Prototypes? Passe. Fashion company Betabrand saw that knitwear was a hot style in sneakers and wanted to quickly jump on the trend for dressier shoes. It put a poll up on its website asking shoppers what style they liked, and based on that had a shoe for sale online in just one week.
What web shoppers saw was a 3-D rendering — no actual shoe existed yet. Creating a traditional prototype, tweaking the design and making a sample would have taken six to nine months, and the company might have missed out on the interest in knit.
“The web attention span is short,” said Betabrand CEO Chris Lindland. “So if you can develop and create in a short time, you can be a real product-development machine.”
Shoppers looking at the shoe online could examine the peekaboo detail or check out how the sole was put together, as they would from photos of a real product. They don’t get the actual shoes instantaneously — they have to wait a few months. But the use of digital technology in designing and selling means hot trends are still getting to people far faster than under the old system.
“Retailers and brands who are embracing this are going to be winners of the future,” said David Bassuk, managing director of consulting group AlixPartners. “This is flipping the business model on its head.”