Structural collaboration with consumers: an evolution, not a revolution

Co-creation is hot. In recent years, the world has been witness to a whole host of successful co-creation cases. Doritos allowed its fans to develop an advert to be shown during the Super Bowl; Lay’s Crisps asked its customers to help choose a new flavour; and snack manufacturer Mora produced a new croquette in collaboration with its consumers.
Co-creation and crowdsourcing are high on the agenda of the majority of today’s marketers. They are seen as quick ways to experiment with a new way of working. There is nothing wrong with the approach but, in most cases, it doesn’t go any further than being just a trendy marketing campaign. The other problem with all of the examples above is that they were all ‘one-offs’. There is no long-term vision, nor an intention to collaborate with the consumer in a more structural way.
Currently, only 3 per cent of all companies have experience with developing new products and services with their consumers. In most cases, this collaboration starts with a pilot project. If the test is successful, the collaboration can gradually be built up in a more structural manner. Fewer than one out of ten companies that co-create with their consumers also use this collaboration for the launch of new products. We may say that co-creation is mainly focused on the initiation of new ideas. But even if consumers are more or less continually involved in the process of dreaming up new ideas, this involvement is still not enough to be able to speak of structural collaboration. Structural collaboration means that the customer is involved in all aspects of your company’s life, including the following:

  • Getting new insights. Explore the target group. Listen directly to how they perceive the product and service quality in order to optimize the commercial portfolio. Doing so also implies discovering new market trends and unmet needs from your most relevant customers.
  • Development of new ideas and fine-tuning of existing ideas. Work together with consumers to create new commercial value. By involving consumers in the product, campaign or brand development flow, you create a sort of self-fulfilling prophecy. The most relevant consumers decide almost upfront what they will buy.
  • Key role during implementation. Include consumers during the implementation phase to make sure that your interpretation of their ideas is done in a correct way.
  • Continuous evaluation and optimization. Use the voice of the consumer as a continuous flow of information to improve a number of smaller, tactical issues and to reshape the future of your company with your consumer as your primary consultant.

And structural collaboration pays off. Scott Cook’s article, The Contribution Revolution, in the October 2008 issue of Harvard Business Review, claims that companies are better able to solve all their main business problems if they collaborate closely with their consumers. The good news is that consumers are willing to help companies out with these efforts: more than half of them want to collaborate with one of their favourite brands around one or more of these issues. Moreover, recent research carried out at the University of Wageningen, in the Netherlands, has demonstrated that products whose packaging is labelled co-created with consumers will sell significantly better than equivalent products that are not labelled in this way. In other words, consumers have more confidence in each other’s judgment than in the judgment of professional experts within a company. And they are probably right to feel that way. In a recent study, we found that new product ideas co-developed with consumers score higher, especially on being relevant and fulfilling ones needs.
Next week I’ll guide you into the objectives and ingredients of structural collaboration. How companies get their consumer on board structurally, every single day and for almost all decision that need to be taken. So stay tuned!
An excerpt by Tom De Ruyck from VUE magazine, edition May 2013.
Find out more how we at InSites Consulting let consumers shape your business via Consumer Consulting Boards.

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