This year, the sense of community has never felt more important, or so strong. We’ve all struggled with lockdown in our own way, but it’s something that none of us have had to do ‘alone’. We’ve all been going through it whether you’re a working parent, a student, or a young couple. We’ve had to adjust to new ways of living and one positive impact is that we’ve all come together in different ways.
Backing your local community
Our high streets have seen dramatic changes over the last few decades but this last year has accelerated change. Local independent shops without a grasp on the importance of being part of a growing digital marketplace were starting to decline, as the drive was towards bigger consumer experiences, both online and at large out-of-town shopping malls and centres increased.
During the lockdown, online sales soared by over 30% with social media influencing the vast majority of these purchases with many businesses investing in targeted adverts to further catch consumers attention.
However, as life begins to ‘open up’ we are now seeing a resurgence of new small, bespoke owner-managed artisan businesses in our towns. These independent businesses are offering handmade, carefully curated items and the ever-growing popular artisan food offer. It is being recognised that a personal experience closer to home that provides the consumer with an appealing local offer, a face-to-face link, and is community-based, traceable and altogether one-of-a-kind is proving popular.
All our experiences have been driven by convenience, safety, lifestyle and choice. Being local was not a big enough factor to help small business be popular and survive before the pandemic, so what’s changed?
Little by little this important community connection is being truly championed and talked about. Those who have lost jobs or have adapted are riding on the wave of change, with the new appreciation of all that is on our doorstep, including our friendly neighbours, is providing a vital connection to our community with a sense of belonging and it is also fulfilling our global appetite for change.
But these new businesses know they can’t be complacent and to maximise the new opportunities afforded to them by a change in work life balance they must be socially responsive and deliver exactly what consumers want. Customer service will remain an important aspect of any measured success and one that cannot be over-looked no matter whether you are providing a national or local service. As consumers our loyalty will only last as long as the energy of the business owners to provide us with a good experience that aligns with our ever-changing needs, and an active online engagement will be part of this expectation.
Building online communities
Facebook has been driving the importance of communities and community engagement on its international platform, reminding individuals and businesses that this is the only way to ensure your followers will see posts in a busy marketplace. Facebook algorithms support these closed group with a high percentage of posts being seen by those people who are part of the group. Whereas in contrast the average organic post is only seen by a rather disappointing 1.5% – 2% of your followers in a Facebook newsfeed.
LinkedIn has also been encouraging groups but with less success, as the controls put in place prevented the free flow of information sharing and those running the groups have started to lose interest.
Within work environments, software is encouraging group chats, forums and team channels to help develop and encourage a relaxed environment for information sharing, that you may have had over the coffee machine in your physical work space as part of your office community.
Why do we have a need for community?
There is no doubt building vibrant communities, investing in local economies and valuing our environments by providing support mechanisms, desirable products and information sharing is vital and hugely beneficial but how we do this efficiently and effectively will continue to evolve over time.
But what we all want is a good consumer, client,customer relationship experience. This is something that will continue to be important now and, in the future, and may in the end be the only defining thing that separates our choices of where we hangout, and which community offer we support more.
Communities in all their forms need to align with our needs, make us feel safe, support us and offer what we want. There is still nothing quite like a wonderful face-to-face connection with a business, with friends or colleagues over a coffee because as humans we need those interactions to make us feel truly valued.
By Lucy @madcreativedesign – https://wearemadcreative.com/