My Starbucks Idea (revisited) – Consumers’ feedback in product design


Every day, several dozens of Starbuck’s customers share their idea online about how to improve the customers’ experience at their favorite coffee place. They do so on MyStarbucksIdea, a simple but well-designed website that somewhat resemble a blog.  Up to now, more than 190,000 ideas have been collected on MyStarbucksIdea.  Besides allowing the customers to offer possible products or concepts, Starbucks also engages its customers through daily survey, test, games, etc…

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But what’s new with this website? One might say that it’s simply another way to collect and monitor the customers’ feedback and satisfaction. The difference with a regular customers’ feedback tool has a twofold nature. Firstly, the extent of the customers’ feedback breaks apart from the previous habits. The customers not only grade and comment the new products but also offer ideas for the next step the corporation should take. Secondly, the extent of the following innovation taken by the firm is new. On average, 3 new products, concepts or variation are tested somewhere every week due to an idea posted on MyStarbucksIdea.

Such a platform can be a powerful tool to generate co-created value.  Indeed, the customer sees the product improved and, hence, sees that product’s value increase.  Starbucks has also a clear advantage in improving its customers’ experience, which is a core value of its concept.  This approach truly empowers the customers by letting them decide what tomorrow will offer while the firm fulfil what they already know to be a customers’ need.  The customers become active stakeholders in the firm’s marketing and R&D activities.

Although the concept of engaging customers to better respond to their need might seem obvious, most companies are generally unprepared to experience this co-creation practice (Seppa & Tanev, 2011).  Before launching Windows XP and Windows 2000, Windows engaged more than 500,000 software engineers (Encyclopedia of ecommerce, 2014).  They test the beta version, offered some possible modifications and, in some cases, coded these modifications themselves. Both products were largely successful.  Windows stopped nonetheless to engage its customers when releasing the next products and tried to bring “internally created” innovations with Vista, which turned out to be harshly received by the customers. Most product development groups continue to design non-interactive products, with the idea of creating a new need, which is rarely successful (Gouillart, 2011).

While not being the only alternative to generate superior value for the firm, this simple practice has much potential due to three main elements. First of all, it relies on the principle of a social network, harnessing the power of engaging numerous stakeholders and rejuvenate the firm’s image. Secondly, it generates co-creation by providing the firm a superior Customer Insight. Lastly, this practice ensures that the firm use a proper Management of the Information – namely implement the innovation gained through the customer insight.

To conclude, companies are still underutilizing the potential of values co-creation by engaging customers. Although this practice has proven successful, many managers are stuck in the old approach to customer experience – one-way project-management techniques were the firm offers a product internally created.

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