The firms that operate in B2C market, meaning they focus their selling operations on individual consumers, often create online communities for their brands to be able to communicate with the customers.
For example, Starbucks created a blog My Starbucks Idea where users can suggest their ideas about product itself, experience or involvement with the brand. The members of the community then vote and the most popular ideas are implemented. At the time of writing this post, almost 300 of innovations have already come to life!
The consumers benefit from such online community as they have a chance to provide feedback to the company and actually make a difference and improve their experience with Starbucks.
At the same time, the brand has an opportunity to show that they truly care and listen to their consumers, which improves brand-customer relations. It allows Starbucks to progress and create a product according to the needs and desires of its consumers.
However, for the online community to be successful, it must be free of censorship and allow posting not only positive ideas, but criticism as well. This requires a great deal of commitment and courage, but if the brand is ready to so, the transparency and openness of the strategy gives additional value to the brand.