Customer Engagement is another type of innovation which can be quite far-reaching strategically and overlap with many other innovations. From driving relationships between customers by creating sharing communities to creating engaging store atmospherics that make shopping a more active experience, Customer Engagement innovation takes many forms.
Themes which you may tend to see within Customer Engagement are authenticity and knowledge. Authenticity is a highly desired, but somewhat scarce, resource for any organization, and having authentic interactions with customers can be valuable to the brand and the business. Knowledge can also be a core ingredient in these interactions, as those most valuable customer engagements tend to involve the exchange of information or ideas... and don't be surprised if the organization is on the receiving end of knowledge from customers, in many cases.
From The Ten Types of Innovation:
Customer Engagement innovations are all about understanding the deep-seated aspirations of customers and users, and using those insights to develop meaningful connections between them and your company. Great Customer Engagement innovations provide broad avenues for exploration, and help people find ways to make parts of their lives more memorable, fulfilling, delightful–even magical.
Increasingly, we see these innovations taking place in the social media space, as many companies move away from “broadcast” communications toward delivering more organic, authentic, and mutual interactions. We also see companies using technology to deliver graceful simplicity in incredibly complex areas, making life easier for customers and becoming trusted partners in the process. However, as ever, technology is only a tool. Even simple gestures like elegant and intuitive packaging can extend and elevate the experience customers have with a company— long after the point of purchase.
Customer Engagement in the Sustainability Space
MIT Trash | Track
Created from a joint initiative between MIT, Waste Management, Qualcomm, Sprint, and The Architectural League NY, Trash | Track sought to understand and visualize the paths 3000 items took from Seattle to their final destinations. The results have been used in classrooms and as conversation starters on hundreds, if not thousands of sites over the years, engaging people in discussions which may have never had a topic statement or stimulus in the past. The Trash | Track project certainly delivered in that aspect.
Where the Trash | Track project may have stopped short was in understanding the paths and the implications of those travels or pushing the discussion further... in essence, taking the next step to understand what can be improved in what they call the "removal chain" and undergoing, quite literally, the accounting of those items. For example, are there closer accumulation points for e-waste than Florida? When accounting for its travels cross country, is e-cycling that item still an intelligent decision? Please watch the following 2:18 video. Note that there is no narration in the following video.
Video: Trash | Track (2:18)
Cheng Concrete Exchange
Fu-Tung Cheng has been a renowned architect in Berkeley, California for decades, and had been using concrete countertops in his designs for years. In 2004, he built on his architectural and design experiences with concrete to create Cheng Concrete in 2004, a combined training/product company for concrete countertops. In doing so, his core model was one that would serve contractors, designers, and DIY equally by making the necessary components and most importantly, knowledge, well-packaged and available to the masses.
Instead of relying on private-labeled, pallet-sized shipments of specialized concrete mix (which would have been a nightmare on multiple fronts), Cheng Concrete packages and ships only the colorants and added components necessary to add to your locally-sourced concrete. Combined with the knowledge support of others, you will have a countertop or surface which will outlive your kitchen, if not your home, but is readily recyclable locally.
Where Cheng Concrete engaged customers was not only in opening this emerging interior material to the masses of homeowners, but also in highlighting designs and how they are created, both online and in print. If you search "concrete counter" on YouTube, you have more than 43,000 results, and much of this popularity is due to Fu-Tung Cheng's engagement of homeowners more than a decade ago. Please watch the following 4:10 video.