If you really want to grow as an e-commerce performer in Germany, you need to gain brand recognition. Significant sales are simply not possible without branding. However, launching brand campaigns in Germany can be extremely expensive. At FSG we therefore prefer to opt for a brand localization strategy with community management as the main boost. This way you kill two birds with one stone: you generate reach and user generated content.
Community management as a driving force of brand localization
We will discuss how we FSG uses community management for brand localization in a moment. First, a word about brand localization itself, also known as localization or localized branding. We see that newcomers to the German market sometimes think too casually about this. When in fact the secret of successful cross-border e-commerce lies precisely in brand localization. It lies in branding that is tailored to the local market and local consumers.
It takes more than just translating your brand message into German to do that. Brand localization is all about creating a brand experience that resonates with the local culture and lifestyle of the target audience. But also about finding your own unique place among all those, who have already established their brands.
In this regard, authenticity, credibility and relevance are extremely important. This calls for good local content. And that’s often where the crucial point lies. After all, how do you get good local content, which contributes to your branding, if Germany is not your home market? This is where community management comes in.
The insider community: the secret weapon
In order to satisfy the demand for good local content, we like to work with so-called insider communities. An insider community is an exclusive group of influencers and enthusiasts who are committed to the brand.
Here at FSG, we make contractual agreements with every member of the insider community. This includes not only the influencers, but also the fans, who are in fact just consumers. We want to be able to make use of the content they produce. This is the main reason why we are starting such a community in the first place.
An example: Paula’s Choice
One of the brands where we work like this is the skincare brand Paula’s Choice. An excellent example of a brand that creates brand ambassadors. In May 2018, together with community marketing agency Protein, we started building an insider community for Paula’s Choice. We have made some wonderful achievements as a result of it.
The Paula’s Choice insider community provides the brand with a lot of great “German” user generated content, in addition to reach and valuable customer insights. This includes photos and videos that we can use for other channels, such as the webshop, newsletters and social media.
The Insider Community Pyramid
So how do you create an insider community and how does it look like exactly? Let’s dive into it a little deeper. The insider community is built just like a pyramid and consists of 3 levels: high-level, mid-level and entry-level brand ambassadors.
High-level brand ambassadors
The top of the pyramid consists of 1-2 major influencers, with whom the brand enters into a long-term, commercial partnership. In case of Paula’s Choice, these are influencers with more than 6 million followers.
Mid-level brand ambassadors
Beneath the tip is a layer with 20-30 micro influencers. They have anywhere from 5,000 to 50,000 followers, are a good fit for the brand and like to identify with the bigger influencers. Micro-influencers receive free products and sometimes financial compensation.
Entry-level brand ambassadors
The bottom layer consists of 50-100 die hard fans. They are customers, consumers who are passionate about the brand and like to be part of the community. In other words, they are real brand ambassadors. These fans do not receive free products or compensation, but an occasional discount. For these fans, being involved with the brand is the biggest reward.
Insider community versus social media fanbase
The insider community is unrelated to the number of followers on social media. Unlike the fan base on social media channels, we deliberately keep the insider community small. There are several reasons for this.
First of all we keep it small, for authenticity and credibility reasons. If you start admitting just anyone, it quickly leads to a situation where there is no longer an insider community. This is particularly important for the approved fans in the bottom layer of the pyramid. At Paula’s Choice, we started with 100 entry-level fans in 2018 and now we have about 150, so definitely no thousands.
Another reason for keeping the community exclusive has a practical aspect. Very quickly, a lot of contracts are involved. In addition to this, managing a community is extremely time-consuming because of the large amount of personal contact involved. To give you a better impression: Just for Paula’s Choice we have an influencer marketer and a community manager working full-time on the community in our office.
Community management in action
The main goal of an insider community is to increase the brand awareness. Therefore, we focus the community strongly on creating content in which the values and proposition of the brand are visible. We also sometimes create this content ourselves, in collaboration with the community.
What does that look like in reality?
We organize all kinds of events that involve the entire community as much as possible. For Paula’s Choice, for example, we held special workshops and an interview session with the founder, Paula Begoun. We also do exclusive product launches, surveys, small “Tupperware”-type events at the homes of fans and activities around Glamour Shopping Week, one of the biggest shopping events in Germany.
We are constantly trying to find a topic that will allow us to involve the entire community in our campaigns.
Content production involving the community
A great example is the “Beauty begins with truth” campaign, which by the way was shot with a professional production team. For this production, we had fans tell us all about their skin problems and the role Paula’s Choice played in overcoming those problems. This generated wonderful authentic content, which we then used in our blog and our PR channels.
Ultimately, e-commerce is about sales. Even for us. Here at FSG, we work on a commission basis, so we’re committed to making branding and community management contribute to revenue growth to the maximum degree.
Speaking of sales growth. You might be curious as to what our approach has brought Paula’s Choice. Of course, we can’t give you all the numbers, but we see a clear correlation between sales and community. Since we started the community for Paula’s Choice, sales have increased by 10% annually. We notice it immediately when we are a little less active in the community.
“Worth” of mouth conversions
The result of good brand localization is the sum of its parts. Insider community management, social media, PR and content marketing go hand in hand and not everything can be tracked directly. Especially if you work with fans (customers) and also use print media.
This is why we created a new KPI: “worth” of mouth conversion. This refers to the turnover generated by new customers who used a so-called branded search or direct type-in. This involves filtering for customers who have not been in contact with the brand via other channels in the 28 days preceding the purchase. In short, these are customers who hear of a brand through impressions, recommendations, reading an article or blog post, etc. and decide to make a purchase. So a direct result of an increased positive brand awareness.
In the end, this is the ultimate proof that localized branding and community management are crucial for successful e-commerce.
Want to learn more about community management, insider communities or brand localization?
Want to know more about community management, insider communities or brand localization? Please reach out to Radboud Langenhorst.