Do customers who belong to a community buy more?


(Travis King) #1

I would love to pick your collective community expert brains on this tricky question that I’ve been mulling over for the past two weeks - Do customers who belong to a community buy more?

It’s an assumption that I’ve had but I haven’t been able to find any conclusive evidence and the feedback I’ve been getting from customers so far has been disproving it.

Maybe I’m just looking in the wrong places. But what do you think? Is there enough data to make that assumption true?


(rhogroupee) #2

This is a pretty good research paper on that subject (and it references other studies that say the same): http://opensiuc.lib.siu.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1178&context=gs_rp

I’ve seen some pushback saying that people who self-select to join the community are already predisposed to spend more because of brand loyalty, but I think it’s a two sided coin.


(Steve Bridger) #3

Big question and one of two ‘killer metrics’ in my book. The other being: are community members more likely to renew their (paid) membership (where the community is a member benefit).

I often hear people say ‘active community members are twice as likely to make a purchase’.

I’ve only skimmed the study that @rhogroupee signposts. I will read it thoroughly, although I can see the evidence base was limited to Facebook pages and LinkedIn Groups.

And…

I think I’ve read @richard_millington say something similar, too (but cannot find the reference).


(Nick Emmett) #4

Erica Kuhl of Salesforce spoke at the #cmgrLDN event recently and gave the following information about Salesforce’s community:

We’ve just started to put together our research documents for drilling down in to this for our community here.


(Travis King) #5

That’s a great study. Thanks rhogroupee!

I think this is a pretty important takeaway:

Data from this research at best may only represent a casual influence an online brand community may have on members brand loyalty and purchase intentions.

I’m going to have to see if I can track down Erica’s presentation as well. Thanks for the suggestion Nick!

And I love to hear what you thought about the report Steve :slight_smile:


(Richard Millington) #6

We used to tag a bunch of papers about this, can’t find where I put them alas.

Broadly I find most conclusions about this to be something along the lines of:

"community members are {x} times more likely to purchase}"

Followed closely by a disclaimer like: "although this could be correlation, it’s still pretty powerful evidence…"

And the answer, frankly, is no it’s not. It’s nothing.

It’s not proof of anything other than someone’s inability to escape their own biases.

The people who buy the most of your service, who are the biggest fans of what you do, who use the product most often, who stick around for the longest are also the people likely to be the most active community members.

It’s like saying ‘when we managed to get McDonalds’ biggest fans into a room to talk about McDonalds we also found they purchase 2* as many Big Macs as a random stranger’

These studies drive me crazy. They usually take interesting data and turn it into terrible conclusions.

So a few rules I’d abide by here:

  1. Remove any vendor/community manager reported ROI. The data is biased and they only publish positive results.

  2. Ignore any study that doesn’t include a control group or a method of filtering out the select selection bias. A more reliable study would be to take two random groups of customers. Invite one to join the community and the other not. Then study the impacts a year later (of the entire groups, not just those that joined the community!)

  3. Don’t generalise across all sectors. Customer service communities tend to do better than other sectors. Easier to demonstrate the ROI. Just because one sector does well doesn’t mean it applies to others.

My feeling is customer service communities and KM/internal projects/support communities often demonstrate a good ROI, B2B and innovation style communities slightly less so, and B2C brands in the rare cases.


(Rebecca Braglio) #7

In the last community I managed, the community members who bought the most were the lurkers. The most active members actually never bought from the company. While they were active in terms of creating content and engaging, they just didn’t buy (I had my own unscientific theories on that). The lurkers not only spent the most money but also made up the majority of members who used our auto-ship feature and logged on regularly since the launch of the community.

I should have done a study.