‘Pretailing’ can make you a fortune

Cool-hunters in search of the next big thing are turning crowdfunding websites into shopping malls. First they forage. Then, after spotting something quirky or original, they pounce.

Such habits of innovation-hungry consumers have been dubbed “pretailing” by trendwatching老域名出售, and they offer opportunities for entrepreneurs to make a motza before they’ve officially launched their product or service.

“Consumers indulging in pretail are driven by the thrill of being early, mixed with the thrill of finding a truly exciting or useful or relevant product, especially if it’s something quirky or so niche that it would have never made it down a traditional brand’s production line,” trendwatching老域名出售 says in a Trend Briefing.

Crowdfunding sites such as Christie Street and Crowd Supply are tapping into the pretailing trend and making it easy for customers to buy successful projects, even well after they’ve reached their funding targets. The most successful projects make the leap from pretail to etail and on to the mainstream world of retail.

Melbourne-based Annex Products is about to make that final hop in to retail, just three years after a hugely successful crowdfunding campaign for its first product. Rob Ward and his business partner Chris Peters took their idea for Opena, an iPhone case with a built-in bottle opener, to the market with a Kickstarter crowdfunding campaign in mid-2011. Within 30 days they had raised 188 per cent of their funding target, but it was what happened after the campaign that mattered most.

Opena was picked up by design and gadget blogs in Australia, America, France, Japan and Russia and pre-orders started flooding in. “We actually sold a lot more – more than our project – in the week or two after the project,” Ward says.

While they were ready to take pre-orders, they had not foreseen just how massive the impact of the right tweet at the right time could be.

“It got really crazy for us because of things that you can’t really control,” Ward says. “Ashton Kutcher tweeted about it and the website that we had at that time wasn’t as robust as what we have now and he crashed our website three times in a row.”

Ward estimates they probably lost $100,000 in sales because their website wasn’t ready for the onslaught of customers.

Still, the pre-orders they generated helped them launch their business in 2012 and bankroll the development and patenting of their next product, the Quad Lock smartphone mounting system, which is now their No. 1 brand.

“The Quad Lock has eclipsed Opena many times over but the investment and the energy needed to get the Quad Lock off the ground was a lot more,” Ward says.

The business is now taking the Quad Lock retail. “[We’re] getting distributors in strategic places around the world to try and get product placement in all the big retailers around the world.”

Ward says capturing the pretailing customer involves far more than launching a crowdfunding campaign and waiting to be spotted. Entrepreneurs need to think beyond their crowdfunding campaign and be ready to acquire customers. “You’ve really got to build your business around what will keep working for you for the next year, two years, three years. It’s a normal online store, with normal marketing, through normal channels, taking credit card payments and orders. That’s where you make your money.”

Sarah Moran says she could have done more to capitalise on her successful Pozible crowdfunding campaign in October last year. Her product allows people to buy postage stamps printed with a photo they have taken. She hit her $500 funding target in a single day and is planning to launch an online store, but says she could have done more to leverage the opportunity at the time.

Ward also says the most effective way of piquing the interest of pretailing customers via social media is to think niche, rather than broad brush. It isn’t necessarily the posts on gadget guide Gizmodo that generate most sales for Quad Lock, but the mentions on niche blogs aimed at triathletes such as DC Rainmaker. But he warns overexposure on the “gazillions” of “lower-tier” blogs can render you untouchable to quality blogs. “So it’s like a waterfall; you go from the top down,” he says. “Don’t try to go from the bottom up.”

Trends expert Michael McQueen agrees, saying a product’s cool factor comes from a combination of “exclusivity and scarcity”: autonomy from the mainstream and appealing to people’s desire to be associated with something – or someone – they deem cool.

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