Global insights agency Protein shared their findings from their latest community retail report last week. They found that, while 59% of their respondents do consider themselves to be part on an online retail community, 79% of the audience expressed a desire for a closer relationship with their physical community. So how can brands help meet this desire? GDR Innovation Researcher Sophia Platts-Palmer argues that one route to building brand communities and achieving authentic community retail is co-creation.
By doing away with traditional models of the passive consumer and involving customers directly, brands can build a deeper understanding of what their customers want, in turn leading to value creation, customer loyalty and more effective innovation.
One brand that has long employed co-creation is LEGO. LEGO has harnessed the innovative power that their product (by it’s very nature) inspires and has added value to its brand by establishing LEGO Ideas– an online community where members can discover, submit and vote on peer creations. If a project receives over 10,000 votes, LEGO reviews it and the shortlisted set goes into production to be sold world wide as an official LEGO product. This example demonstrates a shift in authority, which LEGO has shared with consumers via an online community who embrace the same core values.
Cultivating a community through co-creation also opens up the possibility for emotional branding by leveraging empathy and establishing trust between a consumer and brand. Co-creative communities can benefit brands and retailers by providing valuable market research at a low price point, as well as being a source of innovation. Ultimately, brands want to appeal to customers and drive sales, and the best way to do this is to ask them what they want and allow them some creative control.
TokyWoky is an online service that establishes a co-creative community by enabling users to chat peer-to-peer to offer live advice on products and purchases from others surfing the same site. TokyWoky gives the consumer the authority. Timothée Deschamps, Co-Founder of TokyWoky, explains, “the reason we built TokyWoky is because people do not want to talk to a salesperson. They want to talk to someone with as much or more knowledge than the salesperson and who is not biased.”
“Brands certainly benefit from this application” Deschamps continues, “[TokyWoky] is based within the website/shop. And that is really important because this is where the community is needed…it ensures that the conversations happen in the brand’s space.”
This unrestricted peer-to-peer conversation allows for brands to access analytics and real-time feedback regarding products and customer shopping experiences and therefore remain empathetic and attuned to what the community wants.
While utilising an online method of co-creation and establishing digital communities arguably works very well, can co-creation also be valuable in the physical retail and marketing space?
In 2016, Marc Jacobs utilised a multichannel, co-creative marketing technique to advertise during New York Fashion Week, by inviting the city’s fashion-loving community to graffiti on its wild postings. “Consumers would treat the brand’s creative as their canvas, using it as the backdrop to their own art”, and by sharing to Instagram, Twitter or Facebook with the hashtag #StreetMarc, they have the chance of winning two tickets to the Marc Jacobs runway show. This encouraged local audiences to physically seek out the posters and share amongst peers to put their own mark on a campaign; uniting a community of fans.
For Generation Z, being able to directly contribute to a brand innovation is very important. According to a poll by Vision Critical, 72% of Gen Z said that they would support companies that listened to their feedback. It is important to reach out to these early adopters, who desire newness and are already members of large consumer communities.
As the statistics delivered by Protein highlight, a sense of belonging and solidarity is core to human behaviour. Whether online or offline, brands and retailers need to become spaces where communities can flourish around a core value, as communities do in the physical world. Brands must be recognised as genuine members of this community and by employing co-creative methods, can really understand the needs of the consumer on a deeper level.