We talk all the time about how digital technology can be used to make a true transformation in our communities. The fact is, however, most of businesses and governmental organizations use modern technology in the most traditional manner; build a brochure-type website, use social media in one communication direction only to promote your own services, or build a mobile app to be a website-copy installed in your audiences’ devices. True value is not really there.
One exception is in the case of Threadless. In case you have never heard of it before, Threadless (https://www.threadless.com/) is an apparel company/online community of artists and an e-commerce website based in Chicago, founded in year 2000.
What unique about Threadless is that its designs are created by and chosen by an online community.
Each week, about 1,000 designs are submitted online and are put to a public vote. After seven days, the staff reviews the top-scoring designs. Based on the average score and community feedback, about 10 designs are selected each week, printed on clothing and other products, and sold worldwide through the online store and at their retail store in Chicago. A percentage of the profits is then paid back to the designers whose work is printed.
What makes it unique?
Threadless draws the attention with its community-centered business model. It depends heavily on its community to the point where we cannot imagine its products apart from its community. The community it really Threadless’ main competitive advantage.
Another smart move is integrating customers across the value chain. From idea generation, going through marketing and sales forecasting, customers play vital role of its operation.
Reasons for success
- Use of gamification: Gamification is a great way to engage the community. By using it wisely, Threadless creates a spirit of competition among artists who in turn use word of mouth and social media to promote their work to their friends and family to vote for their work, creating even more market for Threadless
- Giving back to its community: By shifting the focus to the artist rather than the product itself, Threadless has succeeded in positioning itself as a platform more than merely a brand, and this is a main reason for its huge popularity on social media especially Twitter. It is perceived as a community of designers that help each other and the brand for the benefit of all
- Using social media to direct traffic to the website: Since selecting the designs to produce depend on voting, what usually happens is after designers submit their work, they ask their family, friends, and followers on social media to go to Threadless website and vote for their work. This way, Threadless is using the designers as sales agents to bring new customers to its website. Once there, they would not only vote for their friends’ work, but also they would probably shop around and might buy some products online
Inspiration for us
- Build and use your online community to grow your business
- Make crowdsourcing fun through the use of gamification, contests, and other challenges within the online community
- Be genuine by paying part of your success back to the community through social responsibility initiatives and make it part of your corporate culture
- Digital is a great medium to build a vivid community and engage with it
- Use social media not only to promote your business but also to grow your bottom line
Let’s hear from you, any thoughts on this?