Consumer and Brand Collaboration
Consumers Want to Connect
As soon as something hits the Internet, whether it’s on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or the latest viral video on YouTube, people immediately provide feedback: positive, negative, and neutral.
Businesses test products in a few markets to see how their customers react. A fast food retailer may test a spicy version of a chicken sandwich and measure the sales of this menu item. Do customers buy it once? Do they buy it again? From these results in limited markets, the company will decide whether to put the sandwich on the menu everywhere.
But what if a brand promotes a direct interface with their customers about these new offerings? Not just talking to a person at a cash register (or posting an online review)—both of which offer little to no response or follow-up. Instead,collaborating directly with the brand about what is good and what can be better.
What new consumer-inspired innovations might arise?
In Real Time
Let’s take a look at an example. In early 2015, when I felt I was coming down with a cold or didn’t feel quite right, my go-to, feel-good product was Panera’s French Onion Soup—comfort food. A cup of that golden broth and cheesy goodness and I was good to go!
In October 2015, with chilly weather coming in, I ordered it again after many months. I was told that they had discontinued that menu item because it was considered seasonal.
That made my oncoming cold even worse.
I visited Panera’s Facebook page and saw that I wasn’t the only one missing it. A couple days after posting my disappointment, I received a note from a Panera representative that the soup would come back in January 2016. This was good response and follow-up from Panera to a common customer request.
One Step Further
Now, as much as I liked the soup, I had a few ideas about how to make it better. So let’s take this one step further. What if, as a Panera customer, I had the ability to interact with Panera in real time and suggest that the soup be placed in an oven so the cheese can brown, as it should be?
Like-minded consumers could then jump on that suggestion and elevate its prominence for Panera to notice. Another Facebook post wouldn’t do the trick; the percentage of Panera customers, even heavy users, going to the Facebook page is too small to get good data.
What if instead Panera used a specific social media and website interface that allowed me to be a flavor suggester to share that suggestion with my friends and the wider Panera community of eaters? This could create mini-campaigns that have a grass-roots feel.
Customers could talk to employees of the brand, ambassadors of the brand, fellow fans of the brand, and their social media friends all at the same time—about the brand’s products and services. The brand could collect that data in a useable form and respond in real time to changing needs and preferences. They could increase interaction with some fans who are lead users to spur innovation.
Consumers Want Individualization
In Axiom’s article, “What Causes Consumer Brand Engagement?” by Jed Mole, consumers say they want brands to open up into a genuine two-way dialogue with them, and for brands to engage and respond to proactive comments. Brands can empower customers through co-creation innovation by allowing them to feel that they can have a tangible impact on their favorite retailers. When asked more generally about what they would like to receive from brands either before or after a purchase, consumers show a willingness to receive tailored offers that are focused on them. This reinforces the need for consumer brand engagement to be more individualized and built on careful use of customer data.
Consumers Want to Co-Create
In Mashable’s “The Rise of Customer-Driven Innovation,” Julie Schlack notes that over the last decade, the Internet has enabled consumers to help brands drive front-end innovation and generate consumer participation in all stages of a product’s lifecycle. Many brands are investing in “customer co-creation” techniques to avoid late-stage product failures.
Develop Collaborative Channels
Customer interaction on digital properties will drive product development, especially among Millennials. This strategy will continue to deliver dividends as newer generations are building closer ties to the digital economy but also crave an interactive humanizing experience.
Real-time interaction between consumers and brands can eliminate product misfires. Brands need to reward consumers who generate and contribute valuable and actionable data.
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Mole, J. “What Causes Consumer Brand Engagement?” https://www.acxiom.co.uk
Schlock, J. 2011, October 11. “The Rise of Customer-Driven Innovation.” http://mashable.com/2011/10/13/crowdsource-consumers/#FHViKSvkO5qY