What happens when you ask customers to help design products

It’s common in the business world to hear a company say something along the lines of “we’re always receptive to feedback”. Usually this is stated in regard to being publicly shamed due to a PR stunt gone awry, or more recently, being targeted due to less-than-sustainable practices.

There are fewer companies that can actually claim they not only receive and engage with feedback from customers, but actively seek it out. And fewer still that preemptively work with customers to ensure products are tailored to their wants and needs.

In a world where customers are increasingly receptive to personalised services and goods, building an active and loyal consumer base could be as simple as pulling the curtain back a little.

Lingerie and sex toy retailer Lovehoney takes it just a little bit further with its “design a sex toy” competition, running until May 22, that allows it to hear from its customer base about what they want and where their product line may be lacking.

If the name didn’t give it away, the competition allows customers to submit their product ideas and designs for the chance to win $5,000. Should the toy go on to be produced, the winners will be able to claim royalties.

“We’ve had some fantastic entries in the past which have brought something completely new to the market,” Lovehoney product director Bonny Hall told Inside Retail Weekly.

“For example, a previous winner saw his winning design, the Sqweel, go on to become the world’s best-selling toy of its kind.”

Outside of the excitement and community building the annual event brings to the business’s customer base, the competition also gives Lovehoney a peek into what its current range is lacking. For example, one year saw a number of toys designed around being worn on the hand, while another saw an uplift in interest around toys worn on the tongue – designs that already existed but weren’t being well represented in the market, prompting the business to rethink what it was stocking.

“That helped us to understand what customers were looking for but couldn’t find so we could close the gap with an existing product,” Hall said.

Learning what your customer wants

Beauty brand Lush has a history of taking feedback from its customers and integrating lessons learned and ideas given into future iterations of its products.

In July 2018, the business decided to commercialise this process with the launch of Lush Labs – giving customers the opportunity to buy products while still in pre-production and give feedback, ultimately to create a better and more personal product.

“Whenever customers purchase a product from Lush Labs, they do so in the knowledge that they will be among the first to try out a fresh invention,” Lush Australia and New Zealand brand communications director Alice Champion told IRW.

“Every comment, reaction and critique provided by customers has an impact on the product’s future.”

Since launch, approximately 80 products have been through this process and lived to tell the tale, going on to be sold in-store and online as all-year-round products. These include the Naked Skincare range, Slap Stick Foundation and Shower Bombs.

All feedback, for good or ill, is shared with Lush’s head office in the UK to inform the future of the business’s range.

“The more feedback received, the greater understanding the Lush product inventors have regarding what is wanted by Lush customers,” Champion said.

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