July 18, 2021

Benefits of Adding an Online Forum to Your Shopify Store

Building your company requires more than just a great product.
Of course, your product. So too does your marketing and your sales process. And having a well-designed Shopify store is really important as well.
But effective brand building requires more.
If you want to succeed, it’s critical that you connect with your customers, both current and future, leading up to, during, and long after the initial purchase.
More than connecting, you need to engage.
You need to add an online forum to your Shopify store.
In this guide, we’re going to talk about the benefits of adding an online forum to your Shopify store.

Go beyond social media with a Shopify online forum

You're probably thinking, "I already engage with my customers on social media, YouTube, Instagram, and other sites." And that’s great.
But these sites are not perfect. Even in the best situations, there is a level of disconnect between you and your customers. In spite of their best intentions, social media can sometimes be highly impersonal.
Customers don’t want to feel like they’re interacting with a faceless corporation. They want to know that behind your Shopify store are real people who actually care.
So what’s the solution?
This is where an online forum can really benefit your Shopify store.
Customers don’t want to feel like they’re interacting with a faceless corporation. They want to know that behind your Shopify store are real people who actually care.

What is an online forum?

Also known as message boards or online communities, many of your favorite news sites have forums for discussing the day's topics. So too do marketplaces like eBay. Amazon hosts a sellers forum for its Amazon Services, and there are hundreds of independent, dedicated forums for both buyers and sellers of the ecommerce giant.
And there's sites like Reddit and Quora, which are effectively giant forums segmented into thousands of various topics.
Essentially, a forum is simply an online space for chatting with other people. And unlike messaging apps or online chat rooms, the majority of discussion forums are public. Anyone can view the discussion. Depending on the restrictions in place, anyone can sign up and participate in the conversation.
Now, you might be wondering why you would want to add a dedicated online forum to your Shopify store. Can’t you just use existing sites like Reddit?
Online community PeerBoard

Benefits of adding a forum to your Shopify store

An online forum for your Shopify store is more than just a place for people to gather online. It’s a place where your customers can solve problems, discuss what they like and don't like about a particular product or company, trade ideas, and create and share content.
By adding a forum to your Shopify store, you create a place for all of the above to happen specifically for your brand and your particular business niche. You actively encourage customers to talk about your products, and you can speak directly with them. You can answer questions, solve problems, and deal directly with any issues that arise.
But that's just the tip of the iceberg. Here are five significant benefits of adding a forum to your Shopify store.

1. Engage with your customers

The number one benefit to adding a forum to your Shopify store is also the most obvious: engaging with your customers.
Consider the following scenario:
You advertise and market your product to attract a potential customer. You nurture that customer, sell them on additional aspects, or answer their questions about your product. The customer decides to buy, and you complete the sale. The end.
Right?
Nope.
If you want to make a lasting impression on your customers, your engagement can't stop once a sale is made. You need to have a strategy for retaining your customers.
By adding an online forum to your Shopify store, you create endless opportunities for engagement on everything from current or future products, trends related to your products, customer support, and general customer satisfaction.
You're not just providing your customers a forum but creating a community. A community that stays active and engaged on your Shopify store - not somebody else's.

2. Personalized customer support

A message board allows you to give your customers highly personalized support. Forums allow them to ask questions, seek advice, troubleshoot, view product documentation or tutorials to increase their understanding of your products.
But it's not just you and your team providing the answers. The best online forums include significant amounts of peer-driven support. Your most passionate customers are able to help new customers grow more comfortable with your products.
Many of those guides or tutorials we mentioned above are user-generated. And discussion among your customers also leads to sharing tips and tricks and how to get the most from your products.
When you include an online community with your Shopify store, you're giving your customers an experience - space to learn and grow alongside your company.

3. Product feedback, ideation, and future development

Of course, a number of your community's discussions will turn to customer likes and dislikes regarding your products. Or what future enhancements customers would like to see added.
Online forums are a treasure trove of information on what customers want in future iterations of their favorite products. Discussions also involve brands that add value to their lives, solve a problem, or generally make them happy.
Now imagine all of that feedback - feedback about your product lines - centralized within your Shopify store.
That's powerful stuff.
Not only does this information inform how you improve or market your current offerings, but it serves to influence future products you may consider introducing.
Take that a step further, and a forum lets you intentionally crowdsource ideas and ask for direct feedback. Why wait on your community to have the conversation when you can utilize your forum to drive engagement.
Host Q&As and post FAQs to start talking about what your devoted customer base wants to see in the future.
And your customer service and support team isn't the only group that should take the lead. Encourage everyone who is involved in your company’s success - IT, marketing and sales, operations, product development - to seek out that feedback and apply it to their area of expertise in making the brand better.
Customers want their voices to be heard. And they'll give their loyalty to the company that both listens and acts upon their feedback and ideas.
It’s like you're hosting one big town hall meeting and inviting your most valued customers (and future clients) and your internal teams to participate.
When you include an online community with your Shopify store, you're giving your customers an experience - space to learn and grow alongside your company.

4. Increase the customer engagement cycle

Too many brands worry more about making the next sale instead of trying to transition those sales into loyal, long-term customers. Although every new transaction is great for your immediate revenue, it won't necessarily sustain your business long term.
It's much more expensive to continually generate new business versus retaining your current consumer base.
An online forum helps you retain more customers by enhancing and increasing the customer engagement cycle.
A dedicated Shopify store forum provides your customers a place to gather and interact with other customers. As we've noted, they trade ideas, offer solutions and feedback, discuss current and future products, and create and consume content.
It's also an ideal space for potential customers to visit and gain a better feel for your company. The more active and engaging your forum, the easier it is to capture these potential customers and convert them into loyal, long-term fans.
Most importantly, though, your forum keeps your customers engaged. It builds loyalty within your brand. Even those customers who come to the community with a complaint, since the support and insights available through your forum reinforces your commitment to customer service. You can flip those potentially negative situations into a positive.
Creating a space for people to comfortably interact with others ensures they continue to seek out your brand. It establishes a base of consumers that will look to you first for product updates and information.
Ultimately, this leads to a long-term and highly favorable feedback loop from your most prized customers. That results in positive word of mouth and plenty of new potential business for you to engage with.

5. Enhance your brand's value and marketing strategy

Online community PeerBoard
Engaging with your customers through an online community forum can be incredibly valuable.
Beyond establishing customer loyalty, which leads to repeat sales and valuable referrals, a forum enhances your company’s online presence.
One of the most underrated aspects of an online forum is its impact on your SEO. Search engines are eager to reward sites that feature valuable site content. That includes FAQs, customer inquiries, online guides, and product tutorials.
In fact, every piece of content on your forum, especially user-generated content, can help improve your organic search results. This leads to an uptick in your organic leads with lower marketing costs to attract those leads.
In other words, you're transforming your online Shopify store into a powerful marketing tool that goes well beyond selling products and services.
In turn, you add a considerable amount of value to your brand, both with your customers and with Google.

The right solution for your Shopify site forum

So what are your next steps?
First, it's important to note that Shopify doesn't have a native solution for community forums. As with many other features, it'll take a third-party app to build your online community forum.
And as you might expect, there are a number of options. One app, in particular, is PeerBoard.
Offering one of the most complete solutions of any third-party forum app, PeerBoard goes well beyond a simple discussion space.
PeerBoard fulfills all of the primary benefits we mentioned above, for starters, while layering its platform with enhanced capabilities for growing your community. These include:
  • Creating insight communities to better understand how your current and would-be customers perceive your brand.
  • Placing your product development team on the front lines of the customer engagement process to inform the improvements and changes they make.
  • Developing a community that identifies and rewards your biggest fans and product and identifying affiliates that make the most significant impact on your brand
In addition to helping you craft the perfect online community - one which engages your customer base on multiple levels, the PeerBoard platform is rich with features and functionality. Several of the more noteworthy features include:
  • 100% customization from the branding to the community experience to the member data, you control the look and feel of your online community.
  • Seamless no-code integration with Shopify and site embedding functionality with WordPress or React/Node or other setups. API and Zapier integrations provide full community data access.
  • Ability to create and manage member groups, set parameters for access, reward members, and automate the overall management of each group you set up.
  • Support for rich user-profiles and a means to reward customer contributions with special privileges and badges.
  • Maintain a safe and productive community with moderator tools that keep the forum free from spam, harmful language, and harassment and abuse.
  • Establish either public or private (or both) communities with settings that allow you to define and control the access.
  • A host of additional built-in tools, including an intelligent newsfeed, language support for up 15 languages, real-time threads and updates, and an intuitive admin panel.
Beyond the robust menu of features, PeerBoard features flexible pricing, including free and enterprise solutions. So regardless of where your brand currently stands, you can establish an online community on your Shopify store to help take you to the next level of customer engagement.

Final thoughts

It's not enough to say you want to engage your customers base more. You must put in place the tools to do it.
Your Shopify store is the ideal spot to take that engagement well beyond your typical social media interactions. By adding an online discussion forum to your store, your brand takes the next step in its evolution - from creating a brand to nurturing a community.

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