by Joseph Weisenthal

Needed: A Better Buzzword Than Customersourcing

from the fame-and-fortune-for-the-best-response dept

At the same time some businesses are embracing "crowdsourcing" as a cheap way to tackle large tasks, another model is emerging whereby customers themselves are asked to submit new ideas or designs. Examples of this in practice include a shoe company that accepts design sketches, and a t-shirt maker that offers money for submissions that get used. Some may be skeptical of the idea that customers would voluntarily spend their time coming up with ideas for someone else's business, but this is something a lot of people do anyway. How many times have you had an idea for a new flavor of gum, funny bumper sticker or way to attach a strap to your backpack? By offering a modest financial reward or some form of recognition, businesses can start to harvest these countless glints of insight and inspiration. Using the customer base as a source of new ideas probably won't replace traditional modes of product development, but, like the standard suggestion boxes, is likely to a useful addition to the process.

Reader Comments (rss)

(Flattened / Threaded)

  1. identicon
    NSMike, Jun 19th, 2006 @ 8:39am

    I can see it now...

    Someone submits an idea... The corporation doesn't use it, but dervies something they like from it, and claim that whatever was submitted became the property of the company and any derivation is not eligible for the program.

    Yay for free work!

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  2. identicon
    James the butler, Jun 19th, 2006 @ 9:24am

    Re: I can see it now...

    I love free work. Is there a fee to sign up?

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  3. identicon
    Drama2Sell, Jun 19th, 2006 @ 9:26am

    Oh my god! They have created (gasp!) a customer suggestion box! Wow--that truly is amazing.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  4. identicon
    g, Jun 19th, 2006 @ 10:19am

    Redefine "Consumer Driven". Others: customer content, consumer content.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  5. identicon
    JerseyRich, Jun 19th, 2006 @ 11:17am

    It's an excellent idea that doesn't get used enough. Plenty of people who actually use the products have good ideas for minor or major improvements. Trust me, the end user often knows best.

    I think any reward or fee paid to the suggestor should be small enough that the company using the idea isn't afraid of paying it. That would eliminate the situation the first poster mentioned.

    Either that, or say that all suggestions are accepted but no payment will be made. There have been lots of times that I would have happily made good suggestions for the sole purpose of getting better products.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  6. identicon
    Levema, Jun 19th, 2006 @ 1:06pm

    So you think that's a new idea....

    It used to be called Contesting, and it was mainly used for slogans.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  7. identicon
    |333173|3|_||3, Jun 19th, 2006 @ 9:55pm

    Blackthorn suggestions.

    I bet that if M$ created a suggestion box for Blackthorn (Vienna?) then it would have all sorts of suggestions, mostly sensible, within an hour.
    One I can think of would be separating the GUI from the OS, so that the defalut installation has just a simple, 2k type interface, and the command line, and anyone who wants the next version of Aero, and has a computer capable of supporting it, can install it if they like. It would then be relativly easy for companies to create thier own UIs in thier colur scheme and so forth, and 3rd-parties could create extensions, add-ons, and completely new GUIs for Windows, wile keeping the basic OS and program compatability. The ability to create separate UIs would aslo make web acces programs easier to produce.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  8. identicon
    claire rand, Jun 20th, 2006 @ 5:27am


    any company that *doesn't* look at customer feed back is silly. soliciting ideas up front could lead to legal problems however.

    its a fine line. personally i wouldn't expect to be paid for making a comment on a product unless i got it through a discount deal that required comments.

    give me a discounted product, and some easy way of giving feed back and i'll file a report.

    if i send a comment to a company of my own back, well its in the hope they may listen and a future product may work better for me. nobody looses there.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

  9. identicon
    Jeff Howe, Jun 20th, 2006 @ 6:23am

    Downsourcing (att: Clay Shirky)

    Customersourcing is indeed unwieldy, but it's worth pointing out that the two examples you offer are, by my lights anyway, cases of crowdsourcing. I believe you're talking about John Fluevog's "Open Source Footwear" program and, respectively, neither of which are outsourcing to their customers, per se, but allow submissions from anyone with the inclination to submit their designs. The best example of "customersourcing" is MIT Prof's classic case study of custom integrated circuits, in which users demanded the tools to design their circuit boards themselves. (Check out Von Hippel's excellent and downloadable book, Democratizing Innovation for more info -- Clay Shirky uses the term "downsourcing" to describe the movement of basic programming skills from paid worker to the user of a software product. I always found this to be a pithy, and apt, description of the phenomenon.

    reply to this | link to this | view in thread ]

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