Apparel firm and crowdfunding platform Betabrand has fine-tuned speed-to-market on a consumer-vetted shoe design from four weeks to just five days.
The company is working with Li & Fung Ltd. to digitally develop a pair of high heels. Consumers on Sunday selected the type of heel, followed by a vote on Monday on the body of the shoe. Materials are selected on Tuesday, and by Wednesday consumers will be able to vote on colors and trims. Digital renderings of the final design would become available by Betabrand and Li & Fung on Thursday, and the shoes would go on sale on Betabrand’s site on Friday.
Chris Lindland, founder and chief executive officer, called the vetting a “high-speed consumer development process.” He said the two since last June has been testing a process that marries Betabrand’s community with Li & Fung’s digitized design and product development capabilities. The initial tests last year were for four-week development cycles.
According to Lindland, 20 successful products and more than 30,000 pre-sales later, the two are now “ready to speed up the process to a mere four to five days.”
Consumers vote on “designs and fabrics that are within Li & Fung’s graphically-rendered source base. As consumers [choose] elements, Li & Fung builds a 3-D rendering of the product,” he said.
Further, “when it goes to sale, it’s a 3-D rendering of a heel that looks just like the final physical product consumers will receive,” Lindland said.
In an interview with Spencer Fung, group ceo at Li & Fung, in December, he spoke of earlier projects his firm worked on with San Francisco-based Betabrand for virtually designed handbags and shoes: “They had sold the products with no samples made and before production, which means you’re eliminating excess stock and the need for huge markdowns to push stock as a retailer, not to mention eliminating time and waste.”
According to Lindland, this new democratized form of design “lets digital demand dictate supply.”
Consumers head to the crowdfunding platform to place their orders. Crowdfunded items, or pre-orders, are given a certain time period to hit their production targets. While some periods can be for a few months, Lindland said, “Some products reach their goal in a day. But we still like to give it at least a week to project the overall size of the production run.” Most of the products are manufactured in China.
The trade-off for consumers who choose to fund a product is that they might have to wait several weeks once funding closes before the item is available for shipment. What they get in exchange for their patience is a discount in the purchase price, which can be up to 30 percent.
There are other products that have already been “crowdfunded” and are now full-fledged Betabrand products. These can range from boots listed at $168 to a dress yoga pant is $118.
Betabrand began in 2010, and has crowdfunded over 700 products since then. The company has raised an aggregate of $39 million in venture capital funding, with its last round a Series C in June.