This article refines virtual co-creation from a social exchange theory perspective. It looks into who participates in virtual new product development activities, why they do so, and what they expect from their participation. A study of consumers from 10 different virtual co-creation projects provides insights into what, how, and with whom consumers want to interact when engaging in virtual co-creation projects. It shows that consumers' co-creation expectations differ along various dimensions such as the preferred interaction partner, the intensity and extent of participation, and the consumers' motivations. This analysis identifies several types of participation motives—monetary reward, recognition, challenge, intrinsic interest, and curiosity—that help explain different consumer expectations. Participants also vary in their personal characteristics and expectations towards virtual co-creation. The article also offers practical recommendations for designing a rewarding virtual co-creation platform.
In this time of wikis, social networks, and user-generated content portals, terms such as crowdsourcing,1 co-creation,2 user innovation,3 virtual customer integration,4 and open innovation5 have become quite popular. They describe the promising, active role consumers may play in the previously firm-dominated world of product development and production. Consumers are considered a valuable source of innovation.6 Researchers as well as consultants claim to virtually engage consumers in co-creation activities such as the generation, design, refinement, and testing of ideas and new product concepts.7 They do this in order to develop new products and services that better meet consumers' wants and needs and to decrease the high failure rates of new product introductions, especially prevalent in the consumer goods sectors. The novelty of virtual co-creation compared to conventional customer integration is that consumers are not only asked about their opinions, desires, and needs, but also are asked to contribute their creativity and problem-solving skills. Consumers take on the role of co-creators.8
For example, Swarovski invited designers and creative consumers from all over the world to engage in a watch design contest. More than 1,650 participants joined to showcase their talent and submit their designs. In total, they created over 2,000 different watches. Altogether, community members placed 147,000 gemstones, made more than 6,000 evaluations, and contributed 1,750 qualitative comments. The best designs were presented at “Baselworld,” the world's largest watch fair, and are currently realized. The contest further revealed consumers watch and gemstone preferences. The generated content served as basis for a book on watch trends.
To date, research on virtual co-creation has focused on the co-creation experience9 and the abilities of customers that qualify them for participation in new product development.10 Some authors have concentrated on toolkits that allow the transfer of tacit knowledge and enable consumers to innovate,11 while others have focused on the development of superior market research tools for valid virtual concept evaluation and product testing.12
So far, our understanding about who participates and what those participants expect from their engagement in virtual co-creation projects is limited. Little is known about how expectations regarding virtual co-creation projects differ among participants and where those differences come from. How are consumers' expectations affected by their motivations and how does one's personality affect those motives?
While we do have a general understanding about why consumers engage in open source software development activities,13 little is known about why they contribute to virtual co-creation projects initiated by producers.14 However, in contrast to open source software where users immediately benefit from using their programmed code, consumers participating in virtual new product development will hardly ever be able to immediately benefit from using “their” innovation. If at all, the co-created products will be available on the market 6–12 months later at the earliest. Working on co-creation projects together with profit-oriented firms may further crowd-out voluntary participation.15 As motives depend on context, exploring who and why one engages in virtual co-creation projects initiated by producers is worthwhile.
It is important to know what people expect from virtual co-creation projects as consumers are only willing to share their creative ideas, honestly state their product preferences, and spend significant amounts of time modifying existing product concepts if their expectations are met. They only volunteer their time and talent if they consider co-creation to be rewarding. More insight is needed because virtual co-creation platforms are bearing the risk of evoking little interest in participation and consequently not enhancing valuable consumer contributions. The investment for companies offering co-creation projects may be lost if participants' expectations are not addressed.
In this article, we explore what consumers expect from virtual co-creation and how consumers' motivations and personalities influence those expectations. Specifically, we suggest that consumers' motives in contributing to co-creation projects may be heterogeneous and depend on their personality. Further, differently motivated consumer groups may have different expectations towards co-creation—the process, the co-creation content, as well as co-creation partners.
Theoretical Framework of Virtual Consumer Co-Creation
Social exchange theory has proven valuable in the analysis of innovative user behavior in online communities,16 and in virtual communities in general.17 Social exchange theory contributes to the explanation of social human behavior—why humans behave the way they do.18 According to social exchange theory, consumers virtually interact with producers and engage in virtual co-creation activities during new product development because they expect that doing so will be rewarding.19 For individuals, tangibles such as goods or money, as well as intangibles such as social amenities or friendship, are rewarding.20 Further, not only the outcomes, but also the interaction experience itself may offer a benefit.21 In literature, several frameworks can be found that help us understand the interaction between individuals, groups, and organizations.22 According to Anderson et al.,23 an interaction can be described along three main components: the content—what the individual wants to exchange; the process—how the individual wants to interact; and the people—with whom the individual wants to interact. Further, one's expectations of how an interaction should look are affected by one's motives and one's specific personality. An individual's motives—why someone interacts—to a large extent determine what they expect from the interaction. A person's personality, in turn, influences their motives to engage in an interaction. Our virtual co-creation framework shown in Figure 1 is based on Anderson et al.'s interaction model.24 For each component, various aspects have been integrated in the framework to develop a more elaborate understanding of the interaction during virtual co-creation.
Content and Task—What?
Consumers may have certain expectations as to the product and product category they want to virtually contribute to. It may be either a certain product such as the Apple iPod, a product category such as cars, or a variety of innovation projects independent of the product category that they are interested in. Depending on consumers' type of involvement—in the brand, product, or task—they may have more clear expectations toward the specificity of the product they are interested in. Brand lovers, Audi fans for example, may engage in co-creation projects offered by Audi, but not contribute to BMW or Mercedes. Consumers interested in the product category cars for example, may engage in innovation projects dealing with the development of cars but not sports equipment. Consumers involved in innovations may engage in all kind of innovation projects, but not all co-creation tasks.
Consumers' expectations may also differ depending on the innovation task and the stages of the innovation process they are interested in. Some consumers may be more interested in the generation of new ideas and solutions, while others may prefer the evaluation and selection of product concepts.
Process and Tools—How?
Besides intrinsic interest, consumers may expect incentives for their participation. Expected incentives vary between non-monetary incentives (such as feedback, a warm thank-you, or an official naming as co-developer) and monetary incentives (such as financial compensation according to effort made, participation in product success, special offers, giveaways, lotteries, or prize draws). Incentives may animate already intrinsically motivated consumers to make more and even better contributions or attract additional consumers interested in the topic. However, the danger of offering attractive incentives is first that consumers not interested in the topic at all may suddenly engage in virtual co-creation projects because of the incentive but not make serious contributions. This behavior conforms to Kruglanski et al.'s25 conceptualized “minimax” strategy: “strive to do the least possible of the task for the most possible of the reward.” Second, monetary incentives may crowd out users' intrinsic motivations. For example, consumers initially considering virtual co-creation as a playful and rewarding activity may suddenly start hiding their ideas, thinking they can gain some economic benefit by selling them, or they might feel misused by firms because the extrinsic incentives offered do not present a fair compensation for their contributions.26
The intensity of participation involves the frequency and number of hours consumers are willing to engage in virtual co-creation activities. Some consumers may be prepared to only engage in co-creation activities once and for a short duration, while others are interested in continuous cooperation, spending considerable amounts of time. For example, while some consumers visited the Swarovski watch design contest only once to submit their design, others visited the contest up to 50 times to submit several designs, vote and comment the designs of others, and build up relationships with other participants.
Similarly, consumers' expectations may differ with regard to the extent and continuity of participation. While some consumers only engage in certain tasks, others prefer to participate in all stages of new product development. Some enthusiasts may strive for enduring integration beyond one single product development project.27 For example, many car enthusiasts who contributed to Audi's Virtual Customer Lab 1 also engaged in its Virtual Customer Lab 2.28
Consumers' expectations regarding multimedia richness may differ. Consumers mainly interested in the outcome possibly consider multimedia richness important if it supports getting a solution. For consumers interested in taking part as a means to an end, it may be essential for their exploration experience.29 Researchers emphasize the opportunities of multimedia rich product depictions for virtual co-creation.30 However, how important are these resources—product animations, movies, and 3-D models—for consumers?
Consumers may expect powerful tools such as toolkits and user designs for virtual co-creation. They look for tools that enable them to create their desired solutions and allow them to easily transfer their sticky knowledge.31 Tools can fire consumers' inspiration and allow them to obtain a sound understanding of the functioning and value of the innovation discussed.32
Co-Creation Partners—With Whom?
Consumers engage in online communities not only because they are interested in the topic, but also to meet others.33 Similarly, consumers may engage in co-creation activities because they want to interact with other like-minded consumers. Blogs, bulletin boards, and joint collaboration spaces support interaction between participants. Community functionality enables participants to work jointly on problems and create solutions incorporating more than just the summation of each individual's ideas and knowledge.34
Similar to individual preferences with regard to the people they meet and spend time with, consumers may favor certain company types over others for virtual co-creation. Some could be interested in collaborating with their preferred brand or a well known producer, while others choose interaction with private inventors, innovation agencies, or knowledge brokers specialized in the creation of a virtual dialogue.35
Consumers' Motives to Engage in Virtual Co-Creation Activities
While social exchange theory is able to describe basic circumstances under which consumers virtually engage in new product development, it does not provide answers as to why consumers actually engage in virtual co-creation projects. According to self-determination theory,36 engaging in leisure activities such as virtual co-creation can be considered a function of intrinsic motivation and self-determined extrinsic motivation. Consumers are intrinsically motivated if they value an activity for its own sake. They are extrinsically motivated if they focus on contingent outcomes separate to the activity per se. From motivation research in the context of open source software, we know that multiple reasons drive consumers to engage in open innovation projects ranging from purely intrinsic motives (such as fun, kinship, and altruism) through internalized extrinsic motives (e.g., learning, reputation, and own use) to purely extrinsic motives (such as payment and career prospects).37 It is a combination of multiple intrinsic and extrinsic motives that drive users to engage in development activities. Users' motives often differ among contributors and are quite heterogeneous. For example, while some users may be predominantly motivated by ideological reasons, others may strive for skill development or community affiliation. The motives that finally trigger one's engagement depend on the context and one's individual personality,38 A recent study shows that content contributors to Wikipedia put greater emphasis on altruistic motives than open source software developers, who tend to be motivated to a greater extent by self-development and reputation-building. Consumer's motives to engage in innovation projects may also change over time.39 Initially, one may engage due to the expected value from one's own use of the developed solution; in the long run, enjoyment and fun may drive one's engagement.
Drawing on the rich body of motivation research found in related fields such as user innovation,40 consumer creativity,41 and open source software,42 10 motive categories—intrinsic playful task, curiosity, self efficacy, skill development, information seeking, recognition (visibility,), community support, making friends, personal need (dissatisfaction), and compensation (monetary reward)— have been identified that may explain why consumers engage in virtual co-creation projects initiated by producers (see Table 1).
It may be the task itself (an enjoyable and playful activity or a challenging experience and/or the consequences linked to the engagement), recognition, a better available product, or offered incentive that motivates them to participate.
In general, intrinsically motivated consumers tend to prefer experiential-oriented behaviors, while extrinsically driven consumers tend to favor goal-oriented behaviors.43 Experiential-oriented behaviors are characterized by enduring involvement, ritualized orientation, interest in the medium and the content, non-directed engagement, fun, affect, less intentional and selective orientation, time-filling and recreation activity, and hedonic benefits. In contrast, goal-oriented behaviors are characterized by situational involvement, selective and intentional engagement, directed, cognition, interest in content, work, and utilitarian benefits.44 While goal-oriented consumers are interested in the utility gained from their interaction, experiential-driven consumers are looking for an enjoyable experience. While the former group is more interested in the content and topic under discussion, the latter is also interested in the design and vividness of the context. Based on these differences, we propose following influence of motives on consumers' expectations towards virtual co-creation—the process, the content, the context, as well as the interaction partners (see Table 2).
Considering that consumers' motivations depend on personality45 and that motivations are quite heterogeneous among user groups, we are further interested in how personal characteristics may affect virtual co-creation? While literature, especially from open source software, provides a good understanding about motives, it does not shed much light on their underlying sources.46 A new phase of motivation research in open source innovation is proposed by linking individuals' motives to the context.47
People fundamentally differ in their “autotelic” personality—the ability to enjoy what one is doing regardless of external rewards.48 While some individuals tend to prefer activities they value for their own sake, others engage in activities to achieve a valued outcome separable form the activity per se.49 While individuals who show high levels of novelty-seeking, exploratory behavior tend to be more interested in autotelic (intrinsically rewarding) activities, individuals with strong need for achievement and power tend to be more goal-oriented and interested in the outcome of an activity.50
As there are numerous personal characteristics and personality traits that affect consumers' motives, in the following we concentrate on those characteristics that either relate to consumers' creativity as main prerequisites for their ability to make valuable and innovative contributions to a firm's new product development process or, as we are dealing with co-creation activities in virtual environments, to their web-experiential behavior. While consumers' creativity is important for the quality of their contribution, their web-exploration behavior is significant for the “optimal design” of the virtual interaction experience.
Drawing on consumers' personal characteristics linked to web-exploration and/or innovation behavior we propose the following:
▪ Proposition 1: Consumers low on web-exploration and innovation-related characteristics may engage in virtual co-creation because they have a strong need for a solution but do not possess the skills to realize their ideas. These consumers neither possess the creative skill needed to come up with a solution for their problem nor show much natural interest in experiencing innovations on the web. Hence, they may consider virtual co-creation as an appropriate means of coming up with the solution they are looking for that solves the problem they were facing with existing products and that they would not get otherwise.
▪ Proposition 2: Consumers high on web-exploration-related characteristics and low on innovation-related characteristics may engage in virtual co-creation just because they are curious and like to surf on the web. These consumers may not have been interested in new product development activities before. They may discover the co-creation project by accident and stay engaged as they enjoy the co-creation experience.
▪ Proposition 3: Consumers high on web-exploration-related characteristics and high on innovation-related characteristics may engage in virtual co-creation because they are intrinsically interested in co-creation activities. They like to develop new products and engage in creative activities in offline contexts and especially in online environments.
▪ Proposition 4: Consumers low on web-exploration-related characteristics and high on innovation related characteristics may engage in virtual co-creation because they are interested in the outcomes associated with their participation such as monetary compensation. These consumers are interested in innovations, but not so much in exploring them on the Internet. While possessing the relevant skills needed for new product development, they show little intrinsic interest in co-creation in virtual environments and therefore are more interested in the rewards associated with their engagement. They may for example look for the recognition and monetary compensation linked with their participation. As these consumers are rather goal-oriented, they may view virtual co-creation as an enjoyable work activity rather than purely a leisure activity valued for its own sake. Figure 2 summarizes our propositions regarding the impact of consumers' underlying personal characteristics on their main motives.
The population of the study consisted of consumers who had participated in at least one virtual co-creation project shown in Table 3. Ten different virtual co-creation projects were covered, such as the development of a baby carriage, an innovative snowboard backpack, modular and adjustable running shoes, a mobile phone for kids, and furniture.
An online survey was used for data collection. After an online pre-test with 25 participants and subsequent telephone interviews with the participants, data collection with the final, adjusted questionnaire was conducted within 3 weeks.51 In all, 727 consumers were included in data analysis, as they confirmed being able to remember their participation in detail (value >= 3 on a 5-point scale anchored by (1) “I can not remember at all” and (5) “I can remember in great detail”).52 Within the total sample, 53% of the respondents were male, 47% female. On average, participants were 35.06 years old (SD=9.49 years), and well educated: 30.1% held a college degree, and 37.9% a post-graduate degree. Stated professions varied widely and included: medical doctor, orchestra conductor, priest, computer scientist, engineer, management consultant, housewife, chemist, student, and soldier. Many of the participants (N = 354; 42.9%) reported that they already had an idea for a new product or product modification. However, only a handful of consumers (N = 46; 5.6%) reported actually having created a product stemming from their ideas, and 48 consumers (5.8%) had tried to sell their product ideas for someone else to produce. In total, 25 consumers (3%) held at least one patent. On average, participants spent around 20 hours per week on the Internet.
A literature review,53 in-depth interviews with 5 experts, as well as 15 consumers that had already engaged in virtual co-creation activities were used to develop the measurement items covering consumers' expectations regarding with whom, about what, and how they like to interact when engaging in virtual co-creation projects see Table 4. Further, the questionnaire contained the motive items suggested by Füller.54 Consumers' demographics, domain-specific skills,55 involvement in innovation tasks,56 internet-specific innovation task involvement,57 innovativeness,58 adaption behavior,59 product-specific novelty seeking,60 internet-specific exploratory behavior,61 web usage, and previous innovation activity62 were applied for consumers' characteristics.
The Four Different Consumer Types of Virtual Co-Creation
Our results show that consumers engage in virtual co-creation for several reasons: curiosity, dissatisfaction with existing products, intrinsic interest in innovation, to gain knowledge, to show ideas, or to get monetary rewards. Cluster analysis further revealed that consumers differ in the motive structure that drives them to engage in virtual co-creation. Four differently motivated consumer types were identified engaging in virtual co-creation. Cluster means of the heterogeneous motive structures of the different consumer types are shown in Figure 3. The identified typology distinguishes consumers as: reward-oriented, need-driven, curiosity-driven, and intrinsically interested.
Reward-oriented consumers are highly motivated to engage in virtual co-creation. Beneath their interest in innovation activities and the knowledge associated with them lies a desire for monetary rewards. Need-driven consumers participate in co-creation mainly because they are dissatisfied with existing product solutions available on the market. Curiosity-driven consumers yield high on curiosity as reason for their participation. Intrinsically interested consumers score high on every motivational aspect connected with the innovation activity and score low on expecting a monetary reward.
Analysis of variance and cross-tabulation shows that consumers within the received clusters differ in regard to their personal characteristics.63 Table 5 describes how consumer types differ across the clusters.
As proposed, the results show that consumers' innovation and web-exploration-related personal characteristics indeed affect their set of motives.64 High levels of innovation and web-experiential personal characteristics increase the probability of belonging to the intrinsically interested participants group while low levels of innovation-related characteristics increase the likelihood of belonging to the need-driven participant group. Taken together, the personal characteristics explain up to 24.2% of the variance in the motive clusters.
The personality of reward-oriented participants significantly differs from intrinsically interested ones in their internet-specific task involvement, adoption behavior, and gender. Female gender, low internet-specific innovation task involvement, and slow adoption behavior are predictors increasing the probability of belonging to the reward-oriented group.
Need-driven participants compared to intrinsically driven participants significantly differ in their domain-specific skills, innovativeness, internet-specific and innovation task involvement, gender, age, and education levels. Female gender, age and a high level of formal education but low levels of internet-specific innovation task involvement, innovation task involvement, and domain-specific skills significantly increase the probability of belonging to the need-driven group.
Curiosity-driven participants and intrinsically driven participants significantly differ in their domain-specific skills, hours spent on the web, and previously generated ideas. Low domain-specific skills, little time spent on the web, and no previously generated ideas are indicators significantly increasing the likelihood of belonging to the curiosity-driven group.
While all applied innovation related personal characteristics and demographics serve as significant predictors, consumers novelty-seeking and exploratory behavior do not affect the likelihood of belonging to any motive cluster. This may be the case because they are related to both innovation and web-experiential behaviors and therefore may not discriminate between the identified motive categories.
Consumers Expectations towards Virtual Co-Creation
To explore whether expectations toward virtual co-creation differ between motive clusters, analysis of variance was employed. The expectations towards virtual co-creation differ between reward, need, curiosity, and intrinsic interest-driven consumer clusters. Besides the multimedia richness and preferred interaction partner, expectations and design preferences differ significantly between the four groups.
Intrinsically oriented and reward-oriented consumers show high and enduring interest in virtual co-creation projects. They like to contribute to development projects in different product categories, innovation stages, and activities. Multimedia richness, powerful tools, and communication between participants matter for them. While reward-oriented consumers are most interested in monetary incentives, intrinsically motivated consumers show high interest in feedback and being officially named as a co-developer. Need-driven consumers seem to be predominantly interested in getting a solution to their problems. Therefore, they are interested in a specific product category and tend to contribute to certain problems and tasks only. For them, besides feedback, none of the incentives offered seem attractive or appropriate. While need-driven consumers have a specific interest in a solution, curiosity-driven consumers seem, rather, to be involved in the product. For curiosity-driven consumers, product category and context, like brand and other participants, appear to be important criteria for engaging in virtual co-creation activities. Experiencing and testing new products is most important. Curiosity-driven consumers are willing to invest quite some time. For them, a compelling experience offered through multimedia rich interaction with powerful tools may be more important than any incentive offered.
Consumers' motives significantly affect the kind of projects and tasks as well as extent of interaction they expect.65 Motives further influence the incentives, preferred interaction partners, and expected support provided by powerful tools and a multimedia-rich environment. Overall, the results seem to confirm our propositions suggested in Table 2. Table 4 summarizes the significant effects of consumers' motives on their expectations towards the co-creation experience.
Intrinsic motives such as intrinsic innovation interest and curiosity, and internalized extrinsic motives such as showing ideas, positively affect consumers' further interest in co-creation projects, the extent of participation, as well as time spent. Extrinsically interested consumers seem to be less interested in further participation. However, the reward orientation motive positively affects consumers' willingness to engage more often, indicating that reward-oriented participants are willing to participate more often as long as they get monetary compensation or other adequate incentives for it.
Intrinsic innovation interest, curiosity, and showing ideas positively influence the number of tasks (idea generation, concept testing new products), as well as kind of products, participants are interested in. As proposed, intrinsically motivated participants indeed seem to be interested in a wider range of products than extrinsically driven ones.
The proposed effect of consumers' motives on expected incentives also tend to show the anticipated relationships. The motives of dissatisfaction, intrinsic innovation interest, and showing ideas have a positive impact on feedback as the desired incentive. Monetary compensation, showing ideas, and gaining knowledge positively affect consumers' interest in being officially named as a co-developer. As expected, monetary orientation also strongly effects participants' expectations towards financial compensation, participation in product success, and special offers/free giveaways/lotteries as incentives. While curiosity is also positively related to special offers/free giveaways/lotteries, showing ideas has a negative relationship to them.
Dissatisfaction, showing ideas, and intrinsic innovation interest have a positive impact on powerful, interactive tools. Dissatisfaction, showing ideas, and gaining knowledge also affect participants' wish to communicate with other participants. Thus, consumers who are sharing or looking for information are especially interested in a supportive context. Intrinsic innovation interest and gaining knowledge further positively affect the importance of media rich product presentations.
High levels of intrinsic innovation interest and monetary orientation reduce the likelihood of preferring private inventors as interaction partners compared to a preferred brand or well-known producers as interaction partners, while gaining knowledge increases its probability. High levels of intrinsic innovation interest also reduce the probability of preferring a virtual innovation community run by private enthusiasts or an agency specialized in virtual co-creation as a preferred interaction partner. While high levels of monetary orientation reduce consumers' probability of choosing private inventors as interaction partners, they increase their interest in well-known producers as partners.
While social exchange theory suggests that consumers' personalities affect their motives, it may also directly affect their expectations towards virtual co-creation. For parsimonious reasons, we focused on consumers' creative talent as the most important personal characteristic to add value to virtual co-creation. According to creativity theory, it is consumers' creative talent that enables humans to create novel and useful ideas.66 To determine consumers' creativity, we calculated a creativity index consisting of domain-specific skills, involvement in innovation tasks, and innovativeness as a proxy of creative cognitive style.
The creativity index was formed as follows: Creativity Index = domain-specific skills * involvement in innovation tasks * innovativeness.67
Regression analyses indicate no direct effect of consumers' creativity on expectations towards co-creation. However, they reveal three moderating effects of consumers' creative personality on the relationship between consumers' motives and their expectations towards co-creation. The impact of consumers' motives on further co-creation interest, interest in feedback, and multimedia support significantly differ between creative and less-creative consumers, indicating moderating effects. The impact of intrinsic interest in innovation on further participation is stronger for creative than less-creative consumers. For less-creative consumers, curiosity is a stronger motivator to engage in further co-creation projects than for creative consumers. The reason consumers are looking for feedback also differs between creative and less-creative consumers. While gaining knowledge is a more important reason for less-creative consumers than creative consumers, feedback on ideas has a slightly higher, although statistically not significant, relevance for creative consumers than less-creative ones. The reason why consumers are looking for multimedia-supported co-creation also differs between creative and less-creative consumers. While curiosity has a stronger effect on multimedia support for less-creative consumers, it has a negative effect for creative consumers. Besides these interaction effects, no further significant differences between creative and less-creative consumers have been identified. As creative consumers are more interested in co-creation activities, these results indicate that creative consumers' are more likely to engage in virtual co-creation than less-creative consumers.
Discussion and Implications
Until now, little was known about consumers' expectations towards virtual co-creation. Our results show consumers' motivations indeed determine their expectations towards the virtual co-creation design.68 They reveal four different kinds of consumers engaging in co-creation: reward-oriented, need-driven, curiosity-driven, and intrinsically interested.
In line with interaction theory,69 they further confirm that differently motivated consumers significantly differ in their personality. For example, while curiosity-driven consumers seem to be inexperienced web surfers who are not very interested in offline innovation activities, reward-driven consumers seem to be highly skilled problem solvers, considering themselves almost as professional contributors. Intrinsically interested consumers not only show the highest motivation, but also are highly qualified due to their knowledgeable and creative personality. In other words, consumers who are more creative (and, as a consequence, are more qualified for co-creation activities) are also more interested in co-creation projects. The identified self-selection bias of creative consumers explains why signaling and problem broadcasting70 seem to be adequate strategies to recruit qualified participants for co-creation projects. It sounds plausible that more-creative consumers prefer to engage in virtual co-creation activities as they like to deal with innovations and to show their ideas.71
Our results indicate that, with the exception of reward-oriented consumers, monetary incentives are not as important for engagement in virtual co-creation. For participants, intangibles such as feedback or recognition as well as the interaction experience itself are amply rewarding.72 While these findings seem to be obvious for people in online communities, a study of 216 innovation and marketing managers revealed a complete opposite view.73 Innovation managers ranked consumers' expected incentives in the following order: special offers and financial compensation; participation in product success; and prize draws. Intrinsic motivation and “fun factor” covered the last places in the study. This may explain why some companies pay more attention to the incentives they offer than to the interaction design. Our findings also support the idea of going beyond single customer integration projects and forming consumer innovation communities.74
Our findings are of practical relevance for companies that intend to virtually integrate consumers into new product development, demonstrating that consumers' expectations towards co-creation differ. Depending on the input a company is looking for—for example, problems with an existing product, ideas for new ones, or opinions about new concepts—it may aim to cooperate with one or several of the identified consumer types and tailor the co-creation experience towards them.75 Ideally, the design of a virtual co-creation platform should be able to attract all envisaged consumer groups and to meet or even exceed their expectations.76 Also, expectations towards co-creation slightly vary between differently motivated consumer groups, some general strategies regarding tasks offered, incentives, context, and interaction partners can be given. By providing different co-creative tasks and different levels of support to the participant, companies can virtually collaborate with individuals from different groups with different skills (professional innovators and hobbyists). Powerful tools are important to encourage co-creation: consumers need a toolkit that allows them to convey their ideas (with relatively low effort).77 To create vibrant co-creation platforms and attract many consumers, the needs of the heterogeneous user groups—experiential-oriented as well as goal-oriented ones—have to be addressed. Based on our findings we suggest following principles for designing co-creation interactions (Table 6).
In general, it is important to generate a compelling, flowing, engaging, supportive, and interactive experience.78 Community is an important ingredient in creating this experience. Flow theory,79 the toolkit approach,80 and quality requirements for websites81 may give further guidance in the actual specification of a rewarding co-creation experience.
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↵13. G. Von Krogh et al., “Open Source Softwares: What We Know (and Do Not Know) about Motives to Contribute,” DIME Working Papers on Intellectual Property Rights, 38, 2008; P.A. David and J.S. Shapiro, “Community-Based Production of Open-Source Software: What Do We Know about the Developers Who Participate,” Information Economics and Policy, 20 (2008): 364–398.
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↵51. 4,714 e-mails with a link to the online questionnaire were sent, of which 1,390 e-mails were undeliverable. In total 3,320 consumers were reached and 825 complete questionnaires returned.
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↵63. Except for age, gender, and education, consumer profiles vary significantly within the four identified clusters.
↵64. Multinominal logistic regression was conducted to test our propositions regarding the impact of consumers' personalities on the set of motives that drive them to engage in co-creation activities.
↵65. Several multiple as well as multinominal regressions were applied to analyze in more detail the influence of consumers' motives on their expectations towards future co-creation projects. The results show, consumers' motives significantly affect their co-creation preferences.
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↵67. Amabile, op. cit. In order to check direct as well as moderating effects of consumers' personal characteristics on their expectations towards virtual co-creation, we followed the standard procedure suggested by Aiken and West. L.S. Aiken, S.G. West, and R.R. Reno, Multiple Regression: Testing and Interpreting Interactions (Newbury Park, CA: Sage Publications, 1991). A median split of the calculated creativity index was used as a dummy variable to distinguish between creative (above median) and less-creative consumers (below median). Regression analyses were applied to determine direct as well as moderating effects of consumers' creative personality on their expectations towards co-creation projects. To reduce multicolinearity between main and interaction terms, independent variables were mean centered before entering them in the regression model. H. Aguinis and C.A. Pierce, “Improving the Power of Moderated Multiple Regression to Estimate Interaction Effects,” Research Methods Forum, Vol. 4, 1999. The regression model reads as follows: y(expectation1) = β(0) + β(1) M1 + β(2)M2 + β(3)M3 + β(4)M4 + β(5)M5 + β(6)M6 + β(7)CI + β(8)(M1*CI) + β(9)(M2*CI) + β(10)(M3*CI) + β(11)(M4*CI) + β(12)(M5*CI) + β(13)(M6*CI) + ε. First, the motivator variables (Mj) were entered into the regression model. Second, the creativity index variable (CI) was included in the model. The F-ratio associated with the resulting change in R2 was used to statistically test whether or not consumers' creativity acts as an independent predictor. Third, the interaction terms of “each motive variable x creativity index” (Mj*CI) were incorporated into the model. The F-ratio associated with the resulting change in R2 indicates whether or not a moderating effect exists.
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↵81. J. Füller et al. (2006), op. cit.
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