Traditionally, marketers have relied on their customers’ habits to decide which products to bring to market and how best to advertise them. However, the business world has undergone tremendous change as emerging tech has collided with rapidly shifting consumer behaviour, making this framework increasingly unreliable for predicting performance in a competitive marketplace.

In part, this is because people no longer see themselves as consumers. Instead, many want to be recognised as tech-savvy creators who shape their own trends rather than whatever marketers release into the market. In fact, a 2019 report found that 66% of consumers want to influence the product creation process, emphasising the importance they place on collaboration models in businesses.

This new way of developing products highlights a dramatic change in the market’s hierarchy. For instance, 77% of consumers are more likely to buy from brands that ask for feedback. By implementing strategies that involve your target market in the products you sell, you can engage and convert with greater efficiency.

Owned Media vs Earned Media

The way brands engage with consumers is explored in the differences between ‘owned media’ and ‘earned media’. The former is rather straightforward, with owned media referring to channels and content that a company creates, controls, and maintains. This includes everything in a company’s digital strategy from its website, email marketing campaigns, and social media channels.

While owned media is naturally important to a company’s digital strategy, earned media can be even more powerful. This term is used to describe any brand mention or content created by an independent third party. As people are engage with a brand, this translates to great returns through word of mouth, social media shares, reviews, and recommendations.

Why is earned media becoming increasingly important? Depending on the nature of your business, there’s a high chance that consumers spend much of their time watching content creators on YouTube or engaging with other social media influencers. These influencers often have a hold on consumer trends and can bring about a massive sway over their followers' purchasing decisions, so any organic engagement your brand has through these channels is bound to pay dividends.

Leverage Customer Input and Trends

We know customers want to be more involved in the product development process, but they're also paying greater attention to less traditional advertising avenues. This means establishing collaboration models and using techniques that get people involved with your brand to foster a relationship that drives engagement and sales.

Starbucks is a genuine leader in this area, with the company’s ‘My Starbucks Idea’ platform crowdsourcing more than 150,000 brain waves from their most loyal customers. With users submitting and voting on ideas, a public leaderboard showcased this open innovation in action. By trusting that customers know what they wanted, Starbucks benefited from community-generated concepts like pumpkin spice lattes, cake pops, and free Wi-Fi.

LEGO is another giant that directly involves its customers in the products it produces. Called LEGO Ideas, thousands of fans on the platform can submit pictures and descriptions of their concept, with those receiving at least 10,000 votes undergoing a review from a special review board. LEGO even goes one step further, with any product that makes it to production earning the creator royalties on global sales.

Tech companies have also developed clever ways to involve users more through business collaboration efforts. For example, HBO used their TikTok profile to advertise a new internship program with the hashtag #HBOMaxsummerintern, leading to hundreds of applicants. In response, TikTok has decided to launch a separate website on its platform for Generation-Z job seekers, where applicants will submit videos rather than old-fashioned résumés on the app.

Finally, companies are increasingly appreciating the power that independent social media influencers have over their fans. This has led dozens of cosmetic companies to partner with big Instagram, YouTube and TikTok stars on their own product lines. Some influencers who have collaborated with businesses include Jaclyn Hill, with Becca Cosmetics, and Bretman Rock with ColourPop.

Engage Consumers Through the Power of Co-Creation

Adopting a mindset of co-creation with your customers brings with it a range of benefits for your business. For one, you can gain powerful insights into the kind of features and functions that consumers want most. Meanwhile, user-generated content that comes from directly from your target market is a great way to fuel even more brand awareness, sales, and even consumer surplus.

By implementing a cutting-edge digital strategy that rewards feedback from your customer base, you can drive business innovation and capitalise on the latest consumer behaviours. Get creative with how you engage your followers and understand that modern people are far more than simply buyers – they’re creative powerhouses. Whether you’re running an e-commerce business or a traditional one, tap into the growing digital landscape and seek out feedback from your customers for a better understanding of consumer psychology to benefit from the business collaboration that emerges.