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5 Strategies For Enhancing the Value of Customer Communities
02/13/22

5 Strategies For Enhancing the Value of Customer Communities

In this report, the PSFK iQ research team explores the strategies retailers, brands and organizations can apply to meet their members with added value, activate their communities, and ultimately drive ongoing business success.

Looking across products, services and experiences, consumer choice and access is constantly reaching a new pinnacle, creating an omniplatform and omnibrand shopper mindset. Across today’s expansive digital landscape, conversations around community–not just membership but active participation on behalf of consumers–is one strategy organizations are exploring as a means to not only stand out but earn long-term affinity. To build the type of community that goes beyond points systems and one-off discounted purchases, businesses are testing ideas around how to better involve consumers in the decision making process, provide more dynamic rewards and create a more equitable value exchange between consumer and retailer. 

To activate their communities, organizations are involving them from the ground up, treating fan-based chat groups and forums as sounding boards for product development and spaces to discover new opportunities to act on. Further, with the proliferation of DAOs and community-owned organizations, consumers are recognizing the power of community stakeholders, and the access those memberships provide in terms of perks, profit and decision making opportunities. Meanwhile, cryptocurrencies, digital wallets and more defined use cases for NFTs have inspired organizations to explore the idea of ownership as access and how that can elevate their loyalty program by attaching exclusive perks, amplified services and limited edition experiences around a token-based buy-in model. Looking ahead, as brands, event planners, performers and creators look to generate ongoing excitement and build on long-term relationships, there is also an opportunity to explore the idea of digital souvenirs, connecting one-time events, product drops, or membership sign-ups to the promise of future experiences and exclusive access. 

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In this report, the PSFK iQ research team explores the strategies retailers, brands and organizations can apply to meet their members with added value, activate their communities, and ultimately drive ongoing business success.

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Key Insights for Growing Customer Communities

Consumers see value in participating in loyalty programs but there’s an opportunity for brands/retailers to offer more beyond standardized offerings.  

62%  of consumers belong to at least four loyalty programs, suggesting there is strong interest in the space.
PSFK Membership & Community Survey, 2022

When asked to select typical features of the loyalty programs they belong to, 85% cited discounts and the ability to earn points. Meanwhile only 32% said early access to limited-edition goods, 22% receive personalized services or experiences, and 15% earn recognition/status within that retailer/brand community, pointing to an opportunity for retailers/brands to do more with their program offerings.
PSFK Membership & Community Survey, 2022

Consumers want more out of their memberships in terms of added value, and expect to be rewarded beyond their purchases. 

The majority of consumers (74%) agree or strongly agree that retailers should customize their loyalty program to reflect them as an individual.
PSFK Membership & Community Survey, 2022

The majority of consumers (71%) agree or strongly agree they should be rewarded for activities beyond making purchases such as sharing feedback or product reviews.
PSFK Membership & Community Survey, 2022

Beyond membership, consumers want to feel ownership in their favorite brands and help contribute to their lasting success.

59% of consumers want to be able to influence the business strategies of the brands whose loyalty programs they belong to.
PSFK Membership & Community Survey, 2022

At the leading edge, companies see NFTs as a new touchpoint for identifying their most loyal fans and engaging them with exclusive rewards, experiences and service.   

40% of US millennials are both familiar with NFTs and likely to buy one. 38% of US consumers say NFTs are worth investing in even if they eventually lose popularity, and 27% are already investing in NFTs.
“NFTs Are All the Rage, but Who’s Actually Buying Them?” The Harris Poll, 2021

PSFK US Membership & Community Survey
The PSFK quantitative survey was conducted February 10-11, 2022. The audience were US smartphone users between 18 and 75 years old. The survey was a ‘basic census’ balanced in terms of age and gender. The 324 respondents had household income between $0-$200k.

For a copy of complete survey findings, contact: jeff.weiner@psfk.com 

Strategies To Grow Customer Communities with Best-In-Class Examples

Fan Focus Groups
A hyper-loyal and engaged fan base affords brands and retailers a dedicated and passionate resource for feedback on everything from existing products and upcoming launches to charitable efforts and corporate initiatives. Retailers and brands are transforming passive communities into valuable assets by inviting top-followers and fans to participate in discussions, AB testing and feedback sessions. These efforts strengthen consumer relationships but also unearth new needs and opportunities for the business to take action on.   

Complex Networks, an American media and entertainment company owned by BuzzFeed Inc., had built a community of 30,000 fans into a focus group for brands looking for cultural insight from the youthful generation. Founded as a bi-monthly magazine by fashion designer Marc Milecofsky, the publication reports on emerging trends in fashion, food, music, sneakers, sports and pop culture. Complex uses their Millennial and Gen Z readers as survey respondents to conduct market research on behalf of organizations such as Banana Republic and the CDC. In exchange for their participation, respondents are given access to exclusive virtual events. 

Elevated Perks
Beyond redeemable points and discounts, today’s consumers expect an additional value add in exchange for their loyalty and investment. By taking the traditional loyalty program and incorporating enhanced perks for highly engaged fans and followers – think early access to product drops, exclusive services and members-only content or events –brands and retailers are optimizing their most valuable customers’ experiences. 

Alibaba’s premium membership program, 88VIP, rewards their most loyal customers on their ecommerce marketplaces, Taobao and Tmall, with elevated services like free same-day delivery and 5% off every purchase. The virtual membership program gives customers access to Alibaba-owned platforms including video streaming, travel and food delivery, but it also partners with external brands, including Marriott and its Bonvoy rewards scheme. This type of ecosystem-centric loyalty program not only provides greater value for brands by giving them much richer data and the ability to compete at scale, but also creates greater value for customers as well. 

Ownership As Member Access
Among the influx of NFT use cases, the ability to grant exclusive access or privileges through ownership is reshaping traditional membership programs. By attaching tiers of offerings to specific NFTs or tokens, businesses are creating new models where initial buy-in translates to ongoing value, experiences, and services. 

Set to open in New York City in 2023, Flyfish Club is a private dining club where patrons purchase their membership using cryptocurrency as an NFT. Members purchase the NFT using cryptocurrency Ether and from there, the NFT is transferred into their hot wallet which grants token holders access to book reservations on Flyfish Club’s website. Beyond access to the restaurant, ownership of the NFT also acts as a valuable asset based on a members’ ability to sell, transfer or lease it to others on the secondary market. Moreover, the Flyfish Club is able to eliminate applications or recurring fees. Members will be able to enjoy the space's cocktail lounge, restaurant, omakase room and outdoor space. 

Community As Stakeholder
With the rise of DAOs or member-owned communities, the power dynamic between a consumer and their favorite brand or retailer is becoming a more equitable experience. Rather than joining a passive membership program, consumers are able to register their commitment to a brand, creator or initiative by buying into their business or supporting a piece of work via an NFT purchase. In return, these super-fans are awarded benefits within the company i.e. profit sharing and voting rights, and an active voice in determining how the community, business, or initiative grows and expands. 

LinksDAO is a decentralized autonomous organization for golf enthusiasts that raised $10.4 million dollars selling NFTs, which will go towards buying an actual golf course. The blockchain-based club gives members voting rights to collectively decide on LinksDAO matters, such as club rules and activities, selection of the physical club, membership rules, partnerships, admission policies and more. Token holders are granted access to membership both in the virtual world, but will have to purchase access to the future physical course. 

Digital Souvenirs
Beginning first within crypto communities and now appearing across more traditional events like live sports, concerts and even brand clubs, digital tickets or POAPs (proof of attendance protocol tokens) have transformed into collectible, digital souvenirs. By purchasing a ticket or membership badge in the form of an NFT or token, audiences are not only able to signify their early interest in a particular artist, designer, community or business, but also show authenticated proof of their fandom and attendance at exclusive events. For retailers, these POAPs are helping to identify brand enthusiasts and high-priority customers, and creating opportunities to share special perks, products or services with their most loyal fans in the future. 

The National Football League is giving Super Bowl LVI ticket holders a unique digital souvenir to take home with them after the game: a customized NFT featuring their section, seat and row number. The NFT, created in partnership with Ticketmaster, will also function as a digital ticket and similar to how enthusiasts collect physical tickets, now they can collect digital ones as well. In addition to the ticket NFTs, the NFL will also be auctioning special NFTs that commemorate past Super Bowl games.

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In this report, the PSFK iQ research team explores the strategies retailers, brands and organizations can apply to meet their members with added value, activate their communities, and ultimately drive ongoing business success.