For the Consumer, By the Consumer!


The noughties have seen the emergence of smart businesses that are giving competition a run for their money by involving consumers in decision making. And decisions are made in minutes. Anyone who reads this post must see how he/she can build a business by involving consumers intimately.

One outstanding example is Threadless.

Threadless is a community-centred online apparel store, started in 2000. Members of the Threadless community submit t-shirt designs online; the designs are then put to a public vote. A small percentage of submitted designs are selected for printing and sold online. Creators of the winning designs receive a prize of cash and store credit.

Designers upload their t-shirt designs to the website, where visitors and members of the community score them on a scale of 0 to 5. On an average, around 1,500 designs compete in any given week. Each week, the Threadless selection team selects about ten designs. Each designer selected receives $2,000 in cash, a $500 gift certificate (which he/she may trade in for $200 in cash), as well as an additional $500 for every reprint.

In the open source community, a Threadless t-shirt or design is considered to be crowd sourced because the designer and the company retain all rights to the design. As the “source” of a design is not available for download, it cannot be considered “open source”.

Threadless shirts are run in limited batches. When shirts are sold out, customers can request a reprint. However, reprinting occurs only when there is enough demand, and the decision to reprint is ultimately up to the company. New shirts are released on Mondays.

Threadless is growing at breathless speed. While more established players like Gap and Nautica take months to come out with new designs, Threadless, with its consumer involvement innovation, can come out with new designs weekly. Most importantly, these designs have already been CONSUMER researched!

Such a brilliantly simple model that many start-ups would do well to emulate.

Note: Details sourced from Wikipedia.

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This article was written by Subhash

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