“Empower” Your Customers to Drive Successful Innovation

By Brad Marsh, CEO & President, Consensus Point Inc

Approaching successful innovation is hardly a new topic in most industries, and that is especially true in IT. One could argue neither is the idea of engaging your target customers’ feedback as input into the innovation process. Traditional market research and customer service teams have leveraged surveys and secondary data sources to model, inform, and forecast success in this process for decades. And now there is more “big data” available than ever before to synthesize, integrate, model, and predict what will win in the market-place. So why aren’t industries, brands, and expert teams more successful with all this data and technology at their finger-tips.

In discussing this popular topic with executives from many industries, the typical response centers around lack of resources to really spend the time with all the data their teams have to inspire creative and customer-led innovation. And these are very real limitations in most of our day-to-day lives, but the truth is even if we had all of the time in the world and endless budgets to staff our teams, companies would typically limit their efforts to working with information that is from at best the recent past, with a sprinkle of the present. While we can do an adequate, and in some cases very accurate job with historic data and models projecting into the future, there is a key component missing in most innovation work-streams. The missing ingredient is leveraging predictive technology and marketing science methods that empower your customers to help you successfully shape the future of your markets and products.

These methods fall into the emerging “anticipatory” category of research approaches and technology, and can be as simple one-on-one game theory techniques or as sophisticated as agent-based modeling and prediction markets. If these forward-looking methods look and feel different from traditional data gathering and reporting, it’s because they are. In particular, prediction markets have shown the ability to accurately predict future outcomes on critical business questions, including marketing and product innovation, by leveraging the collective judgment of customers with a stake in the future outcome or “skin in the game.” Knowledgeable and empowered participants wager virtual currency on predicting outcomes while an algorithm aggregates the collective judgment and sentiment and reports probability metrics with qualitative feedback on crowd rational, or “the why.”

While prediction markets have been in existence for decades and been successful at an enterprise level with internal stake-holders and employees predicting business outcomes, they have only in the last few years gained momentum as an agile, efficient, yet highly accurate predictive market research and customer intelligence tool. In a commercial world where “validation” and “accuracy” are the end game, it takes time for predictions to come true (or not) in the market-place. The good news is, early adopters have paved the way, and the results are very promising with accuracy rates over 90%. Most importantly, prediction markets along with the other anticipatory methods, allow a marketer or product developer to empower their customers or target audience in an emotive and unbiased way to predict what trends have staying power and what features, functionality, or communication strategy will drive success in future market states.

So should we cast aside the predictive methods of the past, which have helped organizations deliver so many successful products and technologies? Of course not, but in today’s markets, small wins add up, so we should make time to explore emerging science and prediction capabilities to improve our success rates.

Your customers are waiting to be empowered to help you shape the future of your business, and will be even more committed to your brands and products when they know they helped shape the design and delivery. It is clear in all global markets that the customers’ leverage continues to increase, so getting ahead of what they want and when they want it, is the only formula for success.

Best of luck leveraging anticipatory platforms in empowering your customers to shape your future success!