A report say Wal-Mart isn’t very “collaborative.” Is that so bad?
FORTUNE — A report released by Top Level Design, a company that manages several Internet domain names, says nearly a quarter of U.S. and U.K. consumers want companies to solicit their ideas for future product offerings. And when presented with a list of 10 top consumer brands, these consumers ranked Wal-Mart Stores’ (WMT) Walmart brand as the least collaborative of the bunch, behind Disney (DIS), Nike (NKE) and Toyota (TM).
Also flunking in collaboration, according to the study? Apple. (AAPL)
No surprise there. Apple isn’t known for developing products via focus groups. But the company’s gadgets and software also score consistently high marks with users. Its iPhone, for example, topped the most recent J.D. Power U.S. Wireless Smartphone Satisfaction Survey.
We asked Ray King, CEO of Top Level Design, what he makes of this paradox. King’s company, by the way, has applied to act as the registrar for “.wiki” web addresses–a “wiki” being a web site that allows users to edit its content–so he has a strong interest in promoting the idea of consumer collaboration.
But even King doesn’t argue that Apple should totally wiki-fy itself. “You can’t always ask your consumers, ‘what do you want?’ because you may only get incremental improvements,” King admits. His best case for Apple soliciting customer feedback? “You don’t always know where the best ideas will come from.”
And what about Walmart, which, was named “least collaborative” of 10 brands by one of every 1,220 adults surveyed? King praised WalmartLabs, the retailing giant’s tech arm, which actually does a lot of work with social media and other collaborative tools. Walmart’s low score with consumers may be due to a “perception problem,” King suggests.
King believes it may be hard for any big corporation to have serious collaboration cred because the decision makers are so far removed from consumers. That may be true until you consider that the most collaborative company on Top Level Design’s list is Google (GOOG). Google products, including its core search engine, benefit from users’ inputs, patterns and preferences. The surveyed consumers might call that collaboration. Google calls it a business model.