The nineties were known for many things – Nokia handsets, the formal opening of the channel tunnel, the (questionable) popularity of the Macarena, and the radical rise of the world wide web.

It was this last cultural phenomenon that changed life as we know it. The dot-com boom revealed the power of the internet. As users flocked to the online space, it was an exciting time – tech was growing at an unprecedented rate, and investors were pouring money into internet-based businesses with the belief that tech start up’s were a sure fire way to boost profits.

During the dot-com bubble, even the simple act of adding a .com to your business name could hike the value of your balance sheet. 

Nostalgia or a need for reconnection?

Of course, that golden era didn’t last. We’ve come a long way since then. However, despite its failings, this era of tech, investment, and consumer values represented something that we still crave twenty or so years later. 

Whether we were always heading this way (as we hit peak internet and late-stage capitalism) or whether it has been exacerbated by the pandemic, there has been a noticeable shift in values and a deep desire for community and a return to a less jaded time, when the future seemed exciting, and anything and everything seemed possible.

There has long been nostalgia around the nineties, but this trend tells us something deeper. 

The Great Resignation and our shift in values

Since the pandemic, we’ve entered what we’re now calling the Great Resignation. Sanjay Raja, chief UK economist at Deutsche Bank, believes that people are resigning at the highest rate in the last 13 years. Research from Microsoft suggests that in the US, 4.5 million people resigned last November alone.

There’s been a lot of suggestions, research and opinion around why this desire for change has happened, but the same trends and themes keep emerging – the desire for deeper connection, better balance, and stronger community.

Many workers have shared their reasoning for the shift. Not wanting to feel disposable, the lack of innovation, toxic work culture, and loss of trust are common themes. This undoubtedly applies to consumers, too. 

Even before the pandemic, consumers were already displaying changes in behaviour and were looking to become more aligned with businesses and brands that shared the same values. Sustainable, ethical, and community-focussed businesses became less about buzzwords and more about a deeper meaning. This has taken further root in the post-pandemic world. 

The movement into metaverse

Meeting the needs of consumers in the ever-changing 21st century will take an innovative approach that calls on the values of the dot-com boom but that also weaves in our modern understanding. 

Community-based marketing is going to become increasingly important, especially as we move into the metaverse. Marketers will build worlds, and the gap between physical and digital experiences will become closer. Web3 is all about engaging online communities.  

The foundation of the three C’s

The dot-com era ‘three C’s’ – content, commerce, and community – are going to play a pivotal role for businesses geared towards stability and growth.

Without content, your audience won’t understand who you are and what you do. Without commerce, your business cannot thrive. Without community, your consumers may feel disconnected and like they aren’t part of something special.

The three C’s feed into each other continually and can be used to drive attention to your brand, inspire action, and encourage loyalty. And it seems that building an engaged and online community is exactly what customers want. The feeling of belonging, supporting a bigger purpose and being a part of a bigger conversation is valuable to people.  

This is evident in the rise of platforms like TikTok. In spite of its limited ad offerings compared to other platforms, it influences user action and purchase behaviour. The concept of ‘community commerce’ is the secret behind TikTok’s success. In this space, users from the same ‘tribe’ converse, recommend and sell to each other through subcommunities, such as #BookTok, #MoneyTok, and even #WitchTok. We know that brands can build stronger associations with their products and relationships with previously unconverted audiences by identifying groups with similar interests. 

So, where does your website fit into this? 

A website provides a hub – the starting point from which community can spread out to social media, such as TikTok or Facebook groups, Slack channels and Discord. Websites do not have to provide that community space; instead, they should serve as the connector, encouraging community membership and participation. 

Peloton is an example of a brand that successfully integrates community into its offering. The idea of cycling in place, alone, in an empty room, is not a particularly strong sell. Community awareness, boosting, support, and sharing help tether users to the service and spur loyalty. By putting the community at the heart of the product, people feel like they’re getting more value from their purchase. It’s not like committing to a year’s gym membership and then giving up after two months, so it reduces the likelihood of buyer’s remorse. Using this model, the exercise empire has a 92% retention rate – a figure most businesses can only dream of.

Websites become a key player for brands that want a jumping-off point, a marketplace, and a place to continue nurturing community by housing community messaging and relevant content. Social content is only for the moment, and eventually, it disappears. However, content on your website is (or should be) easily searchable and has longevity, thus demonstrating the depth of the community for those who may be hesitant to embrace other channels. 

Content and community go hand in hand. When you build content to encourage participation and belonging, the content should come from and be for the community – not the website itself, nor the company behind it. As with Peloton, if you can add in commerce, this is where the website provides meaningful relevance and benefit to your audience. 

With this in mind, everything your business does will tie back to those three C’s, and by designing for behaviour and human connection, you end up with a loyalty that is strong and lasting, one that resonates with what people value today – being a part of something bigger.

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