Clothing sales can be awesome, but they can also mean racks on racks of ugly shirts that no one wanted to buy. While some customers will scoop a deal, inevitably someone gets stuck with a bunch of unwanted inventory. Crowdery, a Y Combinator startup, offers an e-commerce tool to help brands test out product designs before production to decrease surplus inventory.
Crowdery helps companies host contests, which last 10 days, on their websites to determine the most popular styles. Co-founder Maran Nelson says this approach is bringing A/B testing to physical products. While software and online platforms can beta test products before launching, industries such as clothing, furniture, jewelry and consumer electronics will end up slashing prices on unwanted inventory and losing profit.
“You have [companies] producing physical products, where these people are literally crossing their fingers and blindly making big financial decisions that they can’t iterate on,” Nelson tells me. “So we’re trying to step in and bring the user to the product at a point in the production cycle that’s still relevant.”
After a brand signs up, Crowdery sets up a white box widget for the company website, featuring several different styles for consumers to vote on. Participants are then asked for an email, age and gender, or to log in with Facebook. After the contest ends, anyone who voted for the most popular choice has the option to pre-order the item at a 30-50 percent discount. Crowdery then takes a percentage of pre-order sales.
While some brands have run their own surveys or Facebook posts to weigh consumer opinions, Nelson says Crowdery can analyze how demographics and outside factors affect choices. The company tracks votes along with age, gender and location based on consumer entries or Facebook information. Consumers are also incentivized to respond to the pre-order discount, which is done through Crowdery. Nelson tells me an average of 15 percent of a brand’s page visitors complete the vote submission form.
Crowdery’s brand partners will have another platform for design feedback come October, which will expose their merchandise to more potential customers and allow for user comments. The startup is working on aggregating all contests into one e-commerce site, Crowdery Marketplace, which is in private beta.
By making its partners’ merchandise available all on one platform, Crowdery is moving into the space of shopping discovery sites like Fab.com and Fancy. But while other e-commerce sites help consumers find new items for purchase, Crowdery is more focused on providing brands with data.
“The sweet spot with this marketplace, given that it’s two-sided, is making sure that we’re giving as much value to the brand as intensively possible, while still keeping the user engaged and converting to purchases,” Nelson tells me.
Co-founder Aditya Viswanathan says he ultimately wants to build a user base that checks Crowdery every morning to vote on new contests. As users participate in more contests, the brands and products shown will become more personalized, he tells me. The company has partnered with 150 brands, but hopes to get to 250 by its website launch.