As promised, we’re going to take a closer look at how the crowdsourcing side of social media marketing can be successfully utilized by examining the runaway victory of Starbucks’ own platform for innovation and customer feedback, My Starbucks Idea. Starbuck’s initiated its corowdsourcing platform in March 2008, garnering it a position as one of the first corporate adopters of social media engagement. In its first year it generated over 70,000 ideas directly from consumers, and now that six years have passed the site has truly impressive stats: just over 190,000 ideas submitted, approximately 300 of which have been implemented by Starbucks.
One might say that’s a pretty low conversion rate of ideas into actions, however, in the end it’s not just about the ideas or how actionable they are. Here’s a list of just a few of the benefits that Starbuck’s is receiving from crowdsourcing:
Free Ideas. Obviously, Starbucks has received ideas for free from customers regarding exactly what they want. These ideas and the fact that even a mere portion of them are implemented by the company provide Starbucks with a huge amount of 1) customer loyalty (“Starbucks listens to me!”) and 2) an edge over its competition, especially as regards a comprehensive rewards program for consumers. Interestingly enough, the Starbucks platform is open to the public so anyone can view the ideas, including the competition. But in the end, it’s Starbucks that gets the most benefit because they were the ones who asked and its their customers who are posting the ideas.
Direct Customer Interactions. The My Starbucks Idea platform allows users to interact with each other, vote for ideas, and comment. Through the site, Starbucks gets a direct line into those interactions, allowing them to see what ideas are really taking off and what concerns they should be addressing first to help improve their customers’ experiences. However, it’s not only customers who are posting on the site. Employees of the stores and of the corporate side are posting as well. It’s easy to see that the platform garners attention from people on all sides of the equation, which is a truly important element when considering the value of engagement and loyalty. We might even go so far as to say that it helps Starbucks fight the “cold corporate facade” that so many companies suffer from by creating a community of engaged users.
Validation. One of the first ideas that was implemented from the Starbucks platform was based on the suggestion of a user who wanted the ability to pay with his mobile phone at the Starbucks drive-thru. This idea, in all likelihood, had probably already been discussed a number of times by various executives. Once the idea was posted on the site, people started voting for it and leaving comments encouraging the adoption of the idea, Starbucks no longer had a reason to put off the investments needed for the technology to implement this idea.
Human Collaboration. The fact is, people like to be involved and nothing is more annoying than when a company makes numerous changes involving things that nobody cares about. Your customers and employees are strictly speaking, despite the cliche’, your very best asset. In any service industry, you should be listening to the people you serve and to those who are serving them for you. A company is still just a group of people trying to work together, and in order to do that effectively you need as much human collaboration as possible. The My Starbucks Idea site has brought in ideas from Starbucks baristas, letting the company know about small but important things they want to see changed. This of course leads to happier individuals who represent your company, which in turn leads to happier end customers.
There are of course other considerations that companies need to consider when undertaking a crowdsourcing campaign for any length of time. If you’re going to ask for ideas you need to have a plan regarding how you will separate out the most valuable ones and how you might implement them. This is where the learning curve with crowdsourcing really comes in, requiring a fair amount of work from numerous individuals inside a company. Starbucks made the commitment to crowdsourcing and they’ve had great success with it. Of course, we all want to know more about how Starbucks has handled issues like idea selection and implementation. But stay tuned for a future blog post in which we will delve into some of those issues and how different companies are handling them. Happy innovating!
Written by Gwen Gurley