3 Benefits of Using Co-creation During Product Development

Co-creation is starting to get the recognition that it’s due. Nearly 50 years ago, the mantra, “innovate or die” uttered by Jack V. Matson who authored a book carrying this title, became the battle cry of product developers. Today, innovating collaboratively with customers and other stakeholders have become the new business imperative.

When it comes to product development, having a main line into what customers are thinking, what’s driving their purchase decisions and insights into what they want, and need is critical. These are some of the essential outputs of strategic market research efforts. When co-creation is coupled with market research, the sparks really begin to fly. Although there are numerous benefits of using co-creation during product development, there are notably three that truly stand out.

Co-creation and product development

Before we can get into the three benefits of using co-creation during product development, we first need to understand the background and relationship between the two efforts for context. Reports on the interdependency between co-creation and product development were first published in 2010, so this concept is still relatively new.

Customers are fickle and one social media post by an influencer can change everything. Hence, it is critical to stay connected to your stakeholders to keep on top of what’s changing so that you can inform your business and new product development strategies.

By leveraging co-creation as a method to do so, your business, brand and revenues can be boosted. Perhaps even more importantly, the over-arching benefits of co-creation derive value from the “two heads are better than one” philosophy as this broader perspective helps reduce your product development risk.

Adopting an outward-facing purview also ensures that your efforts are better aligned with customer expectations. This breadth in perspective is maximized when a company co-creates with its consumers, vendors, designers, suppliers, marketers, retailers and relevant subject matter experts.

Benefit 1 – using co-creation during product development

Today’s global economy, competitive pressures and real-time advantages (and disadvantages) of social media require a product development process that is agile, flexible and fast. In fact, a quick search of LinkedIn reveals that 47,473 people on the platform are associated with or practice agile methodologies in product development.

That’s an astounding number and gives credence to the value of sharing a concept or framework with an external audience, rapidly securing feedback, making modifications then putting it back out there – as many times as necessary – in real-time to get input provides enormous benefit to product development.

The benefit can be amplified by creating co-creation communities which enable participants to respond as their schedule and interest allows. This agility-by-design allows for the process of co-creation fueling product development to operate 24/7. Thereby, creating great efficiencies and reducing the time needed to fully execute one or multiple rounds of the process. A good example of this is the BMW Co-Creation Lab which openly shares its concepts to stimulate perpetual customer engagement.

Benefit 2 – using co-creation during product development

It really does boil down to customer loyalty. Given the plethora of options available today and the dynamic nature of the marketplace and fleeting financial security, customers need to be convinced to continue to back your brand. One of the best ways to achieve this is through the demonstration of trust.

That is, you implicitly trust and value the opinions of your customer base so much that you are willing to invest in the infrastructure and programs required to harness their collective input. To a consumer, that speaks volumes.

By strengthening the bond with your consumers, you open lines of communication and connection that are unavailable through the sell-buy transaction alone. They will, rightly so, be made to feel valued and that they are part of your process and contributing to something important.

Using co-creation during product development helps establish life-long relationships with your customers and creates new opportunities for brand champions to emerge and influence other buyers. Nike tapped into this benefit early. They were one of the first companies to adopt co-creation because they recognized that customers wanted to participate in the design process.

Just look at Apple®, they have unleashed customer pride so effectively through co-creation and open communication with their stakeholders that their buyers showcase the brand as a badge of honor: that is a level of loyalty that money can’t buy.

Benefit 3 – using co-creation during product development

Risk is the enemy of product development. The three words, “too much risk,” has killed countless nascent companies and innovative ideas in their tracks before they even had a chance to bloom. By applying co-creation during product development, you are minimizing that risk. Jointly researching, ideating and creating with your external stakeholders uncovers actionable insights which can be used to inform, reform and de-risk product development.

Employing co-creation early in the product development process reduces the potential of investing in a product concept that is ultimately going to fail by the time that it gets to market. Co-creation affords product developers with real-time, deeply insightful perceptions of what the given product offers, does or was expected to.

Nobody wants to kill a potentially good idea. And nobody wants to invest in a risky idea that may flop on the market, so co-creation becomes imperative. Kickstarter rocked onto the scene as one of the most innovative new product development platforms because they literally facilitated innovation in real-time under the influence of customer feedback. In fact, venture capitalists today use crowd-funding engagement efforts as a metric to establish the potential success of a new product idea.

Everyone knows that you need to use the right tool for the job to be effective. Tools such as CrowdWeaving® (a proprietary platform designed to collect, filter, synthesize and analyze ideas from stakeholders) enable companies to benefit from using co-creation during their product development process. Whichever tool or method you use is up to you. However, when you do it right, the result is market innovation derived from actionable insights which are harvested through authentic engagements with customers and other stakeholders.

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