It seems that now, more than ever, the industry is buzzing with fashion/tech startups. New York, some would argue even more than Silicon Valley, has become a hub for incubating and harboring these businesses. The media feeds the craze, dishing out an ongoing stream of the newest platforms and technologies on a daily basis. The result, it would appear, is that the industry is moving at the speed of light. And in many ways, it is. However, this can be problematic as industry leaders and journalists can sometimes have give into the tendency to praise a new platform all too quickly.
Before a brand has mastered one popular platform, the media is hyping up the next ten. So, how should those on the inside of the industry qualify and assess new platforms? And how should the startups themselves glean valuable information to make the moves necessary to excel in a competitive landscape? Here are 5 questions that help get to the bottom of the hype.
1. Is the platform trying to create a new community? A main problem with many fashion/tech startups is that they are trying to cultivate an all-new community from scratch. Today, we are starved for time and people are less inclined to manage yet another profile. In order to create a community now, the value you offer has to be exceptionally strong, and/or you must be introducing a new behavior in a simple way. Even more promising is to create a platform agnostic concept that ties into the sites people already spend time on.
2. Does the platform introduce a new behavior? Community platforms that introduce an all-new behavior, or build on one that already exists offline, can prove very successful as they capture attention with a novelty factor. Think about Instagram, which built on an existing behavior of snapping pictures with smartphones and expanded on customization properties. Or Pinterest, which took the notion of self-organization and collection through imagery and brought it online. Platforms don’t need to introduce a new behavior to be successful, but drawing on people’s underlying tendencies offline can be a determining factor of online success.
3. Is there content to back it up? Without the right content to back it up, even the most powerful idea can fall flat. Content can be a variety of things. If the concept relies on retail, then having access to the right inventory is critical. Especially if you are not introducing a new behavior, content is what will set you apart from the competition.
4. What real value is being provided to people? This one can seem like a no-brainer, and all entrepreneurs have a canned response for why/how their business provides value or fills a gap in the market. But, instead, approach it not from a business perspective, but from an individual’s. Think of your target customer. Would they spend time on your platform? Why? What would compel them to share it with people? To talk about it? To return again and again? Being able to answer these questions isn’t enough; the responses must be strong in their value proposition in order to drive long-lasting business.
5. Is there an infinite discovery line + a finite simple way to take action? People are story seekers, and, in certain circumstances, they want the ability to learn and discover. In other circumstances, they want the ability to quickly and efficiently find what they need and move on. Platforms should deliver on this and place the user in control, so they have an experience that is guided, intentional and intuitive, but also on-demand. This is created through content, infrastructure, and features.
As a brand or agency assessing new platforms, answering the above questions can provide a quick snapshot not just of the platform itself, but also of new behavioral trends to watch. This can impart valuable insight that helps make informed decisions about participating and also about structuring your business’s content and assets toward the larger consumer trends. For example, you may decide that your brand will not have an official Pinterest profile at this time. However, you can acknowledge the trend of visual collection and so increase visual assets on other platforms so that they can be easily pinned by others and point back to your ecommerce site.
Photo credits: Ryan McVay