A growing number of companies are tapping into social media channels, including online communities and forums and through use of tools such as Facebook, YouTube, LinkedIn, and Twitter to engage with customers and business partners and create a conduit for new product, service, and customer experience ideas.
Given the rising interest that CIOs have in improving customer experience, driving innovation, and, of course, fulfilling their commitment to delivering genuine business value to the organization, I thought it might be useful to share a few examples of companies in different industries that are exploiting social media interactions with customers to generate fresh ideas.
- 1) Starbucks. To further engage its customers and create a forum for new ideas, the coffee roaster and retailer introduced a site called mystarbucksideas.com where customers can use Facebook, Twitter, and other channels to submit ideas for new products, suggestions for improving the customer experience, and other aspects of the company-customer relationship.
Since the site was launched three years ago, more than 250,000 people have signed up and more than 100,000 ideas have been submitted. As of March 18, 130 customer-led ideas have been launched, including a mobile app for Blackberry Torch for Starbucks Card mobile payments and an online build-your-own-beverage experience. Meanwhile, Starbucks also demonstrates to its customers that their input matters to them, even when some of those ideas aren't feasible or represent a direction that the company chooses not to take, says Matthew Guiste, Director of Global Social Media at Starbucks. "This gives us a forum for explaining (the) reasons" for not acting on a customer's idea, said Guiste during a presentation he made last Fall.
- 2) GE. Last summer, General Electric launched a project with Emerald Technology Ventures, Foundation Capital, KPCB and Rockport Capital called the Ecomagination Challenge in which the partners offered to commit $200 million in venture capital to invest energy innovation ideas that were selected. Using the Ecomagination Challenge portal, people and organizations were able to submit ideas for different types of smart grid technologies and applicants were asked to clearly describe their proposals and to provide some information about themselves and/or their companies.
Once a brief example of a new idea had been posted, visitors were encouraged to evaluate the ideas, comment, and vote on them. More than 70,000 people visited and submitted close to 800 ideas by the Sept. 2010 deadline. These included a wireless power control system for homes and hotels consisting of a door tag motion sensor. Although the public votes weren't the final arbiter for the ideas selected, the idea with the most votes was slated to receive $50,000 cash subject to GE's review.
- 3) Intuit. The maker of business and financial management software introduced Intuit Collaboratory, a website that offers individuals, businesses, and academia an opportunity to share in open innovation by responding to specific needs or "challenges" posted by the company. The first "collaboratory" winner, announced last week, is CloudSway, a cloud computing company which won $5,000 for a solution that captures receipt images using smartphones and makes the data dynamic so it can be uploaded into an online financial system.
- 4) Sony. In an effort to further engage its gaming customers and come up with new product ideas that customers are expressing interest in, the electronics giant has launched a project called Gamocracy in which fans can offer suggestions for a new downloadable PlayStation mini game. The most promising ideas will be voted for on Facebook and the proposal selected will be developed next year into a game by Landit Bandit developer The Bearded Ladies Consulting.