Supermarket Chain Crowdsources with Customers

Published Sep-20-11

The voice of the customer is strong and UK supermarket giant Waitrose reached out to its customers for a new product idea.

Waitrose, United Kingdom

The Story:

Supermarket Chain Crowdsources with Customers In May 2011 a new product hit the shelves of upmarket UK supermarket chain Waitrose. What made this particular item so special was that it was the company’s first customer-created product and followed an eight month crowdsourcing contest that saw hundreds of customers send in their ideas.

Crowdsourcing Creates Solutions

A crowdsourcing competition is not only a cost-effective and rapid way to acquire a solution to a specific problem that a company may be facing, but it can also be used to generate new product ideas, promote a brand through free marketing (competitions can attract media attention), as well as helping to forge a deeper relationship with customers.

Within a short space of time after a competition launch - anywhere from days to weeks - a company can receive a lot more diversity of ideas than it would by going down its conventional research and development route.
Another, quite considerable benefit is that a crowdsourcing competition may be able to decrease the flop rate of new products. Forecasting which products are going to be a hit is a difficult science to master, but a competition can give a company an insight into what customers are thinking and where they are most likely to spend their hard earned dollars. It can also be very budget friendly as it cuts down on the focus group research bill.

However, there are potential pitfalls if the competition is not managed effectively as hundreds or possibly thousands of ideas might come in. Many may be wide of the mark, but they have to be sifted through and adjudicated which can be a costly process. One way of countering this is to use the crowd to vote on which ideas they like the best, which is a strategy that Waitrose adopted with its first ever customer facing crowdsourcing competition.

New Recipe

Waitrose turned to members of its online club and asked them to come up with a recipe for a new chilled summer dessert for its ‘Seriously From’ range.
Following the competition launch in August 2010 hundreds of people sent in their creative recipe ideas. Members of the MyWaitrose online club then voted in their thousands for their three favourite recipes and these three finalists were tested by a judging panel consisting of chefs, product developers and brand managers.

The overall winner was a dessert called Seriously Chocolatey Rose-Infused Chocolate Ganache and was created by a London-based customer who was given a winner’s check of £1,000 (approx. USD $1,600). The packaging included a quote from the creator and the new product was promoted in store as well through the supermarket’s social media sites and customer magazines.

These days, many consumers are looking for new levels of brand engagement, in a way that previous generations were not. Crowdsourcing competitions offer them an opportunity to actively participate and have their say, whilst knowing that they are being listened to.

Waitrose has said that it plans to do more crowdsourcing with customers in the future, and hopes to make it a regular feature.

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