Leverage Consumers to Help Build Better Products

Today’s brands don’t necessarily need to spend a lot of money on product innovation and improvement. Even the smallest businesses may not realize they already have a focus group of sorts – in the form of customer feedback. While product reviews can be helpful from a marketing perspective, businesses should also recognize that they can uncover crucial insights directly from their customers. This includes staying connected with consumers and being an attentive listener, as well as going one step further and co-creating with consumers. By combining these strategies, companies of all sizes in all industries can leverage consumers to help build better products.

Listen to Customers

Measuring how many shoppers have chosen your brand and product is relatively straightforward and simple to measure. However, understanding why they preferred your product can be a bit of a mystery, but also the key to building better products. To capitalize on this, savvy brands are incorporating social listening, customer feedback, and other consumer resources to learn what people are saying about their products. By doing so, these businesses are learning about unmet needs in their market and where their products can be improved or expanded.

The Huffington Post says that 70% of companies that deliver best-in-class customer experience depend on customer feedback. This kind of feedback can provide a wealth of information about what people like and don’t like about a product, as well as how it’s actually used. For example, learning which features customers find useful can help a software company prioritize which features to improve or eliminate in an upcoming release.

Sometimes customer feedback can lead to product improvements that seem obvious. For example, it took until 1983 for automotive manufacturers to begin adding cup holders to their cars. Today, automakers are regularly listening to consumer requests for new features such as connected vehicle technology like remote diagnostics, stolen vehicle recovery tracking, and the ability to stream music from smartphones. Furthermore, consumers have indicated that they’re willing to pay more for these features.

Brands of all sizes can learn valuable lessons from the examples above. Listening to customers is critical to driving actionable product improvements. This could be as simple as offering products in an extended line of colors or improving a small, but impactful feature. Companies can gather data from a variety of external sources such as social media. But many organizations might not realize they already have data ready to be mined. This can include call center records—customer service and help desk representatives collect data with each transaction. For example, it’s not uncommon for help desk data to uncover software bugs hidden in tickets where users are reporting similar issues.

Co-Create with Users

Of course, building better products does not need to be reactionary. Brands can be proactive by enabling consumers to lead product strategy rather than simply adjusting to customer feedback. By doing so companies can provide the exact products their customers are looking for, and can virtually ensure a purchase or repeat purchase. Enlisting users to help develop and test products allows a company to produce the best possible products. Consumers often provide brutally honest information that can be leveraged directly into product development resulting in fewer complaints and returns.

LEGO is a company with a great track record of co-creating with users. Its Ideas website enables LEGO enthusiasts to create, vote, and provide feedback on new projects. The ideas that receive at least 10,000 votes qualify a project to be reviewed by senior LEGO employees with the potential of being put into production. If produced and sold, LEGO gives 1% of net sales to creators. These consumer insights and inspirations are an integral part of LEGO’s product strategy.

Lay’s potato chips is another example of a company that successfully empowers its consumers to lead product development. Their ongoing “Do us a Flavor” contest has been running since 2013.  Not only does the promotion provide consumers the incentive to have their idea chosen, there’s also a million dollar prize for the winning flavor. By involving customers in the product development process, Lay’s has created a successful strategy that has brought Indian tikka masala, cheesy garlic bread, and cappuccino potato chips to the market.

And it doesn’t require multimillion-dollar campaigns or microsites to create these consumer co-creation experiences. Prompting consumers to ideate or create products for your brand can be posted through social media channels. Even Twitter hashtag campaigns are a simple way to connect with consumers to learn what they think your brand should make next.

Not only does co-creating with consumers allow a brand to get direct feedback and inspiration from consumers, it also doubles as an advocacy platform. It brings consumers and brands closer together and provides opportunities to interact even when there are no new products to launch or promotions to market. It is a quintessential nurture strategy and relationship builder.

In a Nutshell

When businesses listen, respond, and partner with their with customers, it’s easier to win confidence and loyalty. While it can be challenging to step outside typical product development processes to incorporate customer input into product development, the rewards can be well worth the effort. When brands build and deliver products with features that shoppers are asking for and take their feedback to heart, consumers are more likely to appreciate and believe in the brands that create them.