It was spring of 2020 when I decided to upend my entire life. In search of a new career, a new place to live and a reinvigorated sense of purpose, I decided to move to Austin, Texas with no friends, no family, and no way of knowing what I was about to get myself into. To add insult to injury, I would be making this cross-country voyage during the start of a global pandemic, only to arrive in Austin and be on lockdown.

Searching for Community

Trying to make friends in a new city during a lockdown was not easy. However, once some of the COIVD-19 dust settled, I decided to get back into soccer — a sport that I’ve played since I could walk. In doing so, I stumbled across something called Sphere — a soccer inspired fitness concept that essentially combines calisthenic workouts with soccer, curated by ex-Major League Soccer (MLS) player Mike Chabala.

Mike had played soccer his entire life, and after he retired from the MLS, he began to miss the locker room community he had loved so much. “I was starving for the human connection and sense of community that I had in the locker room during my time in the MLS,” Mike recently told me. As a result, he decided to take the sport he loved, and sprinkle in added elements of community. “During this time other fitness concepts like Barry’s bootcamp and Soul Cycle were big, and I thought, why not apply a similar ideology to soccer, but make it more community-based,” he said. This is the side of customer experience I’d like to talk with you about today.

Here’s why.

Related Article: Just Because You Call it a 'Community' Doesn't Make it One

How Are You Building Customer Community? 

When building great customer experiences, we typically focus on the various personas that interact with brands, what’s important to each of these persona groups, and how we can build experiences that meet and exceed their expectations. However, one area I believe gets overlooked is the communal side of these customer experiences. Getting consumers to your site or your storefront to convert and purchase is only one side of the coin, the other side is how these consumers interact with each other after the purchase is made, typically through social channels. Or in the case of soccer, as Mike details above, the locker room concept.

As you prepare to take 2022 head on, here are three ways to help foster your customer experience locker room:

Embrace Your Personality

You can’t just be a pretty face anymore in the eyes of consumers. You need to embrace what makes your brand unique. It’s this uniqueness that inspires consumers to develop communities with other people who share the same interests, passions and ideas. I’ve said this before and I’ll say it again: your brand won’t be for everyone, and that’s fine. What makes your brand special is in fact that it’s not like others. This is the secret sauce to develop truly authentic relationships with customers.

Related Article: Unforgettable Customer Experiences Share a Common Trait: Authenticity

Learning Opportunities

Empower Social

Social media provides brands with the unique opportunity of allowing their business to take on human-like characteristics with consumers. The concept isn’t new, but it plays a larger role in customer experience than you think. As consumers become more connected to a brand, they want more than just a transactional relationship. They want to be able to share the brands they love with their friends, family and followers. Consider allowing customers to write reviews directly on your ecommerce site and giving them the ability to include their social media accounts as part of it. By enabling consumers to do so, brands will start to build and enhance their consumer community by allowing customers to find other people like them. This will provide positive dividends and help increase customer lifetime value.

Enable Influencers

Influencers are more important to building a community than you may think, regardless of the products or services you sell. This used to be called native advertising, sponsored content that typically matched the format of the medium where it appeared. Thanks to technology and social media, influencer marketing is the new native advertising. Brands need to embrace social media influencers and enable them to work with the products that your brand is selling. Influencers already have their own community of followers and because of this, when they plug or promote your products, the barrier to entry from the subscriber viewing the content won’t be as challenging. The trust the influencer has gained with their followers will help your brand transcend and become relatable to your potential future customers.

However, keep in mind that your product must fit the medium. A YouTuber who makes car review videos likely won’t have much success promoting motorcycle products. Sure, there might be some crossover, but viewers are tuning in for cars, not motorcycles. Be sure the influencers you work with are specifically promoting what your product and services provide for consumers.

Related Article: Apple Doesn't Hide Its Customer Community, So Why Do You?

Keeping Customers Connected, On the Field and Off

Consumers need to purchase products, but also desire the locker room community that many of us have experienced in our lives through sports. When building your customer experience roadmap for 2022, try to find ways to help your community of customers curate new connections — and have these connections transcend through your purchasing experiences. Your customers will thank you for this by consciously choosing to come back and purchase from you again.

“The reason we won back-to-back MLS championships in 2006 and 2007 wasn’t just because of skill — everyone has skilled players — we won because of the trust, connectivity and community that we created off the field and in the locker room,” Mike told me.

Create this locker room concept for your customers, and let the rest take care of itself.

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