam Communities, edition for SAP Hybris solutions, to expand a company’s brand reach by delivering real-time product- and service-related information to aid customers on their buying journey.
“Companies that are truly looking to delight their customers must be ready to meet their customers’ needs at any given moment,” wrote Forrester in the study. “Communities offer that unique capability to meet customer needs across their journey by connecting buyers with valuable content prepurchase in order to enable greater confidence during the purchase phase. This translates into greater purchase satisfaction, which ultimately drives loyalty.”
The study also found key areas where communities can effectively integrate into a holistic customer experience:
- Marketing: Communities help improve segmentation and targeting by providing a detailed understanding of customers’ desires and preferences. They also provide customers with user-generated content that has a more powerful influence on purchase decisions than brand-generated content.
- Prepurchase customer service: Typically, customer service is contacted if there is an issue postpurchase. There is an opportunity for customer service teams to impact revenue and provide a repository of knowledge — Q&As, FAQs, product knowledge — to better support customers during the prepurchase process. Communities offer a perfect platform for sharing valuable customer service content that can help buyers find the answers they need prior to making a purchase and help them avoid running into problems postpurchase.
- Customer advocacy: Customers that are able to make more informed, confident purchases experience greater purchase satisfaction. Using communities content helps boost confidence and satisfaction by offering customers opportunities for both pre- and postpurchase engagement. This stimulates greater customer interaction and helps drive ongoing customer loyalty.
Fiona Ashby, SAP, +44 (0)7775 011 910, firstname.lastname@example.org, GMT+1
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