We’re All in This Together: Product Co-Creation

So, a few nights ago, I was watching High School Musical(HSM) with my roommate, and while I could have sworn the acting was better when I was 13, the ending number still hit me with a powerful message: We are all in this together.

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Tell me you didn’t sing that line…just try.

There is a reason I brought this up. The premise of HSM was that groups that traditionally don’t mix came together for a greater purpose; in this case it was an amazingly choreographed duet. That is a lot like how product co-creation  works for companies and consumers. Companies want a product/service that keeps customers rolling in, consumers want a product that is meaningful and useful to them. While the two traditionally don’t work together, in order to find a happy equilibrium for both needs, and to better understand one another, these two need to work together.

The Start of Something New?

Eh not really. Co-creation actually has been around for quite some time. Here is an article that talks about it, and it was written in 1999! The information is still relevant though. One of the hardest things that businesses have to deal with now a days is customer retention. With customers now being able to look up information in seconds, it’s hard for companies to gain customer loyalty and build their brand.

 “Customer loyalty is a fragile concept in a world where customers are only a mouse click away from a better deal.” Outlook, 1999

So how do you stop customers from clicking away from you? Simple, you make them co-developers in your business. Co-creation is a collaborative effort that involves both the client and business to work together in finding a complete answer. Marketers don’t have all the answers, so it’s best to go to the source in order to create the best products possible. Product co-creation gives you an opportunity to engage your audience further into your business’ ecosystem and understand what your customer’s want and make a product for them.

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ModCloth,one of my favorite clothing stores, has a section of their site where consumers can pick their favorite pieces, and the ones that are voted on the most will be offered at ModCloth. In addition, consumers are able to name the pieces chosen, and get credit for referring others to that item. They even have a fashion blogger named Blogger of the month, where a dress is named after them, and their followers can purchase it at the store for that month. ModCloth has multiple other user generated content opportunities besides the ones mentioned, but the results are the same: ModCloth’s engagement with it’s audience to buy pieces for it’s store allows them to broaden their community in the fashion world, building customer loyalty, and being able to forecast the supply and demand of items at their store.

Breaking Free

One of the more popular co-creation tactics is the idea of crowd-sourcing. Crowd-sourcing is  a variation of co-creation that allows people to obtain services, information, etc from a large amount of people. Great example of this is Kickstarter and Fiverr. Fiverr allows you to get marketing services such as web design, logos, twitter followers, etc for $5. It’s a way for freelance workers to find a customer base and build a portfolio, while consumers get services done at a fraction of the cost. Kickstarter is a cloud based funding program, that allows you to get pledges from people all over the world to fund a project goal, and in turn, you give them prizes based on the amount of the pledge. There have been multiple successes on Kickstarter, from underwear apparel, to the Veronica Mars movie. One of my personal favorites is  Espionage Cosmetics, a geek inspired cosmetics company, that was able to successfully launch a new product line of nail wraps thanks to Kickstarter; they were 350% funded! Bonus: they are based in Washington! Represent ladies.

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I guess I think of this a lot like how I think of inbound marketing; you are marketing to people who want your product, only in this case, you are creating the product with them. If you are a smaller company, and you want to “kick-start” your product into creation, or fund a project, then crowd-sourcing ventures like Kickstarter or Quirky would be best for you. If you want to get things on the cheap for your business and save on cash, crowd-sourcing is also best for that since it’s people who are coming together to solve a problem, it’s not their job.

Ready to get your head in the game? Here are some factors to consider before launching into your co-creation venture:

How to Bop to the Top:

Listen attentively: God gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason; listen to your customer and see what they want.

Limit Your Creators: Not all consumers were gifted with the power of amazing product creation. Try and limit it to the best ideas in order to get the most value. You can do this by having voting submission rounds, or qualifications put in place to get the best of the best.

Sell the experience, not the product: What you are going for here is not to just use consumers to build a great product and just ignore them. You want people to know that consumers helped create that product; having the experience of creating something will help bring more people in to your company.

Determine how you want to use crowd-sourcing: Sometimes, they work too well.

Don’t betray their trust: co-creation is a delicate relationship between two unlikely parties, don’t muck it up buy trying to do something behind their back. As a co-creator, consumers will expect to be informed of everything going on with their creation. Betray them, they retaliate. Amazon learned that when they “forgot to mention” that they were giving publisher paid prominence to some of their books, without letting it’s customers know. You don’t want your customers singing the blues.

Now go forth wildcat.

Have you been a part of any crowd-sourcing or co-creation efforts? Have something you wish companies would do to make co-creation more prominent? Did you watch High School Musical when you were young? (Trick question, I know you did, because everyone did.) Let me know in the comments below!