I’ve been chatting with a lot of small business owners lately about the possibilities of consumer involvement, and just how much people are willing to do for/with a business. Once we launch BigTreetop.com, we’ll have a better answer to this question for small businesses. Obviously the BigTreetop team is confident that with the right mindset and a good set of tools, the answer is going to be very, very positive. We are especially confident that if we all do it right, local businesses can get even more consumer involvement than big chains because of the close proximity of the customer to the actual decisionmakers in the business.

In the interim, here are a few examples of how much people will contribute to big businesses which have little or no real local loyalty:

Kroger “Design a Green Bag” Contest (http://www.designagreenbag.com/)

Details: Started in Spring of 2008. Allows people to submit a design online for a new green grocery bag and vote on other people’s designs. The top-rated idea in the end will be used, and the person who designed it will receive $500

Participation: 32,288 entries as of May 14th, 2008, with the top-voted bag receiving 110,196 votes.

Comments: This site, a one-off design, is probably costing Kroger at least $20-30,000 dollars to implement – not including the advertising to attract people to the contest. They obviously realize the power of customer involvement. The $500 reward may have been a motivator for the first 1000 people who may have felt that they had a chance to win, but for the next 30-something-thousand, the motivation had to be the enjoyment of participation in something public – something bigger than their normal everyday lives.

My Starbucks Idea (http://mystarbucksidea.force.com/home/home.jsp)

Details: Started in April 2008. Allows people to submit ideas for Starbucks and vote and comment on other people’s ideas

Participation: 37,400 ideas as of May 14th, 2008 with the top-voted idea receiving 94,120 votes.

Comments: An interesting phenomenon has occurred more often than not, where one customer posted a very anti-Starbucks comment and other customers jumped in to defend the company.