What brands like Burberry are learning through co-creation with customers

Former services standards executive from Burberry and now consultant on retail customer experiences shares how brands can tap into social media and customers to innovate

Francesa Danzi
Francesa Danzi

Shoppers around the world often look to fashion houses to set the latest trends. But even the most iconic of luxury fashion designers can learn a thing or two from its customers thanks to social media and co-creation.

For London-based luxury brand, Burberry, the journey to integrating customer concepts into its products began in 2009 with a simple online campaign called Art of the Trench. This called on customers to upload images of themselves wearing Burberry’s famous garment.

The campaign garnered more than 400,000 uploaded images in its first week, from fans in 191 countries, from a campaign based purely around public relations and word-of-mouth marketing including the fashion blog site, The Sartorialist. After nine months, more than 9 million visitors had come to the site.

Francesca Danzi was the global service standards manager for Burberry at that time. She pointed out that 2009 was a long time before the current ‘selfie’ trend had taken off. Speaking at the Customer Experience Tech Fest in Melbourne, she said the campaign enabled customers and fans to participate at two levels.

“Existing customers could upload their pictures, and aspiring customers could vote, like, share and start conversations with people that had uploaded pictures,” Danzi said.

“The designers at Burberry took a lot of inspiration from the styling of these people around the world. They started to see trends and ways of wearing this garment across cultures, and across the world, and started to give inspiration and create opportunities for designers internally.”

That lead to Burberry Bespoke, a service that allowed customers to design and order garments online. It also kickstarted Burberry’s social media activity. Burberry remains the most popular luxury fashion brand on Facebook, with more than 16 million fans.

Danzi went on to hold a number of roles with Burberry until leaving in late 2014 to start her own retail customer experience consultancy.

She said her experience at Burberry demonstrated the power of co-creation and sharing as a means of delivering value and profit by allowing customer participation, and balancing the producer’s desire for mass production against the consumer’s desire for something that is very, very personalised.

“Co-creation is right at the centre,” Danzi said. “It is industry-led, but has the customers at the core, and they can really participate. In a way customers and brands are at the same level.”

For Danzi, one of the most interesting examples of co-creation and the sharing economy happening today is Made.com, a furniture retailer that allows customers to vote on the designs that they want to see manufactured.

Because the company only has a limited showroom presence in the UK, it has created a service called Made Unboxed, where customers upload pictures of Made furniture within their own homes or workspaces. They can also nominate to allow would-be buyers to visit their homes to see and feel the products for themselves.

“They are testing it in the UK and it is working,” Danzi said. “It works because customers want to be inspired by not only the product itself, but by the way the product is put in a context.

“People are used to sharing, and their houses function as showrooms for the product. It is creating a crowdsourced customer service base.”

Danzi said Made is now considering an incentive scheme to further reward those customers who effectively become its representatives.

“When this happens it means the link between the customer has gone well beyond functionality and brand,” she said. “It is deeper, and it helps people to express themselves in a creative way and really participate with their own tastes, with their own knowhow, and with their own style, into the life of a brand.”

More on how brands are co-creating with customers

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