Involved customer, happy customer

One interesting lesson we had during the master was the one with professors Cattaneo and Giusti about CORPORATE VENTURE CAPITAL & CROWDFUNDING.

I particularly remember that lesson also because of the exercise we made analyzing cases of successful startups with innovative service models: Airbnb (my case study), Amazon and Dropbox. Of course, they all are big and powerful companies and we didn’t pretend to financially and strategically fully understand them, but the exercise has been challenging and interesting at the same time: we tried to understand the effectiveness of service processes. After that, we discussed about the crowdfunding as an instrument of network involvement in the services design, and the current trend of new business model: in particular the Internet of Things and 3D printing.
All these topics were useful then as a “knowledge lens” for me to better comprehend and analyze different articles I had the chance to read about these subjects.
The basic idea I grabbed is that from concept ideation, to development, to manufacturing, to launching on the market, the time it takes a new product to go from an idea to customers’ hands is speeding up. Nowadays the involvement of customers along the entire process is more and more. And that also means consumers are gaining more control over the end result, too. But that result, indeed, is a better product and more loyal customers.
Crowdsourcing and crowdfunding are only two ways to let customers into the product development process. Emerging technologies like 3D printing let companies prototype and iterate more rapidly, but they also have the potential to put manufacturing and design in consumers’ hands.
The discussion, at this point, is “do customers really want these products?”. Those methods can be clearly seen as quick way to test new product ideas before even going in the realization phase. Another very similar way to do it (as we learnt from Dario Buzzini’s lesson “F*ck it, ship it”) is to mock up some quick graphics and placed the ads online, considering a big variety of media (we mostrly used Facebook, Launchrock, MailChimp and Twitter) . The results helped us a lot to feel more confident about the concept.
Another big question regarding these topics is “how can companies retain a sense of identity and branding while leaving room for customers to claim some ownership over product design?” Someone says it’s all about vision and clarity. “The drive toward collaboration is something that starts deep within our company, that we then extend out to our customers as well … . You have to know what you want to offer the world.” Shoes of Prey, for example, is part of a new breed of businesses that is taking product customization to the extreme. Thanks to technological advances, including 3-D modeling and printing, they can let customers design products from scratch. At the same time the “maker movement” has inspired people to seek out DIY tools, “People will be happier with fewer things when they have a memory of making them”, because that’s an expression of themselves.
As a final consideration I can say that customer-driven design solutions enable “collaborative experience design with customers”; designers will get a rich environment to learn, test, and iterate with more customer input.