engineering, innovation, manufacturing
Walkers Crisps in the UK recently held a competition to ask for suggestions for new flavors of crisps. The flavors were then shortlisted, and people asked to vote on which ones they liked the most. The person with the winning suggestion, 'builders breakfast' flavor crisps, received a cash award of £ 50,000 (US$82,324) and 1% of the total sales!
The idea of getting closer to your customers and involving them in your product development process is nothing new. Capturing the ‘voice of the customer’ is still critical to applying many of the tools to identify features and functions, but how do we capture that voice of the customer? The use of focus groups and customer panels is still useful, but increasingly, we are seeing companies turn to the Internet to get feedback and ideas for new products. The Walkers competition is an excellent example, and to give some idea as to how successful it was: they received 1.2 million entries for the competition. Yes, 1.2 million people suggested flavors of crisps, 1.2 million customers telling them what they would like to buy...
What does this mean for your business? Well, if you are looking to connect with the end customers and involve them in your product development process where they can share ideas, the use of social networking sites where groups can be set up and customers' comments analyzed is one avenue. However, if you really want to drive interest, then there needs to be some form of reward. Some recent academic research from the Lausanne Polytechnic in Switzerland showed that to get many people to contribute online with ideas, there needs to be some form of payment or reward – like the Walkers example.
The other problem, a good problem but still a problem nonetheless, is what to do with all the ideas. If your marketing and product development team received over a million new ideas for evaluation, there would be some very upset individuals. The use of analytic tools to analyze all the data given, pick up trends and keywords becomes a real necessity. It is important that companies put these tools in place when looking to the mass market for ideas.
Drawing on the ideas of customers is not knew, but the power of the Web is going to become increasingly popular as a creative source of input to marketing and product development, where the 'actual voice of the customer' is heard.
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