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This chapter is from the book

The Intersection of Content and Community

When shifting our view from the broad categories of B2C and B2B, we see that there are common factors that continue to be drivers in each. As Chapters 4 and 5, "The Community Stack" illustrate, content and community are two of these important drivers leading to a condition where e-commerce can occur.

Offline we select our communities of common interest for many reasons, and those reasons are replicated online in virtual environments. The Internet, in its relatively short popular history, is revealing an intriguing concept: The most popular sites are those that permit some kind of interaction, whether communication (e.g., chat rooms) or transaction (e.g., auctions). Those that contain static information have considerably less appeal than those that are dynamic and even interactive. In these chat rooms, auctions, and other environments, there is a high degree of interaction (content generation) and this builds a sense of community among the participants. This reiterates a point that the Internet establishes and reinforces connections between people; their sense of community grows out of connecting through shared content.

Users in communities intensify the value of their participation as potential buyers of products and services. To a customer, commerce sites that aggregate content from a variety of sources establish context, integrate content and communication, and enhance community value when they are asked to participate in some way. Edmunds.com is an example of a B2C Web site that articulates the basic elements of content, context, communication, and commerce.

To vendors, an online community provides like benefits: reduced search costs, higher customer propensity to buy, efficient targeting of potential customers, and a better basis to tailor and add value to existing products and services (Hagel and Armstrong). Reduced acquisition cost is another benefit enjoyed by the merchant and those in the supply chain.

When we isolate content and community to analyze them separately, the importance of metrics for each becomes more understandable. From this understanding of the dynamic interaction between the two comes the ability to leverage them.

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