How to Go Ultra Lean: Reduce Wasted Inventory with Fashion Crowdsourcing

Most entrepreneurs are familiar with (and have possibly used) crowdfunding sites like Kickstarter and Indiegogo. But, have you ever heard of crowdsourcing your business? In fashion, an industry that sees a lot of waste and unused inventory, crowdsourcing is a great way to establish communication with customers, predict customer tastes and needs, and decrease the amount of unsold items in your line. If done correctly, crowdsourcing can reduce waste and increase your profitability.

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1. Find your audience

If you have a large social media following, you’re in great shape for this step. Crowdsourcing is mainly done through the internet, but if you have found that your audience doesn’t use the internet (yeah right!), these principles can be applied to all audience types.

If you need to find your audience, here are a few strategies I suggest using:

Study similar brands with a large following. What are they doing differently? I can wager that they are posting content on a consistent, daily basis.

Attend as many industry networking events in your area as possible. Exchange cards with new business connections and follow up with them virtually on social media.

Launch a social media campaign! I doubled my followers (on Instagram) with a day-long campaign that unveiled my ready to wear line. I did this by partnering with a model who had a big Instagram following, and, most importantly, who was also my target customer. Had I been more consistent, I would see continued follower growth month after month.

→ Reach out to previous customers and brand advocates. Ask them questions about how they perceive your brand, why they made the purchase, and what they would like to see next. What other brands do they buy? This information will help guide your research and find your audience.

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2. Engage your audience

As we know, the number of followers doesn’t equal quality of followers. You want to maximize the number of followers who actively participate in your brand’s story. Gamification is a strategy some brands use. Make participating in your brand fun! Some brands have done this with giveaways. Everyone loves a prize! Host public meetups, partner with adjacent brands, festivals and craft fairs. Think “interactive.”

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3. Determine which part of the process you would like your customer’s involvement

There are a few great examples of fashion brands that have used crowdsourcing as a business model. Threadless is the original crowdsourcing platform. Artists submitted a design, and the designs with the most votes went into production. Continuum Fashion is a more extreme crowdsourcing model. The fashion label allows users to make bespoke pieces from their online 3D software. The customer gets exactly what they are looking for from the ideation of the design.

Gustin is a menswear brand that is a great example of a brand that uses crowdsourcing to reduce waste. They engage their customers in a voting platform in between the sample making phase and the production phase of the design process. The brand publishes a few items that can potentially be for sale on the site. To vote for the item you want to see produced, you have to pay “x” amount. If the item reaches its production goal, then your voting fee is essentially your cost for purchasing the item. Gustin produces the items that have reached their production goals and sends them to those who have voted for the item. Using this method, the brand only makes what is already guaranteed to meet their customers’ demand, therefore, eliminating waste!

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For Gustin, they have completed ideation, fabric selection, and sample making. The designers don’t waste any money on production of an item that won’t sell. You can decide where in your process customer input is necessary if at all. For example, you can determine if you want customers to have input on colors of garments, similar to how Quirky allows people to select features of products in the development phase. Always remember to reward your most active participants!

You can build this system within your website shop experience, or you can partner with crowdsourcing platforms. Crow demand is a new platform that “allows users to leverage the buying power of their social networks to make sure the products they love get made.”

In the competitive field of fashion, crowdsourcing can be the unique factor that helps you grow your business as lean as possible.

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  • Holly Sanders

    Im excited about starting a crowdfunding campaign, I would like to see more articles on this subject.