Archive for the ‘Co-Creation’ Category
In February, I wrote part one of this series in conjunction the Re-Experiencing Starbucks project started by Becky Carroll and Jay Ehret. Over the next year, Becky and Jay are going to write a series of posts which analyze the current Starbucks experience, make suggestions for improvement, and then compare at the end of the year. Readers are invited to contribute with comments and suggestions.
It’s been nearly two months since Starbucks closed all of their stores for a nationwide in-store education and training event and reopened promising to transform the customer experience with newly energized partners. I can only speak for my local stores, but I have not seen any difference. My grande sugar-free vanilla breve latte tastes pretty much like it always did, which is to say that it’s generally good, but with occasional inconsistencies, depending on which barista makes it. Ok, so perhaps the event was in fact a PR event. Starbucks certainly got lots of free publicity as a result.
Last month at their annual meeting, Starbucks announced a laundry list of new initiatives designed to transform the customer experience including a new brewing and espresso machines, a rewards program and a new unique coffee blend (Pike Place Roast) which will be hand scooped and ground in store. Starbucks also took a page out of Dell’s playbook by launching MyStarbucksIdea.com.
Involving Customers in the Innovation Process
Like Dell’s Ideastorm, MyStarbucksIdea.com is an online community idea market where customers are encouraged to suggest and vote on ideas for improving the Starbucks experience. A team of 40 “Idea Partners” is responsible for reviewing, commenting on and consolidating the entries and for presenting “most popular and most innovative ideas that are the best fit for Starbucks” to key decision makers.
I’m a big proponent of Open Innovation. Inviting your customers to help design the experience gives company insiders fantastic perspective on real customer needs and desires. It also goes a long way in helping to ensure that the ideas and innovations that are selected are ones that will resonate with customers. The reason most companies haven’t eagerly adopted an Open Innovation program is that it requires giving up control. If a company asks for feedback and customers speak loud and clear the brand needs to be prepared to act. If they don’t, they risk damaging the relationship with their most engaged customers.
GoodNews / Bad News
The good news is that Starbucks is asking customers to participate in the process. The bad news is that the site looks like a collection improvements that are already in the their marketing plan. The “Ideas in Action” section lists those ideas that are being taken forward. Almost every idea listed in this section is either something that Starbucks announced when they launched the site (Wi-Fi, Rewards, Pikes Peak Roast) or already had in test markets (Splash Sticks, Bite-sized pastries). Authenticity is what’s lacking. I applaud Starbucks taking the bold move of involving customers in conversations about the experience. They need to resist trying to control the conversation if they want to be seen as genuinely caring about what the customer has to say.
A friend send this link to a video about the new mi Adidas Innovation Center in Paris. Adidas, which was one of the early brands in SecondLife, is demonstrating their innovation abilities in the real world with this new store. The have blended Entertainment, Education, Co-Creation, and 3D-Virtual technologies into an exciting, interactive retail experience.
With just a few steps walking and running on a catwalk-style scanner, foot and pressure sensors analyze shape, size and pressure points. Customers enter details like color and accents on a large touch screen. An interactive “virtual mirror” (recently on Gizmodo), allows the user to try on their personalized shoe (or any other shoe) without taking off their own. And last but not least, the new scan table picks up RFID technology embedded in the shoes to display specific product information.
The purpose of the store is two-fold. Adidas has always been about innovation and they want to use this retail platform to showcase that. They also want to attract a younger demographic and believe the highly interactive nature of the store will be appealing to younger customers who have “been brought up on video games”.
Is all this technology to sell sneakers just a gimmick? I don’t think so. Look across the sports world today and you will see that technology has been incorporated everywhere in an attempt to boost performance. And it’s not just for the pros. The biggest market for sports technology are the amateurs who want to excel in their particular sports passion. Everything from real-time vital signs monitoring to the latest in golf club design is eagerly scooped up by the sports enthusiasts. If you are in the sports shoe business, an interactive, technology-based experience store might be just the ticket to driving brand engagement.
Disney’s parks and resorts have a well deserved reputation for delivering great experiences. In tonight’s installment, I’ll give you a few more examples from my recent trip and also examine some experiences that don’t measure up to the Disney standard.
Extend the Experience
I have written about Disney’s Magical Express before. This is the service that basically extends your Disney experience all the way back to your home airport. It’s absolutely great when it works, but on the inbound leg of this trip, it did not live up to the Disney standard. I think the problems can be traced back to the fact that Disney does not operate this service. It is outsourced to a local transportation company and therefore is not directly managed by Disney. It’s not unusual for companies to outsource parts of their operation, but they need to be very careful about ensuring that the service provider is consistently delivering an experience that lives up to your brand. My wife and I came in on different flights. English was apparently a second language for my driver and so he was silent for most of the trip. The buses have TV screens and on previous trips, there has been either a movie like Snow White or a video marketing the Disney Vacation Club. On this trip, there was nothing. It was just a bus ride.
My wife and daughter arrived around 3:00pm. While their trip seemed to measure up to the Disney Experience, trouble was just around the corner. Knowing that their luggage was tagged and would be delivered to the room, we went to the Magic Kingdom for the evening. When we returned to the room at 1:00am, we discovered that our daughter’s suitcase was missing. With her in tears, we called the Magical Express people who were able to locate the bag at the airport in about 5 minutes. They brought it to the room around 3:00am.
There are controls built into this system that should have prevented this from happening. The bag had the Magical Express tag on it indicating who it belonged to and what resort we were staying at. It should not have taken a phone call for them to recognize and resolve the problem. Disney needs to do a much better job of ensuring that their service providers are consistently delivering an experience worthy of the Disney brand. On the positive side, my return trip to the airport was wonderful. The driver was one of the better entertainers that I had seen all week. Oh, and about the lack of movies on the inbound trip, the driver explained that it was a brand new bus (styled for the Disney Cruise Line), and the video gear had not been installed yet. Setting expectations is a good thing!
Let Me Co-Create the Experience
In recent years, Disney has incorporated more and more interactivity into their attractions. EPCOT’s Mission Space, for example, assigns roles and tasks to each of the riders on “the mission”. The Buzz Lightyear Astro Blasters ride in Disneyland allows you to not only rack up the points when you’re riding it in person, but also to participate through an online component. The Turtle Talk with Crush attraction uses digital puppetry to create a verbally and visually interactive animated character. A new attraction in Orlando’s Tomorrowland is Monsters, Inc Laugh Floor Comedy Club. Like TurtleTalk but on a much larger scale, the Laugh Floor features interactive animated characters, but in this attraction, Disney has gone one step further by integrating the use of cell phone text messages into the attraction. While you wait in line for the next show, you are asked to send text messages from your cell phone to the monsters, offering your jokes for the monsters to tell. I saw lots of people, mostly kids, texting jokes while waiting for the show. We did it; they used our joke and gave credit to our daughter. What’s really different here is the use of an independent, guest-owned electronic input device to influence the content of an attraction.
I’ll post the rest of my observations tomorrow, but in the meantime, think about how these points might apply to your business. If you are in the business of delivering experiences (hint… you are!), what are you doing to extend the brand experience beyond the boundaries of your physical or digital space. If you are using partners to deliver some of you brand’s experience, are they executing consistently and at a level that your customers expect? Are you engaging your customers by allowing them to help you co-create the experience? You should be.
Part 3 of this series is here.
<via IG’s TrendCentral>
With funding from Build-A-Bear, this new store is hoping to do for toy cars what the aforementioned chain did for stuffed animals. Hoping to offer a bonding experience for fathers and sons, the store will enable customers to create custom toy cars by selecting the type of car, body style, paint and sound effects, and locomotion style. Additional accessories ranging from decals to tire treads will also be available. The first Ridemakerz store opens on Friday in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, with a second store opening planned for July in the Mall of America.
I predict this will be hot! Check out the website and see what I mean.
Joanna Pena-Bickley authors a great blog called ON:Digital+Marketing. I met her through MyBlogLog where she asked me to comment on one of her recent posts. The post is about how Doritos is really adopting the customer co-creation model. Following last year’s customer-created commercials, they are now involving customers in product innovation. Moreover, the way they are doing this is creating an entertaining and engaging story that will get retold.
You can read Joanna’s post and my comment here.
Great post on Buzzmachine about Dell’s blog Ideastorm. It’s a great story about how being open, honest and responsive to a problem has helped to earn back the trust of its user base. If any company needs to do that, Dell is a poster boy.
The customer in question, Jeff Jarvis, was very unhappy, very loud and unfortunately for Dell a very influential blogger. They ignored his complaint, he blogged about it and thousands piled on after him. Dell is under new management, well actually old new management, as Michael Dell is back in charge. Part of the turnaround seems to be a mission to reconnect with their customers.
This post tells the story about how they are using their blog to do it. It’s also a story about overturning orthodoxies (blogs really do matter; the customer now has a very loud voice and you better listen), the need to be adaptive (Sense & Respond), and most importantly, the benefits of listening to and collaborating directly with your customers.
It’s a long post, but well worth the read. Here is the moneyquote:
So what fascinates me so much about Dell is that it can rise from worst to first. Precisely because it got hammered by customers now empowered to talk back to the wall, it had to get smarter faster. Whether Dell can fix the rest of its problems, I don’t know. But if it keeps on the road it’s now on, it could well end up being the smartest company in the age of customer control. That would be one helluva turnaround.
<via Three Minds>
Ideo’s Tim Brown made some insightful comments at the Adaptive Path’s MXSF conference last week. He talked about a human-centered approach to innovation called ”Design Thinking”.
“There are three buckets of innovation: technology, business, and people. All innovation is a combination of those things. Lots of people are doing the technology and business. Technology is the main engine of innovation. Most businesses come from a business perspective. But most designers come at it through people.”
He went on to describe the three phases of Innovation: Inspiration, Ideation, and Implementation. Just most businesses tend to miss importance of being human-centered, I think many of them also spend too little time on the Inspiration phase. They are good at coming up with what I call solutions in search of a problem. Instead of asking their customers what problems they would like addressed, they come up with new business ideas that they believe customers want. Not surprisingly, most of those ideas don’t resonate with customers when they test them.
Really great innovation happens when businesses partner with their customers; when they take the time to understand the customer’s needs, problems and experiences. This was a key point in Brown’s message:
“Inspiration. Where do ideas come from? Insights are the fuel of inspiration. You don’t get ideas from sitting at your desk. Use the world as a source of inspiration (not as a source of validation). It starts with empathy and seeing things from other people’s viewpoints, not yours. Aim to understand people on multiple levels: physically, cognitively, emotionally, socially, and culturally.”
~IDEO’s Tim Brown from MXSF 2007
Tip of the Hat to David Armano who posted the quote yesterday
Chief Linden, Philip Rosedale said today that Linden Labs is going to make the core codebase for SecondLife available to developers. Considering that the contents of SecondLife has been developed entirely by user “residents” and the number of registered avatars has grown exponentially over the past year, the move to open source is a natural progression. After all, Linden has a limited number of developers and there is much work to be done to meet the needs of its growing population and to make the software more palatable for less powerful computers (like most of us have).
Given the growth of SecondLife, the vision my many in the software development community that a 3D web is the shape of things to come, and the success that other projects like Firefox and Linux have had using the community to build the code; this move is smart and should help keep things moving. It can also lead to some interesting new capabilities:
“There are lots of handicapped people using ‘Second Life,’ It’s one of the really inspiring things about it,” Rosedale said. “There are a lot of ways of connecting people to their computers, not just mice and keyboards but gaze detection and neuromuscular stuff” that Linden Lab doesn’t have the manpower to address, but he hopes outside programmers will.
Someone also could “hook up an exercise bike and fly around ‘Second Life’ while exercising,” he said, or write a program for accessing the world from a smart phone.
“All that becomes extremely easy to do,” said Rosedale, who will speak tomorrow at the International Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas.
The details for the more technical readers out there, according to an AP report are as follows:
The code will be available under the GNU Public License, a widely used agreement among open-source developers that allows them to legally modify and share software. Linden Lab will review and test some add-ons, modifications and bug fixes, and incorporate them into the official version of the viewer, which can be downloaded for free.
Monday’s announcement doesn’t cover all the software behind “Second Life.” The program that controls the underlying infrastructure will remain proprietary, though Rosedale said open-source “is absolutely our direction.”
Fortune has an exclusive interview with Rosedale as well as comments from Electric Sheep, one of the largest in-world construction companies, and IBM who worked with my company, Circuit City, to open a virtual store in SecondLife. It’s worth the read.
Patricia Seybold, in her new book Outside Innovation: How Your Customers Will Co-Design Your Company’s Future, explains the difference between traditional “inside-out” innovation and “outside in” or customer-focused innovation:
Traditional innovation: “Traditional ‘inside-out’ approaches to innovation assume that our subject matter experts (within our company) invent and design innovative new products to meet needs customers may not even realized they had. Then our marketing and advertising departments make prospective customers aware of those needs, wrap a brand experience around our innovative products, package and price those offerings… and bring them to market.”
Outside-in/customer-focused innovation: “The ‘outside-in’ approach is to flip the innovation process around and assume that customers have outcomes that they want to achieve, they have deep knowledge about their own circumstances and contexts, and they are not happy about the way they have to do things today. They will innovate – with or without your help – to create better ways to do things or to design products and services that meet their specific needs.”
There’s obviously a big difference in these two approaches, but the impact to organizations who don’t understand that the game has changed is much larger. Just as the Consumer has begun to take control of media, they will also demand a starring role in co-creating your company’s products & services.
This is an evolution that makes perfect sense. In traditional innovation, we don’t really know what our customers want – we may think we do, but at best we’re shooting in the dark, and hoping we hit something. From a marketing and sales standpoint, our new products are “pushed” through the sales channel to the customer, who often has to be incentivized with discounts, rebates and other creative “carrots” to persuade them to buy. The result? These programs cut into gross margins and profits, and usually aren’t very effective.
In contrast, if you really understand not only your customers’ needs, but the critical outcomes they want to achieve, you can then work shoulder-to-shoulder with your key customers to “co-create” products that meet those needs. There’s no need to “push” your offerings, because customers will gladly pay a premium for products and services that make their lives easier and more profitable. The result? Higher margins and profits for the company.
I am just starting to read Patricia’s new book, but I can already tell I’m going to like it. Open innovation is one of the key trends in the world of business right now, and this book looks like a terrific guide to what it is and how to implement it in your company. This concept goes way beyond creating products that meet customer’s needs. Embracing the customer as a partner is a way to transform and elevate your brand. As competition increases and the ability to differentiate yourself decreases, are you asking your customers to help define your brand’s experience???
It’s official. Time has named “You” as the person of the year. Good call. Time recognized what many of us already know: Millions of people have embraced the technology, personal media and the internet to create, co-create, share and produce content.
I look at my family as a really small microcosm of the phenomenon. We used to watch TV, network TV. Now, my 12 year old daughter creates websites and entertaining spaces on Disney’s Virtual Magic Kingdom. I joined with millions of others and began blogging this year. I also have embraced SecondLife.
It’s your new world. Have you jumped in?