by Apparel Resources
02-July-2018 | 9 mins read
There is no doubt that the customers in the apparel industry today both willing and able to take part in the product development processes. Since the customers are wearing more activewear now – both because it’s still trending as a fashion statement and that they have become more health-conscious than ever before; their involvement in the early stage of the product development too is increasing with the time passing by. They even voice their opinion about products that are about to be released in the market, bring in new ideas, test prototypes and promote new innovation via social networks. ISPO ‘Open Innovation’ is one such platform which allows the companies to develop their products using the consumers’ cooperation. This article explains how companies are involving active consumers in their product development process using ‘Open Innovation’ and how the mass will support these new products and offers.
Companies which understand how to integrate consumer expertise into the product process often create more innovative ideas and are closer to the needs of future customers. They start their marketing measures in the early stage of the product development process which gives them ideas to innovate other products too.
Clim8, a French start-up producing intelligent sportswear for athletes and for those who often exercise in cold weather conditions, is one such company which is impressively connecting with the consumers to make the garment futuristic even before it is fully launched in the market.
The sports shirt, powered by Clim8, is one of the developments equipped with sensor technology built into the yarn. The shirt is also connected to the mobile app specifically designed by Clim8. When the shirt is paired to the app for the first time, the calibration will enable the system to define a comfort temperature. The shirt then automatically starts heating when the user is cold, and stops as the activity increases. Further, the wearer can regulate the temperature of the shirt as per his body needs. For sportsmen and athletes, this can be said to be a nice feature seeing their intense physical efforts throughout the sports’ activities or running sessions.
However, making a sports shirt of such high technology requires an immense level of research, development and the end-users’ feedback. Clim8 provided some prototypes of the same shirt at the Open Innovation platform last year to get the sport-community’s suggestions in order to make the product feasible for them. The company asked the end users some challenging questions such as: Are there any improvements? Are there any functions in the app which are useless or is it missing on something important? Is there any further need to regulate the temperature? And, since these consumers are years’ ahead of the mass market because of their lifestyle, experience and high knowledge, Clim8 got this shirt tested by them and the feedback it received helped in developing this shirt in a better way.
Similarly, X-Bionic, an Italian pioneer in providing wearable technology, is also following the same mantra to develop its apparels designed for runners. For the 3 phases of its ‘EFFEKTOR Running Set’, 100 testers were recruited from the ISPO Community, social networks as well as fans and followers of the company itself. Within an open discussion, testers gave unfiltered feedback directly to X-Bionic’s marketing and product development teams. This feedback as further developed and incorporated into the running set.
Interestingly, the testers shared their test reports not just within the project platform, but also on their personal social media channels which further helped the company in promoting their running set months before their actual launch in the market.
Consumers’ perspectives aren’t just good, they are different too…
The consumers’ who participate actively to shape the markets of tomorrow and share their experience to develop new products and services can be termed as ‘Early Adopters’. Therefore, their feedback is no less than a goldmine for the companies. Ideas are the result of different perspectives and knowledge and there is a difference between the things that a developer knows and things that its customers know.
Let us assume an example:
A consumer who goes to the gym will always think about the stability of his T-shirt during the weight lifting or the tough exercises. He questions himself: “Are the armholes fitting and stretchability, good enough to sustain the intense body activities?”
Though he himself is the end user of the garment, the answer comes from him only which might be like, “ There should be better stretchability in the areas where the body movement is extreme”.
This is where a consumer plays a vital role in providing feedback which can enhance the product development phase. Customers often develop ideas on the basis of their daily experience. Sometimes these ideas will be declared as unfeasible. But that‘s part of the process and can inspire developers to find new impulses.
This is how ‘Open Innovation’ works…
The biggest question is how can these companies involve the customers in product development and how long does the project take… Since the platform is operational only for the sportswear industry, the relevant companies can use the crowd in different parts within their innovation process: At the start of a project – to get insights through surveys or qualitative interviews; during the development – for generating new ideas for products and services; within the prototyping phase – to give developer team the first feedback; and before the market launch – to give marketing section valuable information about positioning and distribution.
In the first step of the project, the conclusions which are most important for developing a new product are defined. On this basis, the company can start the project type: a survey, an interview, an idea competition or a product test. It will also be defined, whether the project will be open for everyone or just for selected users.
Further, the users are notified about a new project through the ISPO community. They will then have to apply via an entry questionnaire which will dig into the users’ knowledge and attitude regarding the sport they prefer playing. Right after this, a representative list is made and the users are shortlisted.
After users receive their invitation, they get briefed. For product tests, they are handed over with the products to test them for a couple of weeks. After they test and review the products, they have to deliver ideas as further inputs for the developer team. Every platform has moderators, who will guide users and delve deeper into certain questions.
In the last process, Open Innovation uses statistic software which helps to analyse and constitute survey results, a tool for analysing texts which can evaluate qualitative discussions and assess the valuation of ideas.
Therefore, ISPO is bringing together consumers and developer teams to make sportswear industry even more innovative and collaboratively, they are actually changing the traditional way of product development.