The Data Digest: Do Consumers Want To Co-Create With Companies?

Co-creation and crowdsourcing are hot because companies see these social technologies as a tool to engage with consumers in new and innovative ways and at the same time benefit from their involvement in the design and development of products. In a recently published report, “US Consumers Are Willing Co-Creators,” Forrester Technographics® data shows that 61% of all US online adults are willing co-creators, and they are open to co-creating across a large range of industries.

But interest isn’t equally high across different consumer industries. Below, you’ll find a graphic showing the top five industries that consumers are interested in participating with for co-creation efforts.

Household technology products like PCs and TVs top the list, but CPG, home entertainment (i.e., movies and music), household appliances (i.e., washing machines and refrigerators), and small kitchen appliances follow closely. As usual, men and women have different interests: While women account for 51% of all willing co-creators, they account for a much greater share of the audience interested in co-creating with CPG companies and clothing, footwear, and small kitchen appliance manufacturers.

Companies thinking about implementing co-creation need to make sure the interaction will be appealing from the consumer's point of view, in terms of topic, incentive, and time commitment, to avoid the initiative backfiring.


Define co-create

If you asked me the same question, I would answer yes to a lot of those industries. However, if that means going to the factory and bolting something on to my new washing machine (or car as in Doug Williams blog on the Corvette), then I'll pass, thank you. So, to me, "co-create" is more like selecting options or features, or helping decide what the "ideal" would have. I suspect many of those people that you surveyed have much the same view of "co-create" as I do.

For a more extreme example, I am a private pilot. I have often thought of getting one of those home-built kits for an airplane. But then there's reality of flying something that someone so mechanically-challenged as I am. I think I'll pay for the labor of someone who knows what they are doing.

Definitions are still muddled

Hi Nancy,
You are correct: our definition of co-creation is similar to yours. Specifically, in my "Social Co-Creation" report, I define co-creation as "the act of involving consumers directly, and in some cases repeatedly, in the product creation or innovation process." And in this survey, the specific question we asked was, "Think about the products and services that you use in your everyday life. Would you be interested in providing input to help design and build new products or improve current products?" Despite our use of the term "build," that question aligns with our and your concept of co-creation, rather than the "co-production" concept embraced by GM with the Corvette (although GM does use the term 'create' liberally in its press release).

I think a lot of people are still trying to sort out these definitions. Crowdsourcing is another term that seems to have a different definition depending upon who you ask. Some would consider crowdsourcing and co-creation to mean the same things, whereas I view crowdsourcing as a subset of co-creation -- it is just one of many ways firms can engage with their customers to co-create new products and services.

Engaging customers with your business

We had great success in doing this with the interiors industry and recently concluded season 2 of the txstyle challenge for our client, Mannington. This is with a platform that allows interior designers from all over the country to contribute design ideas and then vote on them. Season 1 has already resulted in a new flooring product introduction. The link to this platform is at We had 13,000 people sign up in a few months for season 2 with several hundred product ideas and very active participation.