If you’ve spent any time in the business world of late, you’ve likely heard the term “co-creation.”

While many people write co-creation off as a marketing buzzword, it’s much more than that. In a world where rapid change is normal and expected, co-creation is the fastest and most efficient way to meet consumer demand and identify more opportunities for growth within the company and beyond.

More than that, though, it’s a way for companies to become more client-focused, which allows them to stand out in an increasingly crowded sea of competition. This, in turn, translates to longevity and sustainability for the companies that embrace co-creation.

What Is Co-Creation?

The question “what is co-creation?” is a common one. Co-creation is essentially the process of involving a third-party in the processes and ideation segment of product development. Before co-creation, companies handled all of these responsibilities in-house, which led to a more narrow idea pattern and less customer-facing innovation.

Today, co-creation has allowed suppliers, customers and third-party dealers and companies to become more involved in the development process, which contributes to more user-friendly products, more innovative design and a more approachable business model.

How Are Companies Using Co-Creation?

Long known for its focus on providing innovative products for consumer use, Microsoft has become a leader in co-creation by inviting customers into the onset of their agile development process.  In this way, customer inspiration and feedback is woven into service/product development.

Another excellent example of co-creation at work is Ikea, the world-famous furniture chain. In an interview with PSFK, Ikea’s Deputy Marketing Director outlined how hard the brand works to incorporate consumer reports and information into their advertising and marketing process. To ensure that they’re providing a quality user-experience in a package that goes far beyond a well-researched target persona, Ikea uses “anthropological marketing,” which is the process of having conversations with consumers, visiting customer homes and gathering as much feedback and information as possible to co-create and develop products with the assistance of consumers.

Yet another example of a company that uses co-creation well throughout its marketing is Coca-Cola. To be relevant and engaging for a growing millennial consumer base, Coca-Cola developed a product called the “FreeStyle Machine.” The product is essentially a large fountain soda dispenser that lets users create unique mixes of flavors. In addition to promoting originality, this product also feeds into social sharing by offering an app that lets users save and share their blends. The app also allows the FreeStyle machine to “learn” a consumer’s favorite flavor mix, so as to provide a customized experience in the future.

How Can My Company Benefit From Co-Creation?

While there are dozens of benefits of co-creation, some are more essential to a company than others. If you’re wondering “what is co-creation?” or how your business can benefit from it, consider the following advantages of this unique marketing method:

More relevant insights. While it’s one thing to survey customers or conduct market research, these methods often fail to produce real, usable information that can be applied directly to smart marketing. With co-creation, companies regularly succeed in providing valuable, meaningful insights that allow for active enterprise learning and a direct integration of consumer experience and preference.

  • More streamlined innovation. Innovation is critical today, and companies that utilize co-creation are better equipped to enjoy a better innovation process. By inviting outside ideas in through the methods of co-creation, your company can mine creative ideas from the people who are most critical to your production and distribution process. This allows your company to incorporate rapidly changing best practices into your strategy quickly, easily and before you suffer damage on account of having missed them.
  • A better customer experience. By giving the customer a level of control over the production and distribution process, you also ensure a better and more streamlined customer experience. This allows your business to create products that fulfill consumer needs as closely and accurately as possible, which of course promotes brand loyalty and gives you a leading edge on your competition.
  • Reduced cost. While most marketers focus on the collaborative benefits of co-creation, there’s also a significant cost saving to be considered. By using an existing audience as a marketing group, companies can save costs on market research and polling. This allows excess budget to be allocated toward lucrative product production rather than hit-or-miss audience research.

The Case for Co-Creation

As the product development environment continues to become more dynamic, co-creation makes more and more sense. By utilizing consumer, distributor or third-party company viewpoints for the sake of marketing and innovation, your business can co-create unique, relevant products that turn a profit while also helping your consumers feel seen, heard and respected — all of which are good for brand loyalty and longevity. So what is co-creation? It’s a way for brands to interact more efficiently now and in the future.

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