Virtual communities are marketing tools used by many international companies to initiate two way communication with consumers and ultimately build brand loyalty. In the past, there has been a vast amount of literature on the implementation strategies of C2C (consumer to consumer) virtual communities, but limited resources on B2C (business to consumer) strategies for success. The Global Journal of Business Research provided a guideline and case study with the roadmap the strategic planning for global virtual communities.
International brands must first follow the steps of the strategic planning process. They must clearly articulate their vision, assess where the brand is currently, set goals and objectives, define the work needed, define the organizational structure and redefine the culture of the organization.
Research proved that successful virtual communities should generate interest, interact with visitors and avoid commercial tones. Organzettes, a brand in the UK sewing industry, set four objectives for their virtual community: to reinforce consumer loyalty, recruit new customers, become a partner to sewing enthusiast and to discretely sale Organzettes sewing products.
An initial marketing plan was created from the analysis of the brands current global organizational strategy. In order to measure success, the brand weighed membership growth, visits/day and contributions to the community by members.
The next step was to determine the work to be completed and define the organizational structure. As a global community, the brand must consider the degree of adaptation needed for each element i.e. language and cultural differences. For the community structure, Organzettes referred to research established by the C2C experience. This research categorized B2C communities into 4 types: interest communities, relationship communities, fantasy communities and transactional communities.
Based on these requirements, Organzettes opted to partner with an international web agency. Management selected internal and external resources to launch and manage the community, a European marketing director and a web agency head included. The key tasks included project coordination, developing and implementing the global community policy, defining the common community frame and launching a locally relevant community in the chosen locales.
Organzettes also felt it crucial to involve local managers in the development and review process. Their role was to verify that each local community was regionally relevant and identify potential partners to run and promote the community. The local partners added another dynamic to the organizational structure. Local partners were used as ambassadors, event organizers and online moderators.
Once global brands, like Organzettes, followed the 6 steps of the strategic management process, they were able to successfully implement their B2C global virtual communities. With global brands, there are two sets of objectives and organization structures that need to be considered, those at the international and local levels. By analyzing the current global organizational strategy, Organzettes was able to clearly articulate the vision, define a community frame and develop a functional virtual community that met their objectives. They defined the work, organized the work and then implemented the strategy.
Arnone, L., Colot, O., Croquet, M., Geerts, A., & Pozniak, L. (2010). COMPANY MANAGED VIRTUAL COMMUNITIES IN GLOBAL BRAND STRATEGY. Global Journal of Business Research (GJBR), 4(2), 97-112. Retrieved from Business Source Complete database.