In 2018, get into the habit of involving your customers more. Their knowledge and input may give you just what you need – or need to avoid.
Co-creation has been a buzz word for years, but a central element often neglected is what customers get out of it – not just what the company gains. Absorbing valuable knowledge through customers does not only provide for business advantages. It also enables these individuals to get (and feel) closer to your brand through active involvement and value creation. Positive brand perceptions and brand loyalty can increase, leaving both you and the customer satisfied. As an interactive processes of learning together, co-creation can be applied to each stage of the production process such as product design and delivery.
A product’s or service’s value has traditionally been left within the company’s internal domain to define and develop. Yet today’s growing emphasis on consumer engagement and empowerment, often in the light of new technologies, may be a contributing factor to a wider application of co-creation mechanisms. Some go as far as stating that in a more service-centred marketing environment, the customer always is a co-producer. Co-creation can in either case be seen as a reflection of customers’ increasing influence on company processes.
My lead argument for involving customers in co-creation is positive effects through a brand community, where customer participation also leads to higher involvement with the brand. This allows customers to take an active part in the various product processes and to aid the company in delivering solutions that fit their needs and wishes. Integrating customers in the value creation process can therefore also help to discover emerging trends and adapting to preferences before entering the market.
There is also danger involved in listening too closely to the customer, especially when dealing with highly innovative products and services where input is of limited value. This is because customers appear unable to express needs and preferences when dealing with innovative products high in emotional or symbolic meaning. Therefore, customers are valuable for additional input on existing innovative products, but they seem unable to contribute with cutting-edge input for new ones. If your company delivers more of an economic or functional value, however, co-creation for innovative products should still be considered.
An awareness of the characteristics affecting consumer behavior such as perception and motivation should always be taken into account when embarking in this, and any type of co-creation. Even more importantly:
Successful value co-creation requires the ability to manage expectations, communications and promises between both parties throughout the process.