Future Proof

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Crowdsourced business decisions

Athletic brand Reebok launched First Pitch: a digital experience that lets customers decide whether or not a sneaker design is produced. Reebok kicked off First Pitch in the US as an effort to minimize waste, by only putting a shoe into production if enough customers are willing to buy it. This quarter, Reebok began proposing new designs and posting them on First Pitch. For a period ranging from 72 hours to 30 days, customers can ‘commit’ USD 1 to a particular design; that commitment is raised by USD 1 for every other person who contributes (until the retail price is reached). If fewer than 500 people elect to buy a pair, the shoe will not be produced. If it does, First Pitch customers will receive the shoe nine weeks later.

Reebok is far, far beyond the startup stage. Yet its new crowdfunding-inspired experience is taking a leaf out of an entrepreneur’s handbook. And Reebok isn’t the only corporate player to experiment with crowdfunding; way back in 2018, LEGO took to Indiegogo to test out a mechanical building kit for adults (a less LEGO-typical idea). Both of which go to show that any brand – regardless of size – can take this startup-style approach, and that there are compelling benefits to doing so.

The first benefit? It’s all about engagement. Consumers continue to display their keen interest in entrepreneurship, in innovation, in new products hitting the market...hence the rapid successes achieved by D2C brands and shows like Shark Tank continuing to command high ratings. First Pitch taps into this – as Matt Blonder, Reebok’s global head of digital, said, the platform “sheds light on the unseen and invites [consumers] into the process.” In other words, there are few better ways to engage your customers (particularly your superfans!) than letting them directly shape your innovation pipeline. 

Speaking of your innovation pipeline: Pitching your ideas to the public can have a positive domino effect, making nearly every stage of that pipeline more effective and purposeful. For example, your marketing and insights teams might spend less time metric-analyzing (and agonizing!) over what customers will go for – the number of shoppers willing to contribute cold, hard cash to support an offering that doesn’t even exist yet is a powerful indicator of its viability. Your production teams could avoid expending resources (and emissions!) on something that won’t sell. And your designers or R&D staffers, as their concept drafts are released and scrutinized by your audience, may foster a closer and more direct relationship with consumers than ever before.

How can your brand combine engagement and innovation strategies, and harness the wisdom of the crowd?

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