You might think that selling your goods and services over the Internet is as simple as setting up an e-commerce store and waiting for customers to make countless purchases. However, online users have a great deal of influence these days, possessing the power to make or break your e-commerce success.

Therefore, it is increasingly important to engage with your audience, be it via content marketing, participatory commerce, social media interactions, or crowd sourced product ideas. But how else can you get customers to contribute to your online presence and act as brand advocates? The Next Web asked some top e-commerce influencers to give their opinions.

Helping companies to sell more

“Customer reviews will give way to enabled customer evangelists,” says Sam Mallikarjunan, head of e-commerce marketing at HubSpot. “Customers will actually give up some of their time for free to help companies sell more. As this happens, the power of the customer base in the company will continue to grow. It will fundamentally change the math behind customer acquisition costs.”

Mallikarjunan also believes that viral growth is an “untenable beast” that few have managed to measure or control accurately, but this will become more important if customer involvement continues to increase.

“The rise of the ‘customer centric company’ (that is, a company where acquiring and retaining a customer is the unit of economic value that the business is solving for rather than individual transactions) will naturally align itself well with customer contributions to power growth,” adds Mallikarjunan.

Long-term customer engagement

“Customers appreciate when you’re genuinely listening to their feedback and suggestions – and this feeling of involvement is integral to long-term engagement,” believes Griffin Thall, co-founder of Pura Vida. “Right now, our Create page is at 3,065 comments and people just write things all they want on here.”

Thall gives the example of some black charms, which came about through a customer’s suggestion and have since gone on to become a huge success. As Thall explains: “Some girl commented on our Instagram, they’re like, ‘Oh, my god, I suggested that idea.  So glad it happened.’ It’s cool that a fan wrote that and it came to life.”

Introducing customer participation

“Customer contribution is enabling brands to innovate much quicker,” says Daniel Townsend, founding partner of the Plum Tree Group. “We’re also seeing that innovation results in products/services that are a closer product/market fit.”

Although Townsend admits that several brands are only just experimenting with integrating customer contribution into their business models, some are already completely dependent on participation. For example, there are furniture companies that only make pieces for which their community votes.

“There are other companies that incorporate customer input as an element of their model,” adds Townsend. “We’re seeing this with what Dominoes pizza is doing with their Pizza Mogul concept allowing their community to submit and build their own pizza and then the most popular user generated pizzas are being made available for others to order.”

To find out more about customer contribution for e-commerce purposes, check out The Next Web’s full article.