CUUSOO is a Japanese partner of The Lego Group, they began working together in 2008 to produce community developed ideas for Lego sets which, if gaining more than 10,000 votes, will be forwarded to the heads of Lego for possible development.
The scheme was launched worldwide in 2011 and has so far been responsible for five successful products, including this Back to the Future set:
Run for it Marty!
Of course, Lego is not the only example of customer communities being built via ecommerce sites…
Threadless is a prime example. A t-shirt company that takes members’ designs and puts them through a democratic vote to decide which get made.
According to its own figures it currently has 2,532,797 global members, with 522,033 designs submitted and 4,735 printed in its 13 year history.
Despite those vast numbers, Threadless hasn’t lost its personable quality. The site is covered in real-life customers modelilng the t-shirts, lengthy comment sections and social media links all over the site.
In fact, the third biggest word on the top of the homepage after ‘Threadless’ and ‘shop’ is ‘participate’.
The Threadless user experience is designed to encourage participation with big bright, easily discoverable buttons that say ‘score designs’ and ‘submit designs’.
This is an ecommerce site that developed its community concurrently with the business. Neither could exist without the other, and Threadless knows this full well.
Made.com is a UK based furniture company using crowdsourcing to choose which designs are manufactured.
It isn’t immediately clear that this is how the site works. It’s only until you scroll to the bottom and find a quote from Livingetc stating Made.com is a “website that invites users to vote on which designs make it from the drawing board to production”.
Where you go after this to ‘vote’ isn’t immediately clear. There’s much less emphasis on creating an online community here.
Perhaps that’s down to the product itself. Lego and t-shirt design fans are more likely to feverishly pursue their passion and seek like-minded individuals then tasteful furniture buyers, it would seem.
Lego is different from these businesses as it’s a major corporation developing a grassroots approach to ecommerce, with a ready built international customer base more than 60 years in the making.
It is to Lego’s credit that its own crowdsourcing website CUUSOO feels just as warm and inviting as the Threadless one.
There’s a simple revolving header at the top of the homepage, showcasing four of the current successful projects, each with its own congratulatory banner.
There’s a very simple sign-up process, which you can also do via Twitter or Facebook for added convenience, just requiring an email and username.
Supporting a project is a mere giant green button click away, which then prompts a pop-up asking how much you’d pay for it, how many would you buy and why you like it.
Each submitted design has a healthy and active comments section. The latest design to reach its 10,000 supporters is a Wizard of Oz set, and that has 744 comments, notable for all being entirely positive with a great deal of support from the CUUSOO team themselves.
I would imagine the team moderates these sections quite intently, as no matter how many thirty-year olds lust after that Jurassic Park set, these are still products aimed at a core audience of 6-11 year-old children. (Check out the proposed Shaun of the Dead set that easily reached its target, but was rejected with a very heartfelt apology from Lego).
The Lego CUUSOO team also runs its own blog, easily accessible from the home page.
This is just a very simple WordPress template, it doesn’t need to be any fancier than this, as it’s an effectively low-key way of connecting with the community, many of whom perhaps already run their own WordPress blogs.
It’s only updated on a monthly basis, so there’s definite room for improvement there, but the social media share buttons and comment sections are fully accessible and the open-eared CUUSOO team engages in conversations regularly.
It’s clear that the crowdsourcing of creative design is a fantastic way to engage with your customers. Who couldn’t possibly say that one of their dream jobs is to become a designer for Lego? Now it’s actually possible.
With this venture Lego has shown that it’s possible for large corporate brands to use crowdsourcing to genuinely get customers excited about not just the purchase of a product but its development, creating a lengthy period of hype generation and anticipation.
These products should theoretically always be a success, as they’ve been voted into existence by its own community, and if the company has done its figures right, there will be a ready built market, eager to purchase the product and turn a profit.
Now, which big company will be next to follow Lego’s design?
LEGO’s Global Head of Social Media Lars Silberbauer-Anderson will be speaking at our Festival of Marketing event in November, a two day celebration of the modern marketing industry, featuring speakers from brands including Tesco, Barclays, FT.com and more.