In our new social world, where this morning’s headlines are “so four seconds ago,” innovation is essential for brands to stay relevant. Coming up with tomorrow’s next big thing has driven some of the best companies in the world, but many of them were innovating in the dark. “In the past, companies were working inside out: we create the experience and products, and that’s what customers get,” says Christian Kraus, Head of Social Media for Conrad Electronic. “Now, customer intelligence is trying to change that.”
Finally, social offers companies a chance to innovate from the outside in. Customers are the best innovators – they know what they want, and they’re willing to tell you. During presentations at Social Commerce Summit Europe, several thought leaders shared how customers will drive innovation in 2012 and beyond.
Improve your existing offering: customer feedback is the new focus group.
In the past, focus groups attempted to uncover what consumers liked and disliked about products and services. Small sample sizes, survey bias, and disconnect from the true customer experience led to inaccurate and limiting results.
Today, social has eliminated the guesswork. Brands can easily turn their entire customer base into a standing, real time focus group through social. Salesforce.com’s Chief Scientist, JP Rangaswami, explains:
The social web is where customers are freely expressing what they feel about products and services. That is not going to go away.
Always-on conversations with customers reveal exactly what’s best about an offering, what could be better, and what should be eliminated. Customers freely share what you’re getting right, and what you’re getting wrong. Companies can act on both to improve their existing offerings, amp up their best features, and eliminate features or products that don’t meet customers’ needs.
Create new products and services: social data is the new market research.
Companies attempt to understand what customers want through market research, but this information is incomplete for the same reasons focus groups are. With this inaccurate information driving product and service innovation, brands were stuck in a conversation around, “How do we get customers to buy what we’re building?”
Social data reveals what customers want before what they want is even available to them. Rory Sutherland, Vice Chairman of Ogilvy Group, comments on the accuracy and immediacy of social data over market research:
Market research is decontextualized: it takes place far from the point in time and the environment where decisions are made. Listening to people in social media is fantastic because the comment is made at the moment of high engagement. What you learn through this kind of medium cannot be gathered through research.
Product development teams can use insights from social data to design the products and services people want, based on empirical evidence showing clear demand. The conversation effectively flips to, “How do we build what customers want to buy?”
Build an innovation think-tank: show customers their opinions drive change.
Social data shared online is a gold mine of insight into what matters most to the people who matter most – your customers. But customers don’t believe companies value what they have to say. An upcoming Bazaarvoice survey conducted by Kelton Research finds that only 29% of Millennials and 27% of Baby Boomers believe companies invite feedback because they truly want to know what customers think.
Show customers you care by letting them know you’re really listening. Respond to their input, answer their questions, and create a dialogue. Communicate changes you make based on their feedback. Show that you’ve added new features or built new products based on what they say they want. Demonstrating that you value their input will encourage customers to come back with more feedback to drive more change – creating a valuable loyalty cycle and innovation think-tank.
These are just the few of the ideas shared by the brand leaders and social strategists who spoke at Social Commerce Summit Europe. Get more of the top trends from their keynotes in our free report.