Customer co-creation, in short, is open innovation with customers. It is a product (or service) development approach where users and customers are actively involved and take part in the design of a new offering. More specifically, we define customer co-creation as an active, creative, and social process, based on collaboration between producers (retailers) and customers (users). The idea of co-creation is to actively involve customers in the design or development of future offerings, often with the help of tools that are provided by the firm.
Co-creation activities are performed in an act of company-to-customer interaction which is facilitated by the company. The manufacturer is either empowering its customers to design a solution by themselves or is implementing methodologies to efficiently transfer an innovative solution from the customer into the company domain. Examples for methods include ideation contests, lead user workshops, consumer opinion platforms, toolkits for user innovation, or communities for social product development.
Frequently Asked Questions on Customer Co-Creation
(Answers by Professor Frank T. Piller)
But lead users are NO average customers or users. There are only very few lead users. Average customers are in general neither innovative nor do they want to enage in innovation. Hence, it is the task of a company to identify these lead users by specific search and screening methods. There is not enough space here to describe these methods, but they are very well documented (look at Eric von Hippel’s MIT homepage for some examples).
The main benefit is to enlarge the base of information about needs, applications, and solution technologies that resides in the domain of the customers and users of a product or service. Examples for methods to achieve this objective include user idea contests, consumer opinion platforms, toolkits for user innovation, mass customization toolkits, and communities for customer co-creation.
This is a field where I believe we also need more research. Firms need more information and better guidance on how to assess whether their organization and branch is suited for customer co-creation. This information is crucial in order to build specific competences that aid firms in identifying opportunities and ultimately in using the right method. Managers need a clear picture of their own organizational settings and capabilities before being able to answer important questions during the implementation of one’s own customer integration initiative. This could include answers to questions like how do innovation projects have to be reorganized, which kinds of projects are suited for customer integration and how do the internal development processes have to be adjusted in order to allow optimal customer integration.