Scrolling down my Instagram feed the other day I noticed a post from snowboarder Travis Rice. He’s the big name behind a product called GNARBOX – a mobile phone sized processor that connects to a smartphone via wireless and enables the editing of high resolution media, without having to resort to using a laptop. Essentially it makes 4k video and RAW photo editing possible on the go in a modern, contemporary package.
GNARBOX are on Kickstarter trying to raise funds to support their launch. They have a goal of $100,000. Currently, with 25 days of the campaign to go, the pledged value already stands at over $218,000.
Crowdfunding is arguably one of the biggest and most significant online trends to develop in recent years. The concept has the potential to fundamentally affect how business and consumers interact with each other across the globe and the early signs are that this is something that is here to stay. Crowdfunding will have an impact on the outdoor industry – the question is how?
Increased power for the consumer
The outdoor and adventure sports industries are lifestyle driven. Many brands have been created as a result of an obsession and without doubt many, if not most, consumers are driven to purchase products due to their lifestyle needs and goals. Buying a surfboard, a tent or a new jacket isn’t like buying a fridge or an iron. Most of the people who get involved in our industry – on both sides of the fence – do so because they are passionate about their chosen sport or activity, many to the point where it becomes an integral part of their life, of who they are.
For this reason I think consumers in our industry could be particularly responsive to crowdfunding. People are potentially more likely to participate in crowdfunding if they have a big emotional investment in a product or brand. It could give consumers more power in the development of the kind of products that they want to see.
Buying a surfboard, a tent or a new jacket isn’t like buying a fridge or an iron.
Reduced risk to the brand / manufacturer
The most obvious implication crowdfunding has for manufacturers in our industry is to reduce risk. Clearly this is especially the case for new brands who don’t need to place so much significance on raising funds. No doubt as the concept gets bigger though (as it will) the nuances behind successfully funding a new product or idea online will change. Competition will play a part, as will things like patents and the need / desire to keep an idea a secret.
It’s perhaps going to be most interesting to see how established brands in the outdoor industry use and interact with the idea of crowdfunding. I think as it stands there are pros and cons for brands already established in their market. On the positive side crowdfunding could be seen as essentially another form of market research, and potentially a pretty reliable one at that. This could help to reduce the risk involved with new and expensive product launches. Although the nature of the industry dictates that often a product designed for outdoor or action sports is only appreciated after it has been used and has been proven to work. That’s how ‘classics’ come about. Sometimes products that end up being classics may be too progressive to be fully accepted and popular initially. Too much of a reliance on crowdfunding may mean a potentially great product is overlooked if the consumer fails to see its potential worth and is unable to ‘test drive’ the item.
Launching a new product via crowdfunding could also reduce its initial impact in the market – this is especially true for established brands and manufacturers. Although I do think that the way crowdfunding is used by more established brands could evolve in the future. Perhaps brands could use their existing database of followers to help launch new products? Instead of simply emailing brand news and offers to subscribers down the line we might see pledge or buy-in click thru buttons in newsletters where known supporters of a brand are invited to help fund a new product. The tech and gear heavy outdoor industry consumer is gonna love that. From the manufacturer’s side, it could do wonders for maximising brand loyalty.
What does it mean for retailers?
The internet has brought about both problems and opportunities for traditional retailers and crowdfunding could bring about another challenge for them to face. I can only see crowdfunding making the direct link between the brand and the consumer stronger and as the current trend towards brands selling directly to the consumer grows, it might mean retailers have to change and adapt in new ways in order to thrive.
All of this is subject to change though – the beauty of the internet is in its unpredictable nature so who knows for sure how crowdfunding will affect the outdoor industry. One thing I feel certain of is that it’s here for the foreseeable future and offers up new opportunities and challenges across the board.
Front image credit – @Bilannews