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Drive customer loyalty with a co-creation programme

Understatement is an underwear brand that empowers women

Customer-centricity might sound like an overused buzzword, but it’s still a trendy concept for a successful business. So, how to be more customer-centric? The answer is by proactively asking customers about their points of view. Co-creation programs are growing in popularity as they’re highly engaging —they’re one of the best ways to involve customers directly with your brand.

This article will explain how to increase customer loyalty with a co-creation programme. To do so, we will use the insights shared by John-Ruben Holtback, founder of UNNA, in the fifth episode of our podcast, yaylive, the loyalty podcast for DTC brands. UNNA is a Swedish activewear brand that launched a co-creation programme before launching its products.

What is co-creation in eCommerce?

Co-creation happens when companies involve their customers in the creativity and development process. Brands engage with their customers to understand their preferences regarding clothing, from fabric, colour and price (among many more). A co-creation programme has two main goals. On the one hand, create better products by listening to customers and potential ones. And on the other hand, increase customer loyalty by engaging with customers and making them feel part of the brand. It's a win-win situation. 🎉

In terms of a retention strategy, a co-creation programme is incredible. I knew it was something I wanted to do with UNNA because I love the concept. I always wanted to be closer to the consumer”.

John Ruben Holdback, Founder UNNA

When is the right time to launch a co-creation programme?

There's no official “right time” to launch a co-creation programme, but most brands do it in the early days to understand the customers' preferences. Co-creation is a good strategy for newbie companies to reach more potential customers and enter the market with good brand recognition.

That being said, a co-creation programme can be implemented at any stage of a brand's journey. There is always time to innovate, engage with customers and be creative.

How to start a co-creation programme?

Generally, a co-creation programme takes place in the form of pilot projects and pre-orders. Thanks to social media, internet forums and online portals, customers can connect with the brand in each step of product development. The company gets direct feedback from the test customer, which helps make the necessary adjustments before starting the official production. Co-creation programmes start by asking the customers which product they want/need, with which specific particularities, followed by creating it with them and finally launching it.

Start by building a community on one platform

Today, if brands want extraordinary success for their new product launch, they first must understand customers' interests, opinions, and suggestions to ensure the product matches customers' needs and wishes. So they should invest time in building community and bringing all the customers on one platform. Using this community space, users can submit ideas, provide comments to one another, and keep track of all co-creation projects. As for the platform, it all comes down to where your target is; it can be a third-party software, Instagram or a specific custom-dev solution.

“Setting up a co-creation community doesn’t have to be hard. [At UNNA] we walk you through a five-to-seven-minute signup, asking people whether they have struggles and pain points and their inspirations and aspirations. We get a lot of interesting connections and build a personal relationship with the people in this community.”

John Ruben Holdback, Founder UNNA

Instagram can be a great place to build a community

Engage with customers on social media

Engage customers by providing personalised activities, recommendations, continuous content, and co-creation activities. On social media, brands use polls to ask the customers what they'd prefer and make them choose between different products, colours, fabrics, etc.

The feedback helps understand customers’ preferences. This way, the brand has a good idea of what products to design in a way that directly connects to customers’ wishes.

We started with Instagram early by testing different concepts. I interviewed some friends and then took pictures, trying to find the energy I wanted to have within. I tried to find something that aligned with myself, the brand, the visuals, and the product.”

John Ruben Holdback, Founder UNNA

Advantages of running a co-creation programme

Brands that are willing to involve customers in the product design and production process would be able to yield several benefits. Let's see which advantages you can get from a co-creation programme, shall we?

Get new Ideas for creating new products

If you’re looking for a brand which has co-creation in its DNA, Asphalte is the answer. They put their customers close to their hearts with the motivation that "rather than trying to guess what you're going to want to buy in a year, we just ask you what you fancy all the time via a bunch of questionnaires."

They recently got a request from a customer to develop long-lasting socks. To confirm this idea, they ran surveys on Instagram asking people if they would like Asphalte socks and got substantial positive responses. Inspired by customer ideas, the company launched their first pair of socks and even named after the customer "Valentin". The way they involved customers in their production process and communicated it (using the customer's name) reiterates how close they are to their customers and how much they value their opinion.

Such ideas from your customers could lead to development of unique and famous trademark products for your brand.

Gain insights into new products through a pre-order campaign

A pre-order campaign happens when brands accept customer orders for products before they are available for general purchase. A good pre-order campaign can help spark interest and generate buzz before a new product launch.

It is also a way to produce based on demand and have the correct sizes and volume. When you offer a pre-order for your existing customers, they feel special and excited to be part of such a campaign. That's another action that is well received by consumers and something to bet on if you want to increase customer loyalty.

Gather the feedback with pilot testing

Pilot testing is a trial of products which allows brands to test their product with a small number of participants before officially launching the product.

Participants should be aware of their involvement and informed about what they need to do. During the process, the brand has to send a questionnaire to each customer to collect feedback on the tested product. It’s not just that, though, John-Ruben Holdback, the Founder of UNNA, also sees opportunities in the pilot testing to create an actual relationship between a brand and its customer.

When researching [about pilot testing], I saw brands that, for those users that didn’t make it to the programme, they sent out emails like, 'You didn't get selected, but here’s a 10% discount'. I felt like this is a missed opportunity to build something more authentic. And that was something I was looking for and wanted to build; the actual relationship between brand and customer”.

John Ruben Holdback, Founder UNNA

More data insights

Consider the end users as stakeholders and include them in the design and manufacturing processes to gain more insightful information. With a co-creation programme, brands get the chance to “work” side by side with their customers and better understand their preferences regarding their products and overall brand experience.

More accurate production

If brands know their customers’ needs, it’s easier to produce accordingly. Based on customer comments, brands can improve the quality of products at the early stage of the process for a great final result. If customers' suggestion for product design is valid, it helps brands to plan production in the right direction. You don’t have to anticipate what customers want - they’ll tell you themselves. Take this example from Astrid Wild, a Swedish brand that sells outdoor wear for women:

The production is set before, but we do very small batches at a time. After every batch, we analyse the sales numbers to plan what we need to produce in the next batch. We adjust what colours we want to produce and the sizes if needed. The sizes are super important, so we don't run out of the ones that sell more.”

Jemina Pomoell, CEO and Co-founder of Astrid Wild

Co-creation programmes can help plan out the production process

Customer loyalty boost

Co-creation can attract new customers and get one-time or repeated customers to engage with your brand again. It's about letting people participate in your brand's innovation and the production process. Customers that feel part of the brand are less likely to churn; therefore, you'd get a better LTV (lifetime value).

That is the starting point for co-creating products with our customers. We aim to create a product they want and love. We see that as a driver for new customers, but also returning customers to come back because they've been part of creating that piece."

Jemina Pomoell, CEO and Co-founder of Astrid Wild

In recent years, customers have become vocal in sharing viewpoints and offering ideas about a brand or product on social media or any other communication channel. A co-creation programme allows brands to engage with customers. It provides the brands with innovative ideas that come directly from people that already buy (or are very close to doing so). Invite your customer to have a seat at the table, and you'll see how it boosts customer loyalty and satisfaction.

If you wish to learn more about UNNA's co-creation methods and get inspired to build your programme, you can listen to the full podcast episode with UNNA's founder John-Ruben Holtback and the one with Astrid Wild’s founder Jemina Pomoell, on your favourite Podcast platform. It's time to start your co-creation journey to improve customer loyalty!

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