Marketing Matters is a blog that tells marketing stories from an industry, academic and student's perspective. We confront and debate today’s business trends. Views expressed by the blogs do not necessarily reflect the views of the University of Sydney Business School.
Tuesday, 13 May 2014
Co-creation in the Audi Virtual Lab
Audi faced a design challenge in 2004: how to use the lessons learnt from the poor reception of BMW’s iDrive to put together their own user interface. Their
aim was to create the ideal embodiment of intuitive use; consoles that would
allow drivers to access information, communication platforms and entertainment that
would appeal to different customer segments. It needed to be Vorsprung durch Technic, i.e. advancement through
Enter the Virtual Lab, an online interactive excursion into co-design. It was a process that Audi felt warranted a second run in 2006, but this time across Germany, Japan and USA.
The aims for these invite-only Virtual Labs were reasonably ‘simple’: involve customers in the development of upcoming interior systems by gathering information on customer preferences and trends, in quick and efficient manner. Also, they hoped to gain insight into the co-design process itself; with respect to customer acceptance, the customer’s perceptions and the quality of user input.
The interactive processes in Audi's Virtual Lab
Bringing together their designers, engineers, IT and
marketing pros Audi laid out an interactive experience (shown in the
accompanying image), that encouraged the user to design the info-tainment
systems to their preference. All the options were there; communications,
entertainment, audio, video, navigation, telematics, together with the UI
itself. Ultimately, the end-user was now able to designe their potential
console layout solely with Audi’s resources.
The participants for the Virtual Lab deliberately included
both early adopters and more traditional customers. Audi was looking for
insights -not only into what offerings tech-savvy early adopters were most keen
on-but also what usability issues other customers may have faced. With BMW’s
integrated electronics interface suffering some user-friendly issues, Audi took
the right step in consulting those who knew best – their customers.
The lab itself offered a range of options for design: from
the ‘easy-mode’ offerings of popular bundled items, to a more micro-managed level where users were able
to select components and layout individually. Many of the systems offered were
still in development and only existed virtually, allowing both Audi and their customers
to gauge insight into their adoption.
As this article suggests, this process was a success. This
form of pre-emptive feedback benefited both customers and Audi. In effect, they
were able to alter infotainment prototypes without losing sacrificing money, or
waiting for the next model update.
Ultimately, Audi gained insights into driver preferences, enabling
them to distinguish between what was considered as must-haves from the
nice-to-haves. From the data they collected from participants, they were able
to group results based on model preferences, demographics and other consumer
What was interesting and worth noting was that customers
were intrinsically motivated. They had their own interest in participating. It
was enjoyable, and they felt they had real input; a channel right to a
designer’s ear. The only external motivation that was offered was the distribution
of promotional hats.
Overall, clear, open co-creation processes like this offer
insight for businesses to solve customer issues: just ask the customers themselves.