Social production – where customers become directly engaged in the innovation around, or the delivery of, the products and services they consume – is one of the most dynamic (and interesting) elements of social business strategy. Quirky.com has been a true innovator in this area, engaging a community of people in every step of a new product development process – from original idea, to design, to taglines and messaging, and even sales. And perhaps most interestingly, a significant percentage of sales revenue from each product developed (and sold) is distributed back to individuals within the community, based on how much value they added.
But like any start-up, Quirky.com had a challenge in terms of scale. If sales volumes are relatively low, the rewards that can be distributed amongst the community are relatively small. While they might add up over time for certain superstar contributors, a few dollars here and there might not be enough to attract, retain, and grow a vibrant community. In turn, it was obviously important for the company to find a way to drive up sales volumes in order to drive growth.
And this is where Bed, Bath & Beyond comes in. It looks like a very interesting partnership, and I expect more to follow. The Quirky founder announced in December (video here) that select products would be sold through select BB&B stores, with the clear hope of continually scaling this distribution relationship over time. In January, the relationship deepened with the announcement of the “Back to College” design challenge, where community members are explicitly invited to invent and design “awesome, solution-orientated products” that will be sold through BB&B. The brief went up at the end of January, community evaluation takes place in a week, winners will be selected the next week, the design phase runs through to mid-March, and they plan to have the product in store this year.
This will be an important, and interesting, challenge to watch. Some companies may want to consider a similar partnership with a company like Quirky, but even more should consider trying to learn something from them. Look at their community, how they are engaged, all the interesting ideas that are percolating, and the sheer speed at which those ideas turn into new products. How do your innovation processes compare?
Post by former Moxie Insight Senior Analyst Denis Hancock