Customer feedback is a huge part of directing and improving customer experience. Feedback provides insight into pain points, areas for improvement and can be solicited at various customer touchpoints to better understand what is going through a customer’s mind at a given time.
However, customer participation, or the active involvement of customers in your brand, is becoming increasingly valuable, especially in the age of social media. Social media is a useful vehicle to engage customer participation in a way that extends beyond matter-of-fact feedback. Instead, customer participation gives those invested in your brand a chance to contribute to your brand’s culture, voice desires for new products, raise awareness about issues important to them and give executives a more intimate perspective into how their own customers’ voices can shape their brand and future as a business.
Directing Product Development
The most obvious application of customer participation is involvement in the product/service creation process. A good example is a food/beverage provider creating a campaign to let customers choose a new flavor. In this situation, customers could go online or onto an app and vote for their favorite flavor they want the brand to launch in the future. Their active involvement and participation creates a feeling of ownership and unique engagement they might not have if they were simply “prescribed” a new flavor profile.
The opportunity for customer participation in this way not only to fine-tuning existing products, but creating new products/services as well. Listening to customers and giving them the opportunity to voice their opinions can help create a clear path for new product development by identifying areas where they are unsatisfied, or using your company’s products/services in conjunction with their own devices.
Customer participation is a huge way to create excitement and authentic engagement around your brand. A great example of generating hype is use of a social media hashtag with your brand’s products, or simply related to your brand’s culture.
By allowing customers to photograph themselves using your product, or in an environment related to your brand (e.g., an outdoors store creating a hashtag #mylifeoutside for consumers to use when they have camping pictures) generates authentic excitement around your brand. The combination of authenticity from real people, along with the ease of doing so (simply creating a hashtag to be populated with thousands of pictures) and the intimacy of the interaction create a unique space for your brand that is impossible to replicate.
Developing and Maintaining Brand Identity
While products and services are incredibly important, more and more, consumers are gravitating toward those same products and services based on a greater brand identity. This brand identity relates to how they perceive the brand, how they perceive themselves, and how the brand enhances their identity or creates an identity of its own they want to support.
Development of a brand identity comes in many forms; one of the original positive ways to create brand identity was through charitable giving. This is extremely true today — many brands try to align themselves with doing good in order to increase visibility and create a positive image. However, brand identity now extends to specified attitudes, core values, lifestyles and perceptions about the world.
Customer engagement is so important in this sense — it helps consumers shape your brand, rather than be recipients of it. It gives your consumers a voice and helps create a reciprocal relationship between your brand and your consumers. In this way, consumers are truly dictating the direction your brand goes and actively contributing to the culture surrounding it, creating a more genuine and grassroots identity.