Customer led innovation; a smart route to profitability for business, here’s a look at the pizza market…


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No matter what business you’re in; it’s really important to differentiate. One of the most fundamental rules is that an experience designed for everyone works for noone. You need to have a clearly defined value proposition to offer an outstanding experience to your customers. I was thinking about this when I eating some Pizza and thought, why not take a look and see what companies are doing in this highly competitive sector….

Mintel, the UK based research company found that 45% of UK customers stated that “Menus are pretty much the same at all pizza and pasta places”. If you are hearing a message like this about your sector, you need to start hearing the alarm bells ringing. Why? It is a lot less likely that customer will remain loyal to your business if they don’t have a well defined idea of who you are, and what you offer to them. Here’s a simple rule of thumb the less customers can differentiate the less reason they have to stay loyal.

If you’re in a business that’s got a lot of competition, there are several things you can do to try improve your offering. One of the smartest things a business can do is to reach out to your customer base, and see what they want. Suffice to say, this should be an ongoing process, not only is it necessary for survival for many companies, but do it right and the rewards are great.

Aberdeen research found in a survey of 300 companies from a disparate range of sectors, that those using a best in class approach to gathering feedback, saw a 19% rise in customer-led innovation in the first 12 months.

In the context of the Pizza market, here’s what some companies doing here. In March 2009, Pizza-Express launched the Leggera (light) range to its menu. It partnered with Weight Watchers to produce a diet range of products with pizzas that contain only 500 calories with the centre removed and replaced by salad, a neat way to differentiate the brand.

The Pizza Express, Leggera Light

I don’t know where Pizza-Express came up with this idea, but one thing I notice every time I go into a Milano’s or Pizza Express Restaurant, there is a comment card where you can leave a message to state how you felt about your experience. I would not be surprised, if the insight that led to this change came from a customer suggestion. Either way, it is clear this company puts listening to their customer at the heart of their strategy.

On the Papa John’s web-site, and I am sure they have good reasons, the following is stated: Please know, however, that it is Papa John’s company policy not to consider unsolicited ideas from anyone other than our corporate employees, franchise owners/employees, and our supply partners.

Let’s look at Dominos pizza. Dominos took a risk in December 2009 with documentary type commercials revealing customer complaints about cardboard crust and ketchup-like sauce. It also showed footage of real Dominos’ employees working to improve their offering. Dominos’ “pizza turnaround campaign” used the voice of the customer to effectively change their recipe.

As they proudly state on the pizza-turnaround web-site, web “we faced our critics and changed our pizza from the crust up”.

What Dominos have done here is, in effect, admit openly that they have made mistakes, that they haven’t done enough to improve their pizza, but if their customer would give them the chance, they would do whatever it takes to make their customer happy. A brave move for such a large organization, but by doing this and actively engaging their customers, they have earned some serious kudos, and improved their brand value. It does what size or type of business you are, listen to your customers, and they will remember you for it. Who can forget the Coca Cola debacle in the 80?s over when they changed their formula, they, saw it didn’t work, and brought back classic.

For Dominos, by March 2010 its profits had doubled from the same quarter the previous year, they listened to their customers, and it paid dividends, literally. Dominos became the best performing stock within the restaurant industry ahead of Jack in the Box and the Cheesecake Factory.

The wonderful thing about the advent of Social Media, is that these types of initiatives can be a lot more cost-effective than other forms of above the line marketing. This type of initiative empowers the customer. That’s what we all want, as customers and in business, improved experiences are good for us all.

In a market place crowded with competition you need to know what your customers want, but you should also keep a close eye on the competition too, more on that a little later….

Republished with author's permission from original post.

David Heneghan
David founded CX Index to help businesses leverage feedback to make more profitable decisions. Through our software platfrom we conduct sophisticated data analysis to help businesses drive more porfitable customer centric decisions. @cxindex


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