What Customers Want : Customers and Web 2.0 For Innovation

Sometimes, when we as innovation specialists are trying to design effective market research processes, I am struck by an irony.

What we are doing is in effect, recreating the purchasing/usage experience, through accompanied shops, home placements etc. However, when respondents take part, they are of course 'cold' - it's not a real user experience.

At other times, as a consumer/user myself I find myself frustrated that 'in the heat of the moment' when I am experiencing a product quality issue, or even when my experience has inspired me to come up with (what I think is) a great potential product innovation or service innovation, there is no easy way for me to communicate this to the provider.

As we know, technology is rapidly increasing the diversity of channels and approaches of user/provider communication. This can help improve both market research and customer suggestions schemes.

The idea of involving users in innovation is of course nothing new. Eric Von Hippel was advocating it in the seventies, but it is predicted that technology, in particular web 2.0 will increasingly, make the process simpler and more effective.


One question you may want to consider is do we just want to create opportunities for dissatisfied customers to suggest improvements – from time to time?

Or - do we want more intensive help with innovation from our customers?

Maybe you want to engage users in an open-innovation forum. This week sees the launch of Open Innovation gmbh in Switzerland (unfortunately for non-speakers it's all in german). This initiative builds on 'idea competitions' as a method of open-innovation.

Open-Innovation gmbh, acts as a co-ordinator, and is looking for interested parties with imagination and problem-solving abilities, to help innovate for some of the major companies in Switzerland, including Swiss telekom and Google Switzerland. And, they are paying people to take part.

Of course, market research has historically offered incentives, however the difference here is that the participants will be self-selecting and hopefully with the passion and enthusiasm to make a significant contribution.

A recent editorial* indicated that consumer involvement in innovation is one of the key growth trends for 2008. Are you harnessing the potential of interested parties to help you innovate? Market research remains important but with web 2.0, social networking capability etc, there are so many more ways to inform your innovation with high quality and 'hot' user knowledge.


*"Mckinsey Quarterly Jan 2008"