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The Customer-activated Enterprise Study: Why Consumer Collaboration Is Driving Business Strategy

Consumer collaboration is not a new practice. Businesses have been working with customers to gather insights and drive innovation for years. But the results of “The Customer-activated Enterprise,” a new C-suite study conducted by IBM’s Institute for Business Value affirms something we at Communispace have known for years: C-level execs are embracing the power of the consumer as a driving force for business strategy.

Through in-person conversations with more than 4,000 business leaders in 70 countries across 20 global industries, the study reveals some key takeaways:

  • 90% of leaders expect consumer collaboration practices to increase in the next 3-5 years
  • 60% plan to engage directly with their customers to develop business strategy
  • 54% of “outperforming companies” are more likely to intensively collaborate with customers

At Communispace, it’s our business to facilitate collaborative experiences among business and consumers, empowering each to build lasting, mutually-beneficial relationships and engage with one another as partners rather than as “targets,” “data sets,” and “demos.” This study reinforces our consumer collaboration philosophy that outside-in innovation has officially replaced stale, siloed and antiquated inside-out tactics.

How Consumer Collaboration Leads to Real-life Innovation

The message that IBM has uncovered is clear: C-suite executives savvy enough to turn to their customers (as well as their suppliers and internal employees) for input and insights are enjoying positive effects on their bottom line today – as well as increased consumer loyalty – and they anticipate the upsurge to continue. But one-third of business leaders interviewed expressed concern over their colleagues’ detachment from consumers. The consumer “intimacy gap” is by no means easy to close.

Which is why Fortune 500 companies who want to boost engagement with individuals – and, in turn, boost their bottom lines – use our expertise in taking intelligent approaches to consumer collaboration. Charles Schwab is a fantastic example of this. When their executives sought to find ways to build better relationships with female customers, the company engaged with a community of over 300 female clients to turn their already-successful financial planning workshop program into one that worked exclusively for women.

When consumer engagement leads to digital innovation, the “intimacy gap” closes further still, as it did for UK telecom company Orange. By engaging with a group of consumers, the company learned what mobile customers considered most important (and also most frustrating) about their phones and service plans. Through the co-creation process, the company gleaned actionable insights emerging from the minds of mobile consumers, using them to build one of the most successful brand launches in UK history.

The Charles Schwab and Orange examples are only a few of many showing how we work with companies to unlock and unleash the power of consumer insight. Discovering solutions to tough – sometimes messy – business problems isn’t easy, but when it’s done by those who are in the unique position to provide the most valuable input (the consumers), the risk is low, the rewards great and the opportunity is wide open for strategic innovation.

What the IBM study ultimately shows is that, by giving consumers a real seat at the conference table, C-suite executives are making the unprecedented choice to put long-term strategic and operational business decisions in the hands of their customers. This is a powerful moment in business. Leaders who are listening to consumers, gathering their feedback, engaging with them and building lasting relationships are seeing positive results and anticipate that the trend will continue. Those who aren’t would be wise to consider consumer collaboration de rigueur to their business strategies and procedures.

For many this is uncharted, daunting territory. Luckily, we have already drawn the map.

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