Written by Deb Smyth on September 24, 2012
in Customer Experience

Did you know that Einstein’s theory of relativity originated from an idea one of his fans gave him? Okay, I made that up … the idea came to him on a Swiss train ride … but if Einstein had reached out to his fans, who knows what other brilliant theories he might’ve come up with.

Whole Foods, for example, recently asked their customers to share their “big bacon ideas” via FB for a chance to win a year of pork on their fork. Within three days, Whole Foods reportedly received 1,000 suggestions – some surely better than others – but an impressive response, nonetheless.

The ideas ranged from the ridiculous (bacon eggnog?) to the sublime (bacon bagels!), and gave them invaluable insights into their customers and their preferences. Even if they never use any of the ideas they collected, the customer connection they’ve made is something even bacon can’t buy.

Walmart also recently crowdsourced their customers for new-product suggestions in a contest called “Get on the Shelf.”

Of course, not all 4,000 ideas received were Einstein-level brainwaves (the salad dressing designed to cure baldness, for example). But the winning products – including bottled water that contributes 100% of net profits to ending the global clean-water crisis – represented some forward-thinking notions. Plus, the criteria for landing a product on the shelf included demonstrating “an ability to save Walmart customers’ money so they can live better” – again, recognizing what their customers need and value.

Asking customers for feedback is not a new practice, of course – but it’s an important one. Not only as market research or a way to gather innovative suggestions – but as a way to deliver true value to customers.

What really makes these efforts successful is when brands make it clear to their customers that they matter – by treating them like people. Always a good idea.


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