Tuesday, 13 April 2010

Customers as investors: online crowdsourcing à la mode

"New website brings crowd sourcing to fashion" is the curious title of a short article by Reuters which really caught Fashionista's fancy. She has often wished that some of her faraway friends could come and visit her as email-attachments -- so much quicker than intercontinental travel and so much kinder to one's skin, hair and temper -- and this title suggested that whole crowds might somehow make it through the ether for her next soirée. The truth, as usual, was more prosaic, but none the less interesting for all that. According to the article, soon-to-be-launched internet start-up Fashion Stake plans to let customers directly fund fashion designers by browsing online collections, buying a stake in a collection in return for credits to buy clothes. Patrons can also share ideas with designers and vote on collections. The piece continues:
"The model ...taps into a growing business model called crowd sourcing where entrepreneurs go directly to customers for content, funding, and distribution. ...

Advocates of crowd sourcing say it offers consumers a cheaper, more flexible alternative and frees artists from having to get past big corporations.

... Recent years have seen a rapid growth in interactive business models and Internet-based social media, or so-called Web 2.0. Global communities centered around services like Facebook and Twitter are millions strong.

Peer-to-peer lending, linking individual lenders with borrowers, has taken off in the U.S. ... while so-called open innovation companies ... allow corporations to outsource problems to networks of innovators. ...”
The notion of making your customers your investors is intriguing, says Fashionista, and it gives investors a vested interest in retaining loyalty to labels they invest in. And there's one more curiosity to note: if you key 'crowdsourcing' into the leading search engine, you get nearly four times as many hits if you type it as one word than if you type it as two.