Threadless is well known as an example of crowdsourcing new product design. This fast-growing T shirt company asks its user community to submit designs for new T shirts. Designers from around the world submit designs which are often edgy, cool and topical. The company claims to encourage ‘weird, geeky and beautiful art.’ It asks users to vote on the designs. Threadless manufacturers the most popular items and (not suprisingly) they sell well. The original designer gets a small monetary reward and his or her name on the label. Threadless now makes sweaters, hoodies and phone cases on a similar basis.
A similar but different model is operated by Gustin who make premium men’s clothing such as jeans, shirts and coats. On its site Gustin sets out different designs for new products. Members of their user community then make pledges on new products they would like to buy. Each new line has a goal in terms of number of items and funding. Once these goals are met then no further pledges are accepted. The company makes a limited edition of the item and those people who pledged to buy it are sent one and their credit card account is debited. The company carries no inventory, has no waste, no distribution channel and no marketing expense. Each new product is fully funded by customers before it is made.
Threadless and Gustin have developed innovative business models which eliminate the risk in new product development. They get their customers to design, select or fund their product innovations and that pretty much guarantees success. Nice work if you can get it.