Private Online Community Lessons from Starbucks and Domino’s


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Increase Customer Engagement in Your Private Online Community

If you are planning a private online community for your business, your company may have more in common with Starbucks and Domino’s Pizza than you think.

This is not because all three are creating online customer communities, but they are all utilizing customer behavior to improve customer relationships and strengthen their competitive advantage. Recently, Starbucks and Domino’s began testing programs to increase customer engagement.

Domino’s Differentiates Its Brand by Helping Customers After the Order

Let’s start with Domino’s. The massive pizza chain analyzed customer behavior to add value for customers and stand out in a crowded market.

Question: When you have a pizza delivered, what do you want next?

Answer: Something to watch while you eat.

Pizza and movies have gone together for years. A decade ago, Papa John’s pizza came with not-quite-classic DVDs such as Weekend at Bernie’s or Don Juan DeMarco. It was an fine promotion if you were in the mood for those selections. Dominos has partnered with Lionsgate in the UK to offer a code for free streaming movies when you order a pizza.

By anticipating what their customers want next, Domino’s is able to claim a competitive advantage and increase customer loyalty.

Starbucks’ Plan to Keep Customer Buying

Starbucks knows that the more time that customers spend in their shops, the more coffee they drink, and, therefore, the more money they spend. In the hunt for more revenue, they turned to observing customer behavior. They uncovered a leak in their customer engagement cycle. When the batteries on customers’ smart phones ran out, customers left to go home or back to their offices to recharge.

To plug the leak, Starbucks is testing wireless recharging mats at some locations. By allowing customers to charge their devices as they’re lying in front of them on the table, Starbucks is keeping customers in their stores and buying coffee.

How Your Company Can Use This Approach to Increase Engagement in Your Private Online Community

There are lessons from these two B2C giants for the social CRM team at any type of organization. While they have extensive brick and mortar operations, your organization has the web. Private online customer or member communities provide businesses actionable customer activity data that they can use to recruit advocates, address customer concerns, and give each customer the information they need to be successful with the company’s products and services.

Understanding the lives, motivations, and online behavior of your target audiences (customers, channel partners, prospects, etc.) can lead to significant increases in revenue, retention, and customer satisfaction.

5 Questions that Can Increase Engagement in Your Private Online Community

Here are 5 questions to ask yourself, your team, and your customers to develop content and processes in your online community that increase engagement.

Question #1) What Triggers A Visit To The Community?

As we heard Nir Eyal explain in a recent episode of Socious’ ProCommunity web show, understanding your target audience’s triggers in critical to online engagement. There are two kinds of triggers, internal and external.

An example of an internal trigger is running into a problem during the workday that you would like advice in helping to solve. An example of an external trigger is receiving an email alert letting you know that a new forum discussion with a keyword relevant to you has been started in the community.

Understanding what will and won’t bring customers to your online community helps you plan both your outreach and how you will build out the value inside your community.

Question #2) Why Will People Leave?

Just like Starbucks learned that people leave their shops to recharge their phones, you should find out why people log out of your private online community. What pages did members last visit and where did they go? Did they find what they were looking for? Were they frustrated or did something else get their attention?

If you know why people end their time in your community, you have the opportunity to proactively give customers what they want and address the reasons why specific customer groups disengage.

Question #3) Why Will People Come Back?

This is a fundamental piece on your online community strategy. Why will customers, partners, or prospects take time out of their busy days to log back into your online community frequently? This question goes right to the heart of the value that you are providing to your target audiences.

Getting somebody to check out your private community once takes extensive planning and solid execution. However, that is nothing compared to convincing somebody to come back if they didn’t see the value the first time. To avoid this problem, make sure to align your online community with solutions to your customers’ most urgent and pervasive problems.

Question #4) What Are The Different Community Member Segments Looking For?

Through interviews, surveys, and your online community’s analytics, businesses can determine the top things that each of their customer segments would like to get out of the community. Some want better support when they are stuck on a problem. Some want how-to information and education. Some want to help others in the community and build a personal brand for themselves.

Though you won’t be able to address everybody’s needs, uncovering the top priorities in the private community for each member group will enable you to bring those resources to the surface and get customers engaged faster.

Question #5) If People Take A Certain Action, What Information Might Help Them Next?

Think about the Domino’s example. The pizza maker understood what their target audience was looking for after their transaction was complete. Are there actions and resources in your online community that you could pair up to keep customers engaged? For instance, when a member of your customer community watches a specific video, is there a discussion on that topic to which they could be directed?

Companies that provide private online communities to their customer ecosystem have a measurable opportunity to maintain engagement and increase satisfaction by identifying the content, discussions, and other resources that would be helpful to community members after they take certain actions.

Online Community Takeaway

Customer engagement is a significant force behind improving relationships with customers, partners, and prospects. However, private online customer communities do not thrive when left unattended. In examining actions community members take before, during, and after they log into the social network, social business strategists and online community managers can shape the processes, activity, and information that will help the most amount of customers stay engaged and, consequently, help the company.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Joshua Paul
Joshua Paul is the Director of Marketing and Strategy at Socious, a provider of enterprise customer community software that helps large and mid-sized companies bring together customers, employees, and partners to increase customer retention, sales, and customer satisfaction. With over 13 years of experience running product management and marketing for SaaS companies, Joshua Paul is a popular blogger and speaker on customer management, inbound marketing, and social technology. He blogs at


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