What would you give for a crystal ball that distills the trends, tastes, and desires of your customers? That ability has long been the holy grail for designers, marketers, and retailers, and a new company with deep VC backing, Krush, is working with Agenda to make this dream a reality using crowd sourcing and social media to connect brands with passionate consumers and predict what styles, colors, and SKU’s will hit in the seasons to come.
Krush is rolling out its new web-based, action sports-targeted technology by partnering with Agenda to provide its exhibitors and attendees with predictive data about Spring 2012 product trends before orders are even written, giving brands and retailers the holiest of holy in an uncertain market.
What It Is
Krush works like this: brands submit products from upcoming lines for “SneakPeeks” which run for a limited amount of time on its site. Krush’s members vote specific products up and down, push items to their friends, and leverage their social networks to get further feedback on products that they chose from a SneakPeek or post themselves. At the end of the week, the person who gets the most feedback on a SneakPeek (or a product they post themselves as the Top KRUSHed) wins the “Krush of the Week,” and Krush purchases the product for them. Through registration, Facebook, and traffic behavior, Krush gathers demographic info about its users, primarily youth aged 16-24, who averaged 50,000 sessions a month during the site’s first month live. Kids get a behind the scenes look at product that isn’t out yet and feel like insiders with a brand—the ultimate goal of most marketers.
“We’re entering the first generation of kids that grew up on the internet and communicate almost entirely through social media,” explains CEO Gina Ashe, whose background includes working as a Wall Street trader and analyst, as well as helping found Sermo, an online physician community, where she raised $40 million. “I love the concept of crowd sourcing and wanted to bottle this on a larger scale…and connect kids with brands.”
Liking and disliking products online is nothing new-the interesting part of Krush’s model comes on its backend. Ashe’s two partners, Alan Osman and Alexis Kopikis, are analytic specialists, with deep roots in the tech sector, and they are backed by $2 million raised in funding from 16 angel investors during a Series A round of financing registered in December 2010. Using this capital, the team built the ability to run reports on product feedback that can be sliced and diced in more ways than a Ginsu Knife can carve a steel can to provide data to brands and the market.
Brands that participate in SneakPeek’s receive a free report about what Krush’s audience is betting for or against before the brand sinks capital in producing a full line.
What It Looks Like
Krush lead its hard launch today, July 6, 2011, by inviting Agenda’s 300 exhibitors to showcase their Spring 2012 lines before the upcoming August AGENDA show, and providing a market-wide report called the KRUSH AGENDA Report for Spring 2012, highlighting crowd-sourced aggregate demand numbers across brands, after the trade show ends.
“This new technology is a game changer for the whole retail industry,” says Agenda President Aaron Levant. “It will save brands time and money by allowing them to rapidly eliminate unpopular items and capture more sales from the most popular items. Historically, action sports and lifestyle brands have been the trend setters in the industry, so it made sense for us to be the first to introduce this technology to the brands who exhibit at Agenda…Technology is definitely affecting trade shows, and we’d be stupid not to look to adapt and use technology to supplement the benefits to our exhibitors.”
Brands such as Quiksilver, DC, C1RCA, Arbor, Lifetime, Chaos, Elm Company, Frends, and Fallen, to name just a few, are already on board and Levant envisions that most major exhibitors will join the program as the show comes closer. “The people that get it jump right in,” he says.
Shay Childress, who handles US sales for Lifetime Collective, says he is excited about the possibilities of the reports: “I think it will be a great addition to our knowledge. I’d like to be able to mix it with reports from buyers and firsthand feedback from trade shows, that mix will be very helpful.”
When asked about his concerns of providing in-depth information about product lines well in advance of shipment, a prime window for knock offs, Childress says: “I hope it doesn’t backfire on brands, especially with the verticals being able to see designs so far in advance.”
Levant agrees that he sees some brands being reluctant to show all their cards, but adds that there are many ways to use Krush’s tools and he sees it being tailored to specific brand’s strategies in the future. “Our current program is about trend forecasting, but depending on what you show you can use it for group pre buying, the design process, or pre-lining as far as three seasons out.”
Turning Likes Into Dollars – Krush’s Business Model
Krush obviously isn’t throwing its hat in the ring as a free service. Its business plan includes a two-pronged means of generating funds. The first method, which Ashe assures will play a minimal role, is pre-selling product directly from brands to Krush members before the lines have even been released, from which Krush receives a portion as an affiliate or vendor.
Ashe says Krush is not structured to compete with retailers, in fact she sees her product as playing a role in helping them better structure their buys. “We’re not based on selling volume,” says Ashe. “We want to help the industry make the stuff that people want and make the whole pie bigger.”
This leads to the second prong of its business model, the heart of its strategy-providing “special cuts of data to brands about their product,” states Ashe, who says these custom reports detailing demographics, geography, and drilled-down specifics will be available to brands for “modest fees” in the neighborhood of a few hundred to $1,000.
“Not only can they get demographic info about their fans,” says Ashe, “they can find out what other products and brands they like.” She sees this as a great tool for reps to work with retail buyers to take some of the guess work out of their jobs-in an uncertain world, something we could all use a little more of.
“Krush offers a way for a brand to identify their passionate fans, the people who wear their styles and buy their gear because it’s a reflection of who they are,” Ashe. “When fans see a new product they like and then move it out across their own online networks, it’s the best PR a brand could ever have. And on Krush, the brand can make those consumers feel like the VIPs they are. It’s a win-win for the brand, their retailers and the consumer.”