The Wall of Separation
You can’t see it, but it’s there: a towering wall, stretching from horizon to horizon, that separates 90% of all workers from the customers that keep them in business. Since the dawn of the industrial revolution, right through to today, people who sell things plan and organize and execute their business inside closed organizations (they’re called companies) where they spend their days talking almost entirely to each other. The customer is almost nowhere to be seen.
In the 1930s, companies figured out that they needed to know what customers wanted if, they were going to stay in business. So market research was invented. Employees, or specialists hired by them, would climb over the invisible wall, have a look around at what customers were up to, ask some questions, and then report back.
Over time, the methods for doing this research have become ever more varied and sophisticated. While no method is perfect and companies continued to miss key shifts in customer wants and needs, it’s undeniable that well-executed market research has been very effective at letting companies see over the wall that separates them from their customers and develop innovative new products and services.
But for all the good things that can be said about traditional market research – and there are many – it remains a wall-jumping tool. Put another way, you only need to conduct in-depth studies of customer wants and needs if there are no other reliable ways for this information to easily flow between company and customer. Take the wall down, or at least blow some big holes in it, and suddenly traditional market research becomes much less important.
New Climbing Routes
Since the customer-company wall has existed for over 200 years, it won’t be torn down overnight. But there are clear signs that it is eroding rapidly, and we see Qmarkets as playing an important role in the next major stage in this process, which is already underway. The erosion began with the arrival of the Internet, which created a myriad of new ways for company and customer to engage with each other.
Over the last twenty years, company websites, email marketing, targeted advertising and social media have enabled companies to connect with customers in ways never before possible. Meanwhile online reviews, fan, and complaint websites, feedback forms, and social media have provided powerful new channels for customers to directly share their opinions with companies. Each of these new technologies and media platforms have blown another hole in the customer-company wall and, just as importantly, have progressively trained consumers that engaging with companies is a standard part of consumer behavior.
The stage has now been set for an entirely new level of customer-company engagement, that is likely to knock out the foundation blocks of the company-customer wall. Using powerful crowdsourcing software like that offered by Qmarkets, supported by a range of best practices, progressive companies across all industries are now continuously (not intermittently) engaging with customers and other stakeholders to generate new ideas for their business, refine those ideas, select the most promising ideas, and overcome even the thorniest challenges related to commercializing those ideas.
Bringing Down the Wall
Rather than just engaging customers periodically on an ad-hoc basis to search for wants, needs and big ideas, continuously engaging customers in the process of ideation and innovation is rapidly becoming the cornerstone of leading companies innovation strategy, and is likely to become as integral to enterprise execution as the activities that make up sales, marketing or finance.
To be sure, there will still be an important role for market research in the coming era of crowdsourced ideation and innovation. But consider some of the benefits of crowdsourcing ideas relative to relying exclusively on market research:
- Rather than engaging with customers only sporadically in the form of ad hoc research studies, engagement with crowdsourced innovation is continuous.
- Rather than reaching out to customers at times and for reasons that are decided by the company, customers engage with the company at times and for reasons that matter to them (like when they have a big idea).
- Rather than tapping into a relatively small number of individuals selected by the company for a research study, the company can tap into an enormous number of individuals, many of whom will be passionate about the company’s products and services, and that likely would not have been identified otherwise.
- Rather than appearing closed and anonymous as a result of research studies that are largely hidden from view, the company can use crowdsourced innovation to burnish its image and brand as uniquely customer-centric.
- Rather than market research being done in a siloed fashion by a small, specialized team, crowdsourced ideation can be executed by, and integrated into a wide variety of business functions including innovation, marketing, R&D and product development.
As we look to the future of the customer-centric enterprise, we see crowdsourced innovation management tools like those from Qmarkets playing an important role in smashing the foundation upon which the company-customer wall sits. So grab a hard hat and sledgehammer, and join us! Because the walls are gonna be tumblin’ down.
Based in Boston, MA ThirdSlice is a nextgen consultancy that supercharges its clients’ innovation and new product development efforts through the use of powerful digital and mobile platforms that bring customers into the innovation and new product development process. Building on the latest thinking in digital market research, crowdsourcing, and open innovation, ThirdSlice enables clients to significantly increase their innovation capacity and identify breakthrough new products and service opportunities in ways never before possible. ThirdSlice is a premier partner of Qmarkets, the leading provider of open innovation software.
Contact Qmarkets to consult with our experts and discover how your enterprise can innovate and transform ideas into results!