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Are We Making the Right Decision? How Citi Used Consumer Collaboration to Venture into New Territories

There’s a crisis in confidence among companies seeking to revitalize – if not outright re-imagine – the way they do business. Fundamentally, this crisis results from the tension between the known and the unknown, from that momentary sense of apprehension you experience when crossing from the familiar to the new. Think Caesar crossing the Rubicon. Frodo leaving the Shire. Luke departing from Tattoine. At that very instant, when you find yourself stepping out from the world you know and into a new and unfamiliar landscape, there’s always the question: Am I making the right decision?

A recent Fast Company article examines how Citibank faced this very question as it prepared to journey into new and unfamiliar territory … for a bank, at least. As part of its mission to become more customer-centric, Citi was considering developing a social gaming app that would connect people to others in their social network based on shared music interests. The engine in this app would be Citi’s Private Pass program, which provides Citi cardholders with special access to events and entertainment. As the idea for the app began to take shape, Citi had to ask itself: Are we making the right decision?

To answer this question, Citi turned to its Communispace online consumer advisory community for feedback and guidance. And what started as a quick gut check on the idea quickly evolved into a process of consumer collaboration in which Citi asked its target customers to co-create the app in terms of its design, features and functionality.

Here’s how it all went down.

1.  Elicit the consumer perspective. The world of social gaming and entertainment is not a familiar world for banks. What Citi needed to understand first and foremost was whether or not consumers would endorse Citi’s move into this space. Is the idea of a social gaming app from a bank too far-fetched, or would consumers be accepting of Citi’s efforts to be more customer-centric by being more social? The answer to this question was a resounding yes, with consumers saying things like:

  • “I think it is clever and helpful to maybe get people to bank with Citi as a result.”
  • “Looks fun, a great perk for being a Citibank customer.”

2.  Prioritize consumer preferences. Consumers want a lot of things – sometimes they want everything. When sketching out the app, Citi asked consumers to describe and prioritize their preferences in terms of game design, features and functionality. How do consumers want the gaming app to work? Are they comfortable with the Facebook privacy permissions? How should the interface be designed? These are just some of the areas in which consumers rolled up their sleeves to help Citi create the app.

3.  Design for simplicity, ease and play. When walking through the app, consumers helped Citi identify ways to make the user experience more friendly and intuitive, sharing feedback such as: “I actually got confused and thought the friend match was correlative to concert match I did not realize they were 2 separate applications at first.”

At this stage, consumers were able to help improve the release version of the app as well as provide a number of ideas that will be incorporated into  app updates. In this respect, consumer collaboration is a worthwhile up-front investment that continues to pay off well into the future.

4.  Promote appropriately. In addition to collaborating with consumers on app design and functionality, Citi also worked with its Communispace advisory board consumers to plan the best promotional strategy for the app. Consumers shared their preferences and opinions about ad placement and language and ultimately helped Citi shape the social media promotional strategy for the app.

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