According to “The Business Impact of Online Communities,” by Leader Networks, a digital business research and strategy firm, online communities are challenged to track metrics. However, data suggests a strong relationship to customer retention and driving revenue.
In November 2016, Leader Networks surveyed nearly 300 U.S. marketing and community leaders online to answer three key questions:
How is online community impacting business goals?
Are communities using metrics that resonate with business stakeholders?
Is there a better way to measure and demonstrate the competitive advantage your online community delivers?
According to Leader Networks, online business communities usually exist on an owned platform, have a business plan and success measures in support of business needs, as well as executive sponsorship, and staff.
This research led to the Community Impact Framework, a ground-breaking resource which for the first time gives marketing and community leaders a set of measures and metrics/KPIs that they can use to track and prove the business impact of their community – using vocabulary and methods that resonate with financial and business stakeholders.
Key Study Findings
Competitive advantage means keeping existing customers for most firms. 57 percent of marketing and community leaders reported customer retention is key for competitive advantage. What’s more, 37 percent of organizations have not integrated their communities with the company’s CRM system, which prevents community leaders from syncing interactions and data across the customer lifecycle.
There is a burning need for better reporting on community cost savings.
45 percent of marketing and community leaders say that their community reduces costs for their organization. However, an additional 37 percent don’t know if their community saves them money on support, customer retention, marketing, or other expenditures.
Communities are producing revenue – in substantial amounts – but it takes time.
Nearly half of community leaders say that their community generates or influences revenue. But mature communities have a greater impact on top-line growth.
Marketers are at the helm of online communities – which is an incredibly strategic position. Marketing is the primary owner of the community for most organizations (79 percent) although many other lines of business are involved in community initiatives.
Business-focused metrics are nascent – but a standard of measurement is emerging.
72 percent of community leaders face challenges related to analyzing and reporting data – and an additional 22 percent lack reporting tools.
“This report will help marketing and community leaders better prioritize and articulate the business impact of online communities, and showcase the powerful advantages that online communities can provide. The Community Impact Framework is an invaluable resource for anyone with or considering a community,” remarks Vanessa DiMauro, the study’s lead researcher and CEO of Leader Networks.
“We’re delighted to support this new research into a growing practice within the business community,” said Alex Parkinson, Associate Director, Society for New Communications Research of The Conference Board. “Measuring and reporting the benefits of new technologies is a challenge for most companies and is proving to be a barrier for broader digital transformation. This study helps companies understand the importance of aligning metrics with business objectives.”
“B2B communities, such as those that gather a brand’s loyal customers or like-minded business owners, are leading the way to demonstrate the role online communities can and should play in delivering concrete value for businesses in the form of increased profits and loyalty,” said Rob Wenger, founder and CEO of Higher Logic. “Higher Logic is excited to support Leader Networks on this study as the industry moves towards reinforcing clear models for building the business case for communities across the entire organization.”
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