Market Guide for B2B Customer Community Platforms

Originally Published on

Published 10 October 2022 – ID G00756621 – 22 min read

By Maria Marino, Michael Maziarka, and 1 more

Online customer communities are deployed to help clients adopt solutions and services, access support and network with peers. Product marketers should use this research to identify B2B customer community platforms to improve customer engagement and communication through digital channels.


Key Findings

  • While online customer communities used to originate within customer service, they are now supporting several use cases across the customer journey to scale customer as well as prospect engagement digitally.
  • Gartner has seen a 30% jump from 2021 to 2022 in client inquiries about customer communities with 60% of those inquiries coming from technology and service providers. Organizations that have not already launched a community need to understand what solutions are available and what capabilities are required. Those with an existing community are typically evolving the community to move beyond a support forum to drive a broader set of use cases including customer adoption, engagement, advocacy and growth.
  • Marketers want to establish a connection between their customer advocacy programs and the rich set of experiences being shared within customer communities.


To increase marketing agility and create customer communities that help drive engagement, adoption, advocacy and growth, product marketers should take these steps:
  • Work with colleagues in customer success, customer marketing, advocacy marketing, sales, product and service/support to define requirements for an online community solution that can span multiple use cases.
  • Evaluate customer community platform vendors based on the use cases that will be most important to your program, including integrations with existing customer support, advocacy and learning platforms; user engagement through gamification; customized branding; and peer networking.
  • Assess platform functionality and how it will be deployed (including a pilot), products to be included, regions to be served and access requirements for internal stakeholders, such as product, customer success and advocacy marketing teams.

Market Definition

Community management is an organizational strategy that creates value from consistent, ongoing customer and prospect visits to a persistent digital location. This is in order to ask and answer questions, provide feedback and access content that makes products and services easier to consume and be more effective. Customer communities are part of an overall customer engagement strategy that enables digital interactions across the customer life cycle. This Market Guide is focused on B2B customer community platforms that help providers foster continuous learning, interactions and support for customers, and often for prospects as well.

Market Description

Core community platform capabilities offered by all of the vendors in this Market Guide (see Figure 1) are:
  • Self-service and collaboration.
    • Features include federated/unified search, discussion forums, knowledge base articles and learning content, peer networking and events.
  • Community architecture.
    • Features include private and public communities/groups/subcommunities, mobile and multimedia support.
  • User engagement.
    • Features include polling/voting and gamification (awarding members badges and points for certain activities).
  • Integrations.
    • This capability includes APIs and native app integrations with other platforms such as CRM, learning management systems (LMSs) and customer service and support software solutions.
  • Administration and analytics.
    • Features include customizing the user interface (UI) to reflect corporate branding, managing user permissions and moderating member activity, content management, analytics and reporting.

Figure 1. Core Capabilities for Customer Community Platforms

The five core platform capabilities for customer community platforms are: Self-service and collaboration, community architecture, user engagement, integrations and administration.
Other vendors complement community platforms with additional functionality. One example is Bevy, who offer a community events solution to plan, schedule and attract community members to enterprise virtual events that grow and sustain community member interest.
(Note that other use cases for community platforms, including citizen engagement by public sector organizations, alumni or student engagement by educational institutions, pure-play product ideation and testing solutions, developer communities, and market research forums are not expressly covered in this Market Guide. However, some solutions covered within this Market Guide have been deployed for those purposes.)

Market Direction

Subscription-based business models in the technology sector spurred the need to offer customer learning to encourage user adoption at scale — and online customer communities provide an increasingly attractive solution to that goal. Based on discussions with community platform providers, online customer communities gained significant traction starting in 2020 with the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic since sustained, digital customer engagement became critical. The volume of Gartner inquiry regarding online B2B communities since then has remained consistently strong — growing 30% from 2Q21 to 2Q22.
Through our client interactions, we find that organizations tend to fall into one of two categories:
  1. Companies without an online community that are exploring the best practices for establishing one, the internal resources required, and also want to understand what criteria to apply in their vendor evaluation.
  2. Organizations that invested in communities but often by individual departments serving a specific use case or product (such as a support forum sponsored by customer support/service or an advocacy community sponsored by marketing). These organizations are looking to expand on their original use case, or for consolidation and scale.
Gartner anticipates interest in B2B customer community platforms continuing to increase from 2022 through 2027 at the same rate we saw from 2021 through 2022. Online communities have become integral for many services and solutions that rely on a subscription-based revenue model.1 While a majority of our client inquiries are by software organizations that account for 58% of community inquiry volume since 2020, we are seeing a long tail of interest from other sectors including IT services, hardware/equipment, professional services and telecom. This same trend is reflected in the industries served by community platform vendors, as shown in Table 1.
Key market developments include:
  • Pricing. Most of the community vendors have settled on a three-tier, flat-rate pricing structure that supports an unlimited number of vendors. However, there is no consistency between vendors in terms of what defines a tier, making it very difficult for buyers to forecast their needs. The pricing tiers, depending on the vendor, could be set by the number of page views, annual visits, API calls, number of admin seats, features, and even single sign-on (SSO) connections. Discourse is the only vendor that charges based on hosting (as the platform itself is open-source).
  • Large tech companies have established communities but are looking to evolve them or rationalize their approach. The vendors who serve the large tech company segment report that most of the business in this segment is migration from another community (about 70%), but for the midmarket segment the balance is more equal between net new communities being established versus migrations.
  • The changing community buyer. Many vendors still see a majority of buyers coming from customer service or customer success teams, but also report a rise in the percentage (roughly one-third) that are in the marketing function. The responsibility for community management is increasingly a formal role, with one vendor offering a practice certification.
  • Competition. Some community platform vendors are taking a “complementary” approach with other community providers. Examples include Influitive and Bevy who often co-serve the same customers while supporting specific use cases (advocacy and events, respectively). Influitive have integrated with Khoros and Salesforce communities to make it easier for customers to take advantage of both platforms.
  • Merger and acquisition (M&A) activityM&A activity in this space has followed two trends:
    • Portfolio providers adding community to their offering (such as Gainsight acquiring inSided in 2022).
    • Community providers combining (such as the acquisition of Vanilla Forums by Higher Logic).
  • Challenges for community platform expansion beyond the tech sector and North America/EMEA. Most of the demand for online communities remains in the technology sector — accounting for over 50% of the customers reported by the vendors covered in this Market Guide. Approximately 95% of the purchasing demand for customer communities remains concentrated in North America (75%) and EMEA (20%) with the remaining fraction in Asia/Pacific.

Market Analysis

The scope of customer community platforms continues to expand with many providers now positioning the platform as digital customer life cycle engagement.
The vendors themselves divide into two broad categories:
  1. Product portfolios or bundles encompassing a community solution — inSidedKhorosSalesforce, Standing on Giants, Verint.
  2. Pure-play platforms — DiscourseHigher Logic, Influitive.
Regardless of approach, all of the vendors profiled here can support engagement across the entire customer journey — from onboarding customers, guiding adoption, soliciting product feedback, providing support, offering interactions through events and prompting customer advocacy (see Figure 2).

Figure 2. Community Use Cases

The increasing scope of community use cases starts with product ideation and moves on to onboarding/adoption, networking, advocacy and finally support.
Communities will often make some or all of the community publicly available to help build brand awareness and to expose potential buyers to a thriving postsale experience.
Customer communities are ideally leveraged by multiple teams across the organization. They allow these functions (customer service/support/care, product management, customer success, customer experience, customer marketing and even licensing renewals) to create a bridge across functional silos and deliver unified customer engagement. Internally, communities create the ability for all customer-facing functions to tap into insights, contribute to the customer experience, and monitor customer behaviors.
Historically, B2B organizations turned to customer community platforms when they wanted to reduce customer service costs through call deflection by offering self-service resources as well as peer support via community members. Increasingly, organizations are deploying communities to scale their ability to help customers achieve value and deliver product education and adoption guidance, as well as prompt customer advocacy.
Figure 3 shows this evolution, beginning with basic support forums, to broader customer engagement. More recently, these platforms have moved from offering experiences via a hub model with a single entry point to inviting community interactions via multiple entry points — the “community everywhere” concept. This shift was first seen with “federated search” which many vendors now offer — meaning the search function pulls from many sources, not just the community itself, to present results. Now, vendors are looking to embed the community experience not solely via a login to a community “site” but natively across the entire customer journey. “Community everywhere” means the ability to embed and interact with the community in any customer digital channel and within the product, including the website, on social media, through events, via a customer support chatbot and messaging channels like Slack. Community everywhere means truly engaging with the community in two-way interactions without having to leave that channel, not just a link or a push of community content into that channel.

Figure 3. Market Analysis: Customer Community Use-Case Evolution

When looking at the customer community use-case evolution, we see that between 2000 and 2015 there were customer support forums, followed by digital customer engagement between 2016 and 2019. From 2020 until 2025, there is customer life cycle engagement and beyond 2027 it is community everywhere.

Representative Vendors

The vendors listed in this Market Guide do not imply an exhaustive list. This section is intended to provide more understanding of the market and its offerings.

Market Introduction

Use Table 1 as a quick reference guide to customer community platform providers, their products and the industries they predominantly serve.2 (See Note 1 regarding Gartner’s vendor selection and market coverage.)

Table 1: Representative Vendors in the Customer Community Platform Market

Industries Served by Community Product*
Example Customers
Geographic Presence (Customers Served)
Discourse forums/discussion platform
  • Technology (41%)
  • Web3/Crypto (12%)
  • Education (10%)
  • Gaming (6%)
  • Healthcare (5%)
  • Banking/Financial Services (5%)
Cartalk, Elastic, New Relic, Nubank, Samsung, Western Digital
  • EMEAR (19%)
  • North America (70%)
  • Latin America (1%)
  • APAC (10%)
Higher Logic Vanilla
  • Technology (33%)
  • Services (19%)
  • Manufacturing (8%)
  • Banking/Financial Services (6%)
  • Media (5%)
  • Retail (5%)
Expensify, F-Secure, IBM, Microsoft, MURAL, Nokia, Oracle, Pipedrive, Qualtrics, Red Hat, Smartsheet, TeamViewer
  • EMEAR (16%)
  • North America (78%)
  • Latin America (0.2%)
  • APAC (6%)
AdvocateHub (community platform), Virtual EventHub (live digital events)
  • Technology (79%)
  • Services (8%)
Adobe, Broadcom-Symantec, Cisco, Commvault, Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Jamf, Qlik, Verint, VMware, Webroot
  • EMEAR (7%)
  • North America (92%)
  • Latin America (0.5%)
  • APAC (1%)
inSided Customer Community Hub
Technology (99%)
Freshworks, Gong, LinkedIn, Looker, Mixpanel,, Sprout Social, T-Mobile USA, Zapier
  • EMEAR (36%)
  • North America (62%)
  • Latin America (1%)
  • APAC (1%)
Khoros Communities, Khoros Care
  • Technology (34%)
  • Communications (13%)
  • Telecommunications (13%)
  • Services (10%)
  • Retail (7%)
  • Manufacturing (5%)
  • Media (5%)
Airbnb, Alteryx, eBay, HP Inc., Intuit, Microsoft, Qlik, Samsung, SAS, Southwest Airlines, Splunk
  • EMEAR (23%)
  • North America (69%)
  • APAC (8%)
(Note: Vendor does not track Latin America separately from North America)
Experience Cloud
[Salesforce does not disclose]
Farmers Insurance, Mahou San Miguel, Pearson, State of Rhode Island, Tenable, Volvo Group
[Salesforce does not disclose]
Community Launch
  • Banking (14%)
  • Services (29%)
  • Technology (29%)
  • Utilities (29%)
Airbnb, Checkatrade, Clippd, E.ON Next, O2, Tesco Bank, Utilita
  • EMEAR (86%)
  • North America (14%)
Verint Community
Technology (70%)
Agilent, Analog Devices, Element14, Garmin, Lenovo, Microsoft, Nordic Semiconductor, Olympus, Sage, SolarWinds, Sophos, SugarCRM
  • EMEAR (20%)
  • North America (80%)
*Note: only industries that represented 5% or more of the vendor’s customer base are shown here. Percentages may not add up to 100% because of rounding.
APAC = Asia/Pacific; EMEAR = Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Russia.
Source: Gartner (October 2022)

Vendor Profiles


Discourse’s solution includes a broad set of capabilities, such as private and public groups, community forums, integrated knowledge base, gamification, moderation workflows, ideation, digests, analytics and UI customization. Community members can embed images, video and audio content in discussion posts. Since Discourse utilizes a plug-in-based architecture, the product is flexible and highly extensible to address the customization needs of its customers without the need to program. One example of this is an online events integration via a Zoom webinar plug-in. Also new this past year, is a native, integrated chat channel.
Vision and Roadmap: Discourse is focused on providing a robust, open-source community platform that delivers a streamlined user experience (UX) that is also easily customizable. Its product roadmap is heavily influenced by its open-source community, but plans to continue to extend its integration of synchronous and asynchronous communication, and simplified community setup.
Pricing Model: The Discourse product is 100% open-source software and the company offers six tiers for hosted packages — BasicStandardBusinessStandard Enterprise, Enhanced Enterprise, as well as Amazon Web Services (AWS) hosting. Each tier scales based on number of page views per month, storage and number of admins.

Higher Logic Vanilla

Higher Logic acquired Vanilla in May 2021, launching the new B2B brand Higher Logic Vanilla in May 2022. In 2022, the product was expanded to include federated search across multiple external sources (for example, LMS, blogs, knowledge base) outside the community, as well as notable integrations with Salesforce and Productboard. Multilingual communities are also supported. Higher Logic enables personalized member experiences that can be targeted by personal role and journey stage, starting with the carousel and widgets displayed on the homepage, which leaderboard is displayed, and this personalization persists throughout the community.
The solution includes a standard set of capabilities, such as forums, knowledge base, ideation and voting, gamification, groups and moderation. Reward fulfillment can be automated via an integration to Sendoso (or any vendor via Zapier). Analytics support multiple views (like engagement, region), categories (new users), or by user. User activity data can sync back to Salesforce and the account record. To help customers realize value, Higher Logic Vanilla provides a dedicated implementation project manager and customer success manager (CSM) for every account.
Vision and Roadmap: Higher Logic Vanilla’s vision is a community as a customer experience hub, which also drives value in the form of cost reduction, retention and customer acquisition. The roadmap will continue to expand the federated search capability with a custom API and additional integrations, user lists and tagging to specifically identify customer advocates, along with automated engagement emails to members, enhanced analytics for groups and events, a knowledge base widget and support portal.
Pricing Model: Four pricing tiers (EssentialCorporateEnterpriseEnterprise Plus) are based on features and security options.


While Influitive covers all core community platform capabilities, it focuses on customer advocacy with advanced gamification and targeting capabilities paired with rewards (including integration with reward fulfillment vendors). Influitive’s segmentation engine enables personalized content (like leaderboards, product news, Net Promoter Score [NPS] surveys, blog posts) and targeted challenges based on which action you want members to take (such as testimonials or social sharing). In step with the evolution of “community experience everywhere,” components of the Influitive platform can be embedded via JavaScript API into the customer’s product or any digital channel.
Since the 2021 Market Guide, Influitive has launched a refreshed UI and a new chat experience.
The majority of its customers are in high tech, although it serves a variety of industries. Influitive offers a dedicated CSM for every account and a free set of services including on-demand training in addition to “master classes.”
Vision and Roadmap: Influitive’s roadmap includes deeper integration of member activity into Salesforce and a new integration with Khoros community. This is so that actions in either platform can contribute to points plus Influitive challenge and reward components can be added to any page on the community site.
Pricing Model: Two flat-rate monthly pricing tiers are offered. Customer Advocacy is the entry-level product, and Customer Community adds additional features like discussions and forum moderation. Community Launch Essentials and Launch Premium are flat rate implementation package options that are always sold with the platform.


Founded in 2010, inSided was acquired by Gainsight in 2022 to complement its portfolio and add a community-led growth strategy for its customers (Gainsight already used the inSided solution for its own community). The company positions the community solution as the central destination to span the customer journey and centralize resources. It includes Q&A, knowledge base, event management (virtual or physical), public and private groups, and product feedback and release notes. Furthermore, the platform connects to external sources with federated search, like education technology/LMS, blogs and documents. The solution extends to support digital product adoption through an in-app widget that allows content to be pulled from the community and embedded natively in the customer’s application (without having to be redirected into the community).
Vision and Roadmap: inSided sees its platform as providing a single “success hub” that engages customers at every stage of the life cycle for both public and private communication. When integrated with Gainsight’s Customer 360 platform, customer data can flow back and forth to enable customer-facing teams to better identify accounts that need their help (versus the accounts that can be helped by peers within the community). inSided’s roadmap includes the ability to build and utilize customer segments based on usage and customer success data. It can also provide contextually relevant content based on customer journey attributes and private spaces for collaboration.
Pricing Model: In addition to a limited freemium version, inSided offers three packages (ProfessionalBusiness and Enterprise) that scale based on the number of admins, features included, and customer success.


Khoros has invested in capabilities for larger, and possibly more complex, customer communities that can encompass product- and region-specific subcommunities. This includes support for nested categories, event integration, integration directly with and within your product, and ability to syndicate content to other channels. It provides accelerated community management through the integration of its Khoros Care products for automated workflows for streamlining and routing approval, response and resolution of posts. The Khoros community is complemented by a customer success and service program designed to help customers launch and improve over time using a maturity model.
Vision and Roadmap: Khoros’s vision is to provide an open and extendable customer community platform that can be embedded more deeply into the brand experience. In addition to a range of planned functionality within the platform, it is also working on a headless version, enabling “community as a service.” Coupled with no-code/low-code tools that make it easier to embed community elements, it plans to help customers create unique digital experiences for different audiences easily and quickly.
Pricing Model: Khoros offers three packages (Build, Grow and Accelerate), in addition to a freemium option. The three tiers are based on the number of total annual visits and increasing number of features included.


Salesforce first launched communities in 2013 as a “peer-to-peer portal” to help organizations drive collaboration among their customers and partners. In 2021, Salesforce moved its community product into an application suite called Experience Cloud. The goal of Experience Cloud as an umbrella solution is twofold. First, to break down experience siloes, enabling the launch of personalized and connected microsites, portals, industry-specific communities and mobile apps. Second, Experience Cloud provides a data feed of community usage insight into CRM platforms and/or customer data platforms (CDPs) that provide improved customer understanding through the midpoint of the customer journey.
Industry-specific communities (like retail, manufacturing, insurance, among others) are offered as “out of the box” (OOTB) solutions. Industry-specific communities are prealigned to common member needs and processes. Experience Cloud has a wide range of gamification, personalization, moderation and content management built in a low-code/no-code architecture base.
Vision and Roadmap: Since Salesforce Experience Cloud refers to a broad digital experience platform, the roadmap is not necessarily specific to online customer communities. It includes improvements in content management, enhanced personalization features and extension/provision to its content distribution network (CDN) capability.
Pricing Model: Salesforce offers the following four pricing options — User-Based, Consumption-Based, Fixed Additional Fee and Industry BundlingExperience Cloud pricing options can be partially customer formulated based on number of users (or logins), required customization and member consumption rates.

Standing on Giants

Standing on Giants (SOG) offers both a community platform as well as community management as a service and strategic consulting for communities. These services can be platform-agnostic, meaning they are also offered in support of third-party community platforms. The SOG community product includes all of the standard capabilities (member profiles, discussions, knowledge base and gamification). SOG offers a Community Launch product, which bundles community strategy and planning services, the platform and the ongoing community management.
Vision and Roadmap: Planning platform additions include sign-in from Google, Microsoft and Twitch, event enablement supporting registration, enhanced reactions to community posts and a step-by-step new member registration process.
Pricing Model: There is just one pricing tier with unlimited members and all platform features. Pricing varies based on the combination of services provided.


Although Verint offers its customer community platform stand-alone, customers using other Verint solutions will benefit from the existing and planned integrations with the rest of Verint’s portfolio, especially in the customer service and customer experience domains. Verint has a strong microsite approach it calls “groups” that can be public (either open/closed) or private (either listed [visible] or unlisted). Customers are assigned a dedicated customer success manager and have the option to purchase professional services engagements.
Since the 2021 Market Guide, Verint has released enhancements in security (SSO version 3), as well as moderation improvements, member management, REST API Scopes, file uploads and member scoring. In addition, Verint continues to expand its marketplace for add-ons, integrations and extensions.
Vision and Roadmap: There are added integrations planned with Experience Management (XM)Workforce Management (WFM) and Intelligent Virtual Assistant (IVA), as well as improvements to the overall community UI/UX. Verint is promoting simplified integrations into other parts of the Verint platform allowing a seamless experience if the user jumps channels. There is also the introduction of an “email studio” with scripted email templates, enhanced content management with content assignment capabilities, reporting and integrations into the marketing technology (martech) stack (such as HubSpot).
Pricing Model: A free entry-level solution supports up to 50 users. From there, customers can choose from three flat-rate pricing tiers (Basic, Professional, Enterprise), which scale based on the number of page views and API calls per month.

Market Recommendations

When approaching vendor evaluation and selection, follow these steps:
  • First, determine which goals are most important to your organization, as some vendors are stronger in certain use cases versus others:
    • Customer support forum.
    • Scaled customer onboarding and training.
    • Product adoption.
    • Product ideation and input into product roadmaps.
    • Customer advocacy and social proof.
    • Customer engagement and events.
  • Next, define your customer community solution requirements by using the five capability categories listed in the Market Definition section; namely, self-service and collaboration, community architecture, user engagement, integrations, and administration and management.
  • Carefully evaluate the postsale services the vendor offers (like implementation, onboarding and professional services, and customer success) and determine which are chargeable items.
  • Identify the internal resources and if needed, new job roles that will be necessary to successfully implement, manage and continue to evolve your community.3
  • Evaluate solution options based on audiences, such as the need for multiple communities or subcommunities that will extend across products, special groups (for example, an advisory board), regions and languages.
  • For larger implementations, begin with a pilot and use a “crawl, walk, run” approach to facilitate user adoption. Focus on actions that provide the most value to customers, delivering the strongest impact.
  • Map the customer journey and plan where the customer community will fit into the existing mix of customer-facing touchpoints, programs and events. Where does it add most value from a customer perspective and align with their expectations for an effortless experience? Where can the community supplant and extend existing touchpoints? How will we entice members to continuously return to the community?

Acronym Key and Glossary Terms

application programming interface
Amazon Web Services
content distribution network
customer data platform
customer relationship management
customer success manager
Europe, the Middle East and Africa
Europe, the Middle East and Africa, and Russia
Intelligent Virtual Assistant (Verint)
learning management system
merger and acquisition
marketing technology
Net Promoter Score
out of the box
Standing on Giants
single sign-on
user interface
user experience
Workforce Management (Verint)
Experience Management (Verint)


1 Gartner client inquiry data from 2Q21 through 2Q22 using the keywords “customer community.”
2 Vendors were asked to return a survey to Gartner indicating which vertical industries they serve. Not all vendors mentioned in this Market Guide chose to disclose this information.

Note 1: Representative Vendor Selection

The vendors named in this Market Guide were selected to represent the B2B customer community platform category as they demonstrate the following:
  • Explicitly market their solution as a customer community product
  • Have capabilities in all five categories outlined in the Market Description section
  • Must serve B2B customers and support their users to learn, connect and advance in the adoption of the solutions purchased
Client interest and market presence also factored into the selection of the vendors featured in this Market Guide. The vendors selected do not imply an exhaustive list.