While entrepreneur Malcolm Bell admitted he and his partner "don’t know" the exact relationship between community growth and rising sales, he told delegates at today’s BrandMAX conference that Zaggora’s efforts in "building a community" was the most important factor in its success.
The company’s HotPants products heat the body during exercise to maximise the effort of a workout. It was devised by Bell’s wife, who wanted to find a way of improving the efficiency of her fitness regime under the time-pressures of working in the City.
Launched in July 2011 with a £30,000 budget, Zaggora now has 425,000 unique customers in 133 countries. By proactively offering free product trials on Twitter to 500 women vocal in their interest in health and fitness, the couple were quickly able to spread the message to prospective customers.
It’s great having fans, but ultimately I want people who are going to pay me.
"In the early days, it was all about building a community. We had no idea if the product would appeal to people, outside friends and family, but for us social media was largely free in 2011," says Bell.
"But what we had to do was try to monetise that. It’s great having fans, but ultimately I want people who are going to pay me. We needed to build a feedback loop, encouraging people to write reviews and share those on Facebook."
Bell claimed that 60 per cent of customers said that the company’s presence on Facebook had been an "important purchase factor", while Zaggora was also able to attribute 60 per cent of its sales to engagement on Facebook.
However, he was sceptical as to the effectiveness of "F-commerce" retailing on Facebook itself:
He said: "In terms of Facebook stores, most of the available research suggests it doesn’t work out. People want to want to engage and connect on Facebook, but not use it in another way. People are mainly browsing and they don’t trust the Facebook technology."