Cost-efficient and multimedia-rich interaction opportunities offered by the Internet and the existence of online communities have made virtual co-creation a suitable means of creating value and improving the overall success of new products. Information technology enables new forms of producer-consumer collaboration in new product development processes. However, little research exists on consumers’ experiences during virtual co-creation tasks. Drawing on the literature on organizational behavior, we introduce the construct of consumer empowerment to describe consumers’ perceived influence on product design and decision making. This paper presents the first large-scale empirical study investigating how consumers are empowered through Internet-based co-creation activities. To analyze the impact of applied interaction tools, 727 consumers having taken part in virtual co-creation projects were asked about their experienced tool support, their perceived empowerment, how much they enjoyed the task, and their readiness to participate in future co-creation opportunities. The results show that consumers engaging in co-creation feel more or less empowered. The level of experienced empowerment depends on the design of the applied virtual interaction tool, the related enjoyment of the virtual interaction, the participants’ task and product involvement, as well as their creativity and lead-user characteristics. The design of the interaction tool determines to what extent consumers with varying capabilities are able to solve the assigned co-creation task. It determines the consumers’ perceived empowerment and experienced enjoyment. Both the levels of perceived empowerment and enjoyment have a strong impact on the consumers’ willingness to participate in future virtual new product development projects. These findings contribute to a better understanding of antecedents and consequences of successful consumer co-creation. They provide recommendations on how to design a compelling virtual new product co-creation experience.
Key words and phrases: co-creation , empowerment , new product development , online community , open innovation , user innovation , virtual customer integration