integrating views & feedback of audiences/customers

Background & Collaborative consumer profile

The collaborative consumers' profile are those who have been termed in the industry as customer/consumer evangelists (Wiki Blog). These are individuals who are so passionate about a brand that they will spread the message for you, and indeed feel rewarded if invited to co-develop services.
In this instance we are examining the "gap" in existing online "feedback" systems as seen in many corporate websites, for a robust online program & system that facilitates the process of "eliciting on-going cusomter insights" into firm's existing eCommerce platforms.
The reader should therefore bring to this article the re-contextualisation of Toyota's "continuous improvement" (Wiki PDF summary)...but with a difference. Rather than adopting the standard approach "firm centric" & where the customer fulfills the role of "target" & object of analysis, the reader should consider looking beyond the usual suspects and approaches. What if part of the catalyst to enhance the firm's value ad trhough thier competencies and capabilites was the continuos integration of customer feedback as a driving force?
There are plenty of willing and engaged customer evnagelists who are more than ready to be embraced and endoctrinated with the firm's robust online continuous improvement system...for the firm's eCommerce platforms and online services.
A final caveat to keep in mind is that these observations fall outside the standard industry practice and ciclic "time-tabled", scheduled and procedural approach of "user centric" systems development and design. The life-cycle is no longer available to fit the firm's resource needs, the customer wants improvements ASAP...hence the need for a Darwinistic system!

If you don't develop faster responsive systems that embrace customer assisted eCommerce darwinism, then someone else will!

Executive Summary
Firm controlled affiliate program platforms have been developed to varying degrees of sophistication. For example Amazon's affiliate program is quite robust and supportive. It cleverly enables amazon and firms alike to play to particular consumers' second-life styles in the digital realm. Firms' eMarketers are fully aware of how consumers' influence and participation on the web involves opinion and/or consumer generated media via web2.0 (Wiki O'reilly) platforms, and therefore how to leverage this behaviour towards their sales efforts.

For those who dabble in affiliate programmes, the amazon affiliate back-end infrastructure speaks volumes with regards to how well the means of producing a mutual benefit has been identified, designed, planned, and integrated within the corresponding eCommerce platform.

...But mechanisms for providing feedback on the very collaborative eCommerce platforms/Service are still at very primitive stages. This is very, very good news as it spells out: opportunity.

Under-developed feedback platform for Collaborative eCommerce platform Co-creation Space Available...
Firms that seize underdeveloped primitive feedback mechanisms co-develop these platforms with their customers in a mutually beneficial manner will be in a competitive position to optimize their eCommerce activities.

Therefore co-creation and that motivates and spells out benefits are likely to increase their impact on the bottom line.

The pieces of the puzzle are there, and the beauty is that we can re-purpose and re-contextualize robust methodologies and procedures from various disciplines such as:

>production design & development, their corresponding interaction design disciplines
>psychology (behaviour-motivation)
>Software Development
>Human Resources

Consumers want a piece of the action and are rolling their sleeves to shape the web...
Consumers are no longer passive cash-cows to be milked till the bulls come home. Thanks to broadband's facilitation of rich web platforms, consumers have been empowered to collaborate in shaping the new web in many ways. To increase sales, increase awareness and decrease the likelihood of failure (in commercial cases, product/service), smart firms have latched onto the behaviour of prolific citizen journalists /"mini-preneurs", and consumer evangelists. The move toward brining in customers as both partners and consumers started way, way before the citizen journalism buzz-word did the rounds. And this was possible thanks to firms' development of collaborative tools. By appealing to consumers' newtworks of interests, their network of influences and by ensuring that their customers' kudos could be put on steroids, firms have ensured that consumers have come on board. As unpaid sales-forces, collaborators and co-developers; consumers are helping the bottom line in the following common ways:

>Virtual Sales forces - commission based (affiliate programmes - amazon)
>Self Publishers - cost plus percentage (Books, Calendars, Prints, CDs, DVDs)>
>Micro Design Boutique owners - cost plus percentage (Bags, T-shirts, Polo's, bibs, underwear, etc.)
>Shop Aggregators - commission (amazon)
>Ad Sponsored consumer generated content - bloggers, personal websites
>Human filters & human robots (tagging, reviews -folksonomy)
>Web Advocacy & participants - interest groups, grid-computing (web-based)
>Web Philanthropists - Virtual Volunteering

But Many eCommerce organization are still missing a collaborative trick...
Providing clear incentive programs for consumers to further the development of the very collaborative eCommerce platforms which firms utilize to engage their consumers and enhance their bottom lines is an area that requires much attention.

Consumers as Innovators: From Specialist Experts to Consumer Experts
Peer-production within the web as a means of driving innovation has been going on for quite a while within the software industry. Movements such as open-source have ensured the democratization of the tools of production and business, only formally available to the elite and deep pocketed.

Putting aside the philosophical motivations,world views, and challenges to the various industries, what is of interest here is the robustness of the collaboration process.

If firms could harness collaboration for the development of their eCommerce platforms in a structured and robust way that motivated and incentivated collaborators, then Innovation could perhaps move much faster.

Collaboration Personas & what they could bring to the table
Being on the receiving end of continuous product & service offers and their corresponding interactions have made many consumers experts in their own rights. We all have in our lives and within our network of influencers - individuals who can enlighten us about products or services in many ways...

Take those wonderful "recommenders" in the real world...
...their area of expertise seems to be always spot-on, even when they come with their caveats!

...Whether it's that wonderful pizzeria where you should only stick to the gorgeous thin-based crispy pizza experience, followed by a coffee or dessert - elsewhere (because the pizzeria doesn't have strength in that department), or that cut-prize electronic store that has every gadget imaginable, but whose price tag comes with moody service...

...What about the graceful moaners?
This bunch have many times made admirable observations and highlighted insights that have made us nod in acknowledgment, you must know some?

...such as a colleague who once mentioned, "why doesn't my online banking account have a big clear button that says "log-out" or "log-off"...that would make me feel more secure...


..."Why am I left to struggle on web-forms with no visible cues or means to gain some assistance except by getting on a phone..."

Participatory fruitfulness for the development of eCommerce collaboration platforms?
Sophisticated and robust eCommerce collaboration platforms & programs have been mainly oriented towards the aggregation of opinion, and expertise, to narrow to two main areas. The dominating rewards for contributors are either psychological, in terms of reputation rewards, or mutually beneficial by driving interest to the author's affiliate related content (provided by the same supplier, who also benefits from this free labour). Positive reputation has been deployed as a motivator and catalyst. This has been well thought out; the means of producing a mutual benefit has been identified, designed, planned, and integrated within the corresponding eCommerce platform.

...But feedback and collaboration on eCommerce platform development currently appears to encompass an asymmetrical relationship - with the benefits being stacked-up on the side of the firm. Trawling through google, form based feedback appeared to be the norm with rewards such as T-shirts and free software beyond the beta phaze.

The author would like to invite others to trawl through Google to identify robust consumer/customer feedback programs that engage and apply innovations from their very consumers.

The experience
My experience of as an affiliate is amazingly rich. But a clear visual cue regarding feedback was text based and this took you to a form. The Associate blog had posts referring to feedback on specific updates on the portfolio of associate tools. The forums are generally an exchange between users.

The experience
Etsy is like the "ebay" for people specifically involved in arts & crafts. Again, amazing tools but no robust feedback mechanism as described here was identified.

The membrane between the customer and the organization is being changed thanks to what we have observed. And organisations such as lego are taking full advantage and embracing customers as product co-creators...but again there is opportunity at developing the very eCommerce platforms via robust eFeedback processes and procedures.

Related Content & references...
Innovation Briefing: customer centred innovation

Activity in human reward-sensitive brain areas is strongly context dependent

Evolution of the New Economy Business Model
William Lazonick, UMass Lowell and INSEAD,

The Impact of the Internet on Business Model Evolution within the News and Music Sectors

Business model design & evolution;filename=IAMOT05.pdf

The New Darwinism
Corporate survival demands synchronized business and IT changes

Customers as Innovators: A New Way to Create Value (HBR OnPoint Enhanced Edition)

check out Open Source models of working...



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