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Does your online shop enjoy the Apple store community spirit?

by Tim Rimington | February 10, 2012

I had a client brief-meeting this week where the client discussed the importance of building a community spirit for their online shop so that visitors had more reason to visit the site than simply shopping. This was music to our ears because it's a subject we raise regularly but is often put into the too hard basket!

The Apple Community Spirit

Apple. An amazing brand that has captured people's imagination the world over. Their products (love 'em or hate 'em) have revolutionised the way we work, play and do business. At the airport this week I noticed more Apple iPads being used than people reading magazines!

If you've ever walked into an Apple store you'll notice how they're always busy, full of people holding, playing and discussing products. I'm surprised that Apple haven't installed coffee machines!

The other thing you notice about Apple shops is that there's no hard-sell. Where's the cash register? When was the last time you saw a 25% off sale banner hanging in the front window? Never, they don't discount because they don't have to. People love their products and tell friends, family and business colleagues. 

Apple have created a community within their stores; a place where people congregate and discuss Apple products. Years ago Myer cottoned-on to the same principle by creating in-store beauty stations where women can congregate, chat with sales staff, try new products and have beauty products applied. Not quite on Apple's level but the principle is the same.

I managed DIY electronics stores for many years and looking back I can now see that our regular customers would congregate around the front counter during slow periods and just chat with the staff about new products, industry musings and so on. I didn't realise it at the time, but we'd built a small, dedicated community right there that would come together every Thursday night and Saturday morning. We'd use the opportunity to demonstrate new products or just chat about electronics in general. We would always make sales during those "community" periods.

Online shops can work towards achieving the same thing – an online community. Attract visitors and give them reason to stick around. Write fun and interesting blogs, open up your blogs to visitor comments and get your visitors involved with what you do. Invite them into the conversation. If they're passionate about your type of products (or whatever it is that you do), all the better and the more luck you'll have in engaging them.

I was speaking with Gail from Pure Earth this morning about this very subject. Pure Earth sell natural and organic products that a core group of their customers absolutely LOVE! But it's not so much a love for the Pure Earth products, but more what the Pure Earth products DO for these customers. Their customers report reduced skin irritation, no allergic reactions, better skin, and so on – if you're someone with skin irritations you'll probably know how difficult it is to find body care products that don't cause you to break out in a rash!

If your products change the way that people go about their business, you've probably got an untapped community sitting right beneath your nose. get blogging, activate comments, invite visitors to vote in online polls, create a forum - just action something that engages your visitors.

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