When it seemed that the inevitable rise of the internet would transform the relationship between business and consumer, one of the interesting things to happen was the way in which the brand and buyer communicated with each other.
It was predicted as a dawn of a new era, in which the democratizing powers of the internet, and the rise of the role of social media, would empower individuals and make companies – and authorities in general – more accountable, a shift in the dynamics towards greater equilibrium.
Now, I’m not going to touch the subject of the internet and political communication. But what I do want to dive into is the transformative effects of the internet, commerce, and communication, and what that means for brands and retailers.
The offline years
In the pre-internet days, when you arranged to meet friends at a specific time and place, and simply expect – and in some cases hope – them to turn up without being able to track where they are from your pocket, there was commerce. There was no ‘e’ prefix and the only virtual shopping that was done was carried out in your head.
Companies had shops and customers would walk or drive to them to fulfil their shopping wants and needs. Communication between company and consumer was mostly verbal and highly personal, being face to face.
The plugged in present
After centuries of business being carried out – pretty much – the same way, it was just 30 years ago that the world wide web became public, and in theory the entire world could become digitized. In August of 1991, Tim Berners-Lee released it, for free, and would fundamentally change the world.
For businesses, that meant replicating their shop in the online world, providing ecommerce to their customers and consumers. But that wasn’t all. Because barely 10 years later, social media platforms were being born, that would again fundamentally shift our way of living, shopping, communicating, etc.
With the internet and social media, brands not only need to communicate with their customers across multiple platforms and languages on a more regular basis, but consumers now have a stronger and louder voice that can talk back to brands.
How brands and customers communicate
The strengthened consumer of the twenty-first century has multiple channels to communicate with a brand: the old school, yet highly relevant, tactics of the telephone and in person; and using the broad options available on the internet, such as email, instant messaging and public posts on social media; participating in forums, blogs, and community posts.
The very best brands and retailers broaden their reach of customers by providing multiple outposts for people to get in contact with them. And in order to build these spaces of communication, you need a best-in-class content management system (CMS) that is capable of providing rich digital experiences across all platforms, screen sizes, and languages.
A content management system such as Adobe Experience Manager. Adobe’s answer to a top CMS holds formidable features that simplifies the management of digital content while providing powerful personalization capabilities. It is generally used along with the broader Adobe Experience Cloud family – such as Adobe Analytics, Campaign, Target, Advertising – or is able to be integrated with other best-in-class platforms, like Salesforce Commerce Cloud, which connects third-party content management system components like AEM to support your personalized content across platforms.
And one aspect of Adobe Experience Manager that focuses on community building is the aptly named Communities.
Adobe Experience Manager Communities enables companies to create branded experiences from a large library of site templates. All of which can be integrated into your site to boost the communicability between a brand and its customers, and forging deeper ties to brand loyalty.
“But exactly which features does it allow?” I hear you cry. I’m glad you asked. Let’s bullet point them:
Despite the years of proclaiming the death of the forum, they are very much alive and kicking. Allow your customers to interact with one another, share tips and talk of related topics, helping to foster a sense of branded community.
Inform your customers and the wider consumer community as to the ongoing and recent news and articles out of your company through a blog. Blogs are also great to generate user generated content by getting your own customers to contribute to the content of your blog… perhaps through a reward system or a process to generate trust before giving them the opportunity to post their words.
Give customers the opportunity to share certain content with fellow customers – images, video, PDFs etc.
Keep customers up to date with the goings-on of all events and related topics of your company. Perhaps you can even put onto your calendar specific discounts and offers available on given days and times.
Your customers have questions. Just like the rest of us. So help them out a bit and publish a Q&A section, which is one of the most underrated aspects of an ecommerce site in my opinion!
Extended user profiles
Allow your customers to create and define their own account profiles. As a brand you’ll be able to identify and control which parts and functions of the website you allow them to gain access to, which gives you the ability to build cool, personal digital pathways for each customer depending on each profile.
There is even an option for the integration of your company’s social media feeds to be fed onto your site. And when used with Adobe Analytics, you can then tweak and optimize your content to boost engagement.
With Adobe Experience Manager Communities, bands can quickly create on-site community spaces with the aim of improving performance, boosting conversion rates, strengthening site management, and providing deeper meaning and value to your core customers. What more could you want for in a humble CMS?
There are fundamentally two types of community building pathways to go down on Adobe Experience Manager Communities: engagement and enablement.
An engagement community focuses on, yep that’s right, engaging your customers by informing, receiving feedback, and providing digital space for community engagement by members. An engagement community can be rewarded for their participation by use of scoring and badges, providing a pathway for a customer to gain certain benefits, offers, and discounts the more they engage.
The idea of implementing badges and scores feed into the growing realization that this gamification of ecommerce reaps plenty of rewards.
An enablement community focuses on online learning, which expands out of the functions of an engagement community while adding abilities for assigning content and resources for individual members and group members, such as tests and quizzes, access to analytics and tracking of grades and assignments.
One major brand that uses Adobe Experience Manager Communities is Playstation – the world’s most popular games console… yes, even better than Xbox, and that’s not my opinion but stone cold facts (which just so happens to confirm my preference).
Playstation makes use of AEM Communities with a neatly designed support page, which is not only aesthetic but extremely easy to navigate. Users are either able to search manually via the search bar option or through specified categories.
Playstation also features a press release page that provides shareholders with all relevant and recent information connected to the company. (Their latest press release – as of the publication date of this article – is interestingly enough all about their massive launch of the Playstation 5 console, which together with its fierce rival’s release of the X-fueled Xbox Series X will kickstart the next generation of console wars). Let the games begin!
So there you have it. If you want a serious content management system with serious firepower that’s used by serious brands, then you may just want to consider Adobe Experience Manager – especially if you want to create quality digital spaces for community building and strengthening brand engagement and loyalty.