In my book, Connecting With Consumers  I discussed two of the iconic examples of crowdsourcing, as employed by Dell (Ideastorm) and Starbucks (My Starbucks Idea).  Crowdsourcing, is the term that most commonly refers to mass collaboration - in essence, the outsourcing of tasks traditionally performed by employees or contracters to consumers through an open call or challenge.  Incorporating consumers' ideas into product or service design promotes the feeling among customers, followers, and fans that they have a vested interest in the offering's success and are thus more willing to support it.Slide 97

Take PlayStation.  If you check out the enormously popular (at least with gamers) PlayStation Blog, you'll find a link in the upper left corner to PS.Blog.Share, where fans can share their ideas with the company.

Has this program effectively engaged PlayStation gamers?  The numbers speak for themselves:  to date, PlayStation has received 5,371 ideas submitted by the community.  Those ideas have generated 77,773 comments and prompted 1,694,413 total votes.  PlayStation has put 62 community-generated ideas into action.

A couple more recent and noteworthy variations on crowdsourcing, this time coming out of Europe, are described at Real  The summaries below are largely lifted from that site:

  • the online furniture business is stripping out the middlemen and connecting its customers with the furniture makers directly to cut the cost to the consumer by 50 - 80 per cent. The company’s product range is determined by a customer voting system to identify “favorites”. With a 10 day countdown period for orders where customers commit to pay upfront, only orders the exact number required from the manufacturers, avoiding the need for a warehouse as orders are delivered direct to customers’ homes.
  • Naked Wines strips out the middlemen.  According to Naked Wines CEO Rowan Gormley, “Historically most winemakers had to spend more time and money selling wine rather than making it. Bonkers! Good winemakers want to invest in quality – they don't want to waste their funds on slick marketing campaigns."  To get around this, Gormley has rapidly built a customer base now numbering ~100,000, of whom a large proportion are “angels” investing £20 a month in advance for their wines. This creates a virtuous circle where the wines selected are the ones the angel community identifies as their “favorites”, orders are aggregated in advance and “the winemakers get to know their wine is sold before they've even grown the grapes... so they can spend all their time in the vineyard crafting delicious wines, and give you the money they would have wasted on selling!”

Active on Facebook and Twitter, eliminating the middle man and passing on savings to its customers, Naked Wines is all about connecting with consumers.