Companies have long used qualitative methodologies to gather their customers’ feedback and improve a new product or service. But more than ever, companies are taking this logic even further: getting a broader scope of customers involved earlier on in the creative process and using virtual communication technologies to simplify the process. Indeed, according to the results of our study “Co-Innovation with customers: between interest and reluctance for BtoC companies”, user driven innovation is one of the top priorities for marketing executives today. Successful initiatives have taken several forms:
· Some have used open-source software to collect feedback on a project brief. HSBC, for example, used this approach while developing their online banking offer.
· Some have used contests to siphon out those clients best equipped to help them creatively. Calvin Klein hosted this type of “concept lab” to design packaging for a new fragrance.
· Still others beta-test before products are finalized. The Imagine TGV platform hosted by French Rail SNCF lets some clients test products and service during the development phase, so that these can be more easily adapted to the needs of the client.
Respondents identified several advantages to user-driven innovation: not only did they feel that products were better tuned to the needs of their end-users and thus better set to succeed on the market, they also indicated that their relationships with customers were improved while internal teams felt new motivation to be creative. Still, the idea is approached with a certain amount of hesitation by many executives: are clients qualified to participate in the innovation process and is it worth the time and energy to pick-up the slack internally? Will clients go to the competitor with confidential information? Here are five recommendations that leverage the advantages of co-innovation while limiting the negative aspects:
The more the merrier… Soliciting individual customers means time and money. Open your co-innovation initiative to all (auto-select), collect more ideas and increase your chances for success. With more ideas comes bigger potential.
Identify your participant… Clients come in all shapes and sizes: some have more technical knowledge, others are looking to interact with businesses for the “fun” of it. At what stage of the development process would this client’s ideas best be put to use? What kind of recognition are they looking for?
Encourage cooperation with existing structures… integrate your co-innovation initiative into your company’s existing R&D and Marketing structures to better supervise the contributions of clients and avoid feelings of resentment internally.
Define boundaries… Be transparent about intellectual property before the co-innovation process begins. Ideally, later stages of innovation should be reserved to a restricted group who has signed contracts.
Set objectives… before you begin, define indicators that will measure the effectiveness of your approach.