Years ago, consumers had little to no say on how corporate strategies should be approached. Information was tightly controlled by corporations, and brands had control over their customers’ needs, desires, and what they were saying about their products.
Today, the emergence of social media has really wiped away that bland and one-dimensional culture, allowing consumers to have more power in order to share information about a company’s brand or product.
As more and more companies turn toward interactively selling their brand, consumers are more than likely to become loyal to that particular brand through feedback on social media. It is widely believed that through this strategy, customers are given a more rich and meaningful brand experience. In this spirit of “collaboration,” customers are able to participate in going beyond feedback to actually creating products and services.
A great example of this is Starbucks, who allows consumers to suggest a new and custom coffee recipe for the company on the “My Starbucks Idea”. The site can be found at, http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/
Starbucks seamlessly integrates their own customers into their everyday business plans by holding a brief public forum on what exciting new and customized coffee should be produced.
Another illustration is online tee shirt—selling company, Threadless. At threadless.com it allows the user to participate and create. Through participation, customers can give feedback on designs through forums and offer their tips and tricks on design, which can be easily read by the company. Through creation, customers can submit their own designs, an excellent way for the company to keep in touch and “collaborate” with it’s customers
All these strategies demonstrate that customers’ invaluable ideas are what matter the most.
In today’s day and age, the key is to win as many hearts and minds of the consumers as possible. It’s not so much that it’s imperative to gain as many loyalties, but even more so to have consumers immediately associate your company as a leader of an industry.
Another way that companies engage consumers in helping create better products and services is through “competitions.”
Many people love a good old-fashioned competition. It fosters creativity, motivation and the desire to win. Companies who market their product in a form of competition directly interact with their customers.
For instance, Qualcomm, a world leader in 3G and next-generation mobile technologies, designed a contest for University of Wisconsin undergraduates and graduates. The Qualcomm Innovation Competition required contestants to develop new products or technologies—and marry those ideas with tangible, market-ready business plans. Through this contest, participants can take an innovation from its early stages to a full-fledged company. Waiting at the end of the finish line are over $30,000 in awards.
Another prime example is Netflix. The Netflix challenge exemplified the spirit of competition through the Netflix Prize. The Netflix Prize sought to substantially improve the accuracy of predictions about how much someone is going to enjoy a movie based on their movie preferences. Submissions came from 51,051 contestants, 41,305 teams and 186 different countries. There were 44,014 valid submissions from 51,669 different teams. A $1 million prize was awarded to the eventual winner.
It is great for companies to turn to their consumers for product suggestions. It can help your company to reach new heights and, in turn, transform your customers into brand promoters.
Whether you’re a small local business owner or the CEO of a multi-billion dollar, bluechip company, try to figure out the best way to include your customer-base in any collaborative or competitive experiment.
It will bring in more loyalty towards your company and the customer will feel a sense of importance, being part of your company.