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Co-creation: turns customers into inventors

In the past, marketing experts researched which target group needed what. Read how customers themselves can help to innovate with co-creation.

4 minutes 4 minutes
Table of Contents
Customers pick up a huge amount of experience and information on their customer journey. Consumers also know best what products and services they need and what exactly they should look like. Co-creation allows this knowledge to be used highly efficiently.

Co-creation is a new form of cooperation that allows customers to participate in innovation processes in a targeted way. It is a form of crowdsourcing concept for the purpose of ideation. Regardless of whether it is an ergonomic desk design, an e-mobility app or flexible new insurance: co-creation ideally adapts new products and services to the needs of customers, reduces development costs and strengthens customer retention.

Several brands have successfully turned consumers into product development partners: LEGO allows customers to present ideas for new product sets online at any time, which genuinely go into production if they receive more than 10,000 Likes from community members, while for several years IKEA has been selling cuddly toys based on drawings submitted by children.

The co-creation strategy works on different levels:

  • In customer reviews and on online forums, you find requirements and often even specific solutions for certain products.
  • Surveys on all social media platforms or offline provide exact information about desires or opinions on specific offers.
  • As part of idea workshops or competitions, customers can participate directly in the development process and help to co-create new products.
  • Every target group likes to provide feedback on prototypes, e.g. in click dummy tests of IT solutions to record the user experience.
  • Consumers can bring new ideas directly to the company. One example is customer advisory councils, for instance for transport or insurance companies.

How co-creation supports innovations within companies

Co-creation makes innovation an open process. That is why it is also known as open or co-innovation. The advantages are clear: customer expectations and consumer insights can be identified in real time without laborious research.

Direct response to product ideas allows you to locate errors at an early stage, so failures are avoided, and the quality of the end result is increased. The costs are also kept within limits, and customers are thrilled to develop new ideas. Reward systems with vouchers or bonuses provide additional motivation.

Co-creation also offers great synergy effects: this form of Customer Engagement can have a positive impact on product innovation and customer relations. The high degree of involvement and cooperation makes consumers feel they are taken seriously. Considering this, cooperating with consumers can be an important factor in customer relationship management.

Competitions for ideas can also be put to excellent use as a media campaign. This way, you simultaneously strengthen your image as a brand that really pays attention to its customers’ issues.

Infographic of the instruments of customer co-creation

Instruments of customer co-creation

Challenges in development – from idea to product

Naturally, co-creators do not take care of themselves. You have to check if the suggestions are implementable and be aware of legal regulations when using ideas. But if data protection and copyright are clearly regulated in the general terms and conditions and everyone involved is open to suggestions from the community, there is nothing to stop customer co-creation being a success.

You don’t have to be a global player to successfully implement this creative form of innovation management in various departments. Small and medium-sized companies can also use the method to successfully integrate the experience, expertise and ideas of customers into new features of their products.

It is therefore worthwhile taking a closer look at the specific opportunities for co-creation. The promise of putting the customer at the centre of things is sometimes overused, but there could hardly be a more credible way to honour it.

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