As industrial mass production has taken over the markets, product lines have been producing ever more similar products. Low unit costs, and the joy of producing a lot of products cheaply, have been dominating thoughts for a long time. However, the deck has been shuffled by online retailers who reach consumers directly without superfluous middlemen. At the same time consumers want to feel more than ever that they are standing out from the grey masses with their buying decisions.
Over the past few years direct to consumer online retailers have revolutionized several consumer product categories. The terms is used for the online retailers who sell their own products under their own brands. Sunglasses, sneakers, bicycles and razors can naturally be ordered from the brands themselves. Without superfluous middlemen, it can happen at a competitive price and without compromising on quality.
In addition, these companies have revolutionized how products are produced. For example, could you imagine a big clothing firm deciding on next month’s sweatshirt design based on a vote on Instagram? And what about a situation in which a brand selling sunglasses offers a limited run of 50 pairs of sunglasses based on the craziest customer feedback?
The customer is in power and you, too, Brutus are talking to them
Passionate followers of trainers have for a long time seen Nike, Adidas and Puma produce limited editions of their most special products. They cooperate with public figures or bring back retro models that have long since been off the shelves. The result is a limited edition run which is sold on the business’s own online store and through specially selected resellers.
The same ideology has now spread to other product categories. It feels as if the speed is picking up. What then encourages a brand to make limited editions and to primarily sell them via its own online store?
1. Customer commitment
The old wisdom says that a committed customer is the best customer. This holds well, particularly in the world of online retail and abundance. If you can get the customer to commit to your brand and buy from you, this is the optimal situation for the online retailer.
Attracting new customers is hard and expensive and a stream of regular shoppers can often provide a lucrative income over a good lifecycle. Some customers, however, need to be convinced at first. Why would I buy from you? Why directly from your online store? A coveted special product may be the answer to precisely these questions.
2. Reinforcing a mental image
With a limited product edition you can experiment more freely with the limits of the mental image people have of your brand. The craziest ideas can be tested, for example in the product design. These could be ideas that were not previously worth the risk but producing and selling a small run can help spread the message of courage. This leaves the customer with a completely different memory than with limp basic products: no more rubbish products.
3. Testing on the customer
More and more brands selling directly to customers online are bravely testing customers’ reactions to a range of concepts. They are gathering customers’ opinions and ideas on specialized product versions. After a short wait, a product that has aroused interest is found in a limited amount in the online store’s selection.
The customer gets the feeling of an event, that he or she is meaningful, and that he or she has the opportunity to affect what a beloved brand does at the practical level. This is engaging business at its best.
4. Data gathering
Many brand companies have admitted that a distribution network built on resellers leaves end consumers feeling less than impressed. It is based on assumptions, and real dialogue with the customer is difficult to build. Introducing a limited edition product into your own online store may be just the small gesture to your customer that is needed.
When you get the customer to buy something for the first time from your own online store, the dialogue can begin. After this you can start taking advantage of your own online store’s data directly, instead of relying on second-hand data. It is also possible to track what kind of customers are interested in different limited editions.
5. Positive traffic spike
Selling small product runs, in particular, can be a clear, calculate shot in the arm for your online store. You can build your own story and virtual events to support this. When you have got a potential mass of customers moving to your store, the result is positive sales effects. To accompany limited edition special products you can offer another product with a small discount and improve the overall sales effects of the campaign.
6. Courage to play with the boundaries of your brand
Previously, concepts were concepts and commercial products were commercial products. Mixing the two was unheard of!
The world has changed, however. Now more and more brands are taking a stance with their products. A brand can speak for the environment, politics or an individual person. Taking stances can go well with limited editions.
Have you already experimented with taking advantage of limited edition products as a part of your campaigning and developing your store? Maybe it’s time!
Mikko Rekola, Growth hacker / Woolman