Customer co-creation for successful marketing

Importance of co-creation with customers

Successful firms use the wisdom of the crowd to co-create new products and revamp existing ones. The Economist improved click-through rates on its homepage by 8% by listening to its readers.

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Adapting to volatile environments

Predicting future business success in VUCA environments is, by definition, difficult. As a result competitive and marketing strategies need to be developed incrementally using frequent iteration between strategy formulation and implementation. 

For communicators and business leaders, this is a constant trade-off between the safety and certainty which exists within the firm and finding the flexibility to meet an ever-shifting market. Using customer co-creation is one way to minimise these risks.

Advantage is fleeting

The past is no reliable guide to the future. For that reason, communications plans should not be formed along narrow furrows; predicting the future based on past data. Instead, we’d do better to concentrate on adopting a continually evolving approach to our marketplace.

If marketing programmes are to be successful firms should consider involving their customers in the process with customer co-creation.

The world is socially constructed and subjective. Successful firms know this. They incorporate customers and customer experience into their marketing plans. The social web allows customers to involve themselves in a dialogue with firms. The savvy firm knows this works both ways so they ‘recruit’ customers to help improve products and user experience.

Business used to live by the mantra: “We make it. You take it.” Possibly backed up with some market research which helped them with the hesitant affirmation: “I think this is what you want to buy”. Then they would promote the hell-out-of-the-product with advertising and media relations.

Benefits of customer co-creation

Consumers today want to participate in the experience not just experience the experience. For firms that means holding purposeful interactions with its customers and other stakeholders. It means allowing itself to be vulnerable. To ask questions. To listen. To react to what it hears.

The authors of A World Gone Social write: “Once a company gets used to listening, more magic happens. With mutually beneficial relationships established, organisations will learn to ask - they’ll ask good questions, and they’ll ask for help. And companies that really get it will ask before a product is even fully developed. Customers and employees will collaborate to design the products they sell and buy.”

A World Gone Social by Ted Coine and Mark Babbitt

 “Once a company gets used to listening, more magic happens. With mutually beneficial relationships established, organisations will learn to ask - they’ll ask good questions, and they’ll ask for help. And companies that really get it will ask before a product is even fully developed. Customers and employees will collaborate to design the products they sell and buy.”

Revamping The Economist

So, when the publishers of www.economist.com, the online home of the weekly authoritative news and business masthead, decided it was time for a revamp they used customer co-creation and pulled their readers into the process.

In mid-2016 The Economist had its overhauled site ready for launch. Rather than go live immediately, the publisher showed it to just 0.5% of its visitors at the outset gradually increasing the exposure over nine months while collecting and analysing some 20,000 comments from readers.

The consultative, co-created approach worked. Whilst The Economist designers had got much right with the new site, some of the planned initiatives were at odds with what their readers wanted from the site.

The intended design of the homepage was pared-down. It used plenty of white space and limited the number of links it showed. But, readers thought the designers had gone too far in sacrificing content and links in pursuit of design. The publisher listened to this feedback and modified its approach. The result? An 8% increase in people clicking through from the homepage to another article.

According to Digiday, The Economists’ plans is to keep tweaking its site, speeding up load times more, and adding new features. Previously The Economist would release code changes, such as bug fixes, or feature updates, batched together on a weekly basis. That used to create workflow blockages, with valuable updates waiting in a queue. Now the team works to a continuous deployment model, updating code as and when needed.

About the Author Scott Guthrie

Scott Guthrie works with companies to drive business growth in the social age through strategic insight and technical know-how. That's not giving you a lot of detail, is it? So, read more here.

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