Here are ten ways to use an online community app to raise engagement, delight customers and build your brand.

A website is no longer the primary way to engage online users in an increasingly mobile world. In fact, 90% of time spent in front of the small screen is spent using apps other than a browser. If engaging mobile users is a priority, which it should be, then creating a  community app that incorporates social networking and shopping features is the best option.

Here are ten ways an online community app can help engage your mobile customers:

Like minded peers

A community of like-minded peers

#1. Enable better online shopping experiences

Today’s shoppers are empowered more than ever before. Rather than being sold to, they want to browse and buy at their own pace without facing constant disruption from intrusive ads and upselling. Instead, they demand a highly satisfying and personalised experience, where they can engage with their favourite brands in their own ways.

         Why it works

Customer experience is the new brand loyalty, and great shopping experiences driven by a community of peers encourages repeat visits and regular involvement. A brand community app provides a better, more immersive and smoother shopping experience than a website alone.

#2. Give exclusive offers to mobile app users

Most brands encourage participation in online community apps by giving new members access to exclusive offers. While a well-designed mobile app provides a more responsive and enjoyable experience than using a mobile browser, you still need to get people to download your app and engage in the first place.

         Why it works

Exclusive offers, such as free items or discounts, are the foundations of any loyalty programme or online community that enables social shopping. Few people will turn down a real financial incentive, which is why you should strongly consider offering exclusives to your mobile users as soon as they download your app and sign up for the first time.  Welcome messages and inbox messages make this simple to implement.

Social shopping

Emulate the social shopping experience

#3. Create a social shopping platform

Social shopping is the future of e-commerce. It’s a methodology that’s inspired by the shopping experiences people traditionally have when they go with groups of friends to a mall or store. Mobile and social networking technologies can, to a degree, mimic these experiences, adding a more human touch to online shopping.

         Why it works

Today, 74% of consumers base their purchase decisions on what they read on social media. Rather than complicating things by having too many steps in the conversion funnel, brands are now turning to social media to engage customers where they are and turn this engagement directly into sales.

#4. Facilitate discussion around your products

To enable social shopping experiences and engage your customers, you need to think about conversations and relationships. These two core elements are what make online community apps so powerful. They’re social platforms first and foremost, since they facilitate discussion between members and help people make friends.

         Why it works

Since consumers often base their purchase decisions on recommendations from their peers, enabling open discussions and private messaging in your online community app helps improve customer success. They’ll end up making more informed purchase decisions too, which also means they’ll be happier with their purchases.

#5. Add some competition with gamification

Gamification refers to the use of mechanics commonly associated with video games in non-gaming scenarios. The most basic form is the ‘like’, which serves as a simple endorsement. For example, community apps often offer rewards or discounts to their most active users.  Simple contests and draws with brand prizes, are a popular mechanism for encouraging engagement.

         Why it works

People are inherently competitive, which is why Facebook ‘likes’, however meaningless they really are, give us a sense of accomplishment. It also helps enable peer-to-peer moderation by giving greater visibility to the most useful posts. In a smaller, branded social environment, it can even help you identify your biggest influencers.

#6. Let users add products to their wishlists

A key element of any personalised shopping experience is the wishlist, a feature which allows shoppers to save lists of items they’re interested in for future reference. Not only does this let them show their interest in a product without the immediate intent of purchase – it also enables comparison shopping.

         Why it works

Aside from the obvious benefit of improving the shopping experience, wishlists provide strategic value to brands. They enable more informed purchase decisions, particularly when shopping around for gifts or planning for future events. For mobile shoppers, it also saves a lot of time spent browsing on the small screen.

#7. Make sure your app is fully responsive

When developing your online community app, there are three main frameworks to choose from – native, hybrid, and responsive. Native apps are designed for a specific mobile operating system, hybrid apps support multiple operating systems, while responsive apps are basically websites. Ideally, you want a fully responsive native experience for the best user experience.

         Why it works

An app that’s designed for a particular operating system offers an optimal experience because it takes advantage of all the features native to that environment without adding an extra layer, such as a mobile browser. With a more responsive and streamlined user experience, members will be far more likely to engage.

#8. Keep users informed with push notifications

Push notifications are messages that pop up on a device, particularly a smartphone. Apps can send them any time, even if the user doesn’t have the app open. Push notifications can show anything you want, such as the latest sports scores, news updates, event reminders or, in the case of ecommerce, the newest promotions.

         Why it works

While you should always use push notifications sparingly and allow your mobile users to fully customise or disable them, they can offer a powerful way to engage mobile users at any time no matter where they are. Because we spend so much time on our mobiles, push notifications allow brands to be consistently present and ready to engage their customers.

#9. Onboard new customers quickly

Despite the fact people crave simpler experiences, purchase funnels are often still convoluted affairs consisting of an oppressive number of steps. To make the process as quick as possible, consider experimenting with social or email logins or, where possible, having no login or account creation at all.

         Why it works

To get people to engage without risking a significant loss of first-time users, you need to offer a streamlined onboarding process where logins and account creation only take a few seconds. The faster and easier the process, the quicker you’ll be able to get new members to engage, and you’ll reduce the chances of losing first-time app users.

USer generated content example

User Generated Content – My Gym Must Haves

#10. Promote user-generated content

User generated content (UGC) refers to any type of content created by unpaid contributors. It can include any content format, such as social media posts, reviews, videos, blog posts, and testimonials. Although brand representatives should be actively involved in their networks as well, an online community app is primarily a UGC platform.

         Why it works

UGC might not always be flattering, but it’s highly authentic. This is more important now that consumers have far more influence over brand’s reputation than they once did. It’s also led to an increased need for transparency and two-way engagement between customers and brands. Actively promoting UGC lends trust and authenticity to your community.

Disciple social spaces help brands enjoy all the benefits of community with an independent, valuable, and trusted platform in a safe space that they own and control. Start building your brand community by telling us about your goals.