Everyone has stumbled upon a Kickstarter project—in the news, on a social feed, or perhaps even on the crowdfunding site itself. Millions of people have backed crowdfunding campaigns, and yes, there are still some horror stories when backers were burned by unscrupulous (or just overwhelmed) project creators.
Kickstarter has grown and evolved quite a bit from its early days, and by observing crowdfunding’s hundreds of thousands of repetitions, we in the e-commerce industry have access to a public masterclass in how to run an incredibly successful product launch.
Why look to Kickstarter for product launch advice?
Crowdfunding platforms (the king being Kickstarter) provide an amazing case study for how to properly launch a new product, even if your sales mechanism is not crowdfunding based.
For established brands releasing a new product, there are established steps. Perhaps you announce it at a yearly gathering, trade show, or keynote, or maybe you push for press coverage to coincide with a site-crashing rush of traffic to your online store.
Out of necessity, Kickstarter projects have their own rhythm and best practices for a product launch. While the necessities may be different for established e-commerce stores, there are tactics and strategies proven a thousand times over that can help push your next product launch to a new level.
What does a successful product launch look like for crowdfunding?
There are thousands of crowdfunding campaigns running at any one time, and not all of them are successful. In fact, only 36% of campaigns on Kickstarter hit their funding goal, and those that don’t hit their goal, fail. No money is collected, no rewards (products) are sent.
There are a million different ways to fail on Kickstarter, but only a handful of ways to win. The campaigns that are successful provide us with our crowdfunding-inspired template for product launches.
This is what they all have in common:
- They have built large audiences long before their launch: general/social following, a reachable audience (email), and shared audiences with influencers ALL around the specific product they are launching
- The campaign starts and ends at specific times, with purchases only happening within that period. Buildup and scarcity.
- The earliest adopters get a bonus.
- The demand for the product is clearly shown on the product page (number of backers and amount pledged).
- The product is shown in a professional, dynamic video.
- There is no shortage of details about the product – the descriptions and number of photographs may even seem like overkill.
- The campaign creators are portrayed as real people.
- There is clear communication between the brand and its supporters
Start Strong, Finish Strong
A crowdfunding campaign is won or lost on its first and final three days of the campaign. Most successful campaigns run 30 days or less, with the “doldrums” of support happening during the middle weeks of the campaign. In other words, it is possible to run a concise and successful campaign within just one week.
When the campaign is built and the launch button pushed, there is no turning back. It’s too late to start building an audience because the “ripe” time for the campaign has already begun. Successful campaigns may launch at 7:45 AM, send an email to their pre-built list at 7:50 AM, post on social media by 7:55 and turn on their ads at 8:00. The press embargo ends at 8 on the dot, and by the time their stories start to post, the crowdfunding campaign is already well on its way to hitting its declared goal.
Show the Buzz
This level of precision translates directly to e-commerce product launches, but what Kickstarter arguably does better is SHOW the degree of interest on the launch page. If 57 people have supported the campaign so far, it shows 57 backers and $6,722 raised right on the page.
Compare that to a typical e-commerce page where it looks the same to the first buyer as it does to the 111th within an hour. There is a lack of excitement for the visitor… the product may be flying off the digital shelves, but all of the rapid activity is happening outside their view. There is nothing special happening on the screen for a more casual shopper to get caught up in the moment, pushing them toward a more impulsive purchase.
For an established e-commerce company, showing how many sales have been made of a new product may not fit with their brand, particularly in the luxury goods sector. But the concept of communicating brisk business being done on the page can be expressed in different ways:
- A special bonus for anyone who purchases within the first hour with a countdown timer
- A free gift (or a value-add) for the first 100 purchasers, showing how many bonuses are left
- A bar chart showing (abstractly) how many items are left in the first “run” (once that is sold out, it may be X weeks before more are in stock)
Bottom line: when there is a product launch at a Nike or Apple (physical) store, there is a line around the block and the store is buzzing with activity. When there is an e-commerce product launch, the page looks exactly the same with 10K visitors or two visitors on it. Take a cue from Kickstarter and show the buzz.
Indulge their Senses
You would be hard-pressed to find many successful Kickstarter campaigns without a video. It’s a necessity, and for most project creators it’s the most expensive part of building their campaign page… and yet they still invest the time, energy and money do it.
In crowdfunding, your video can make or break your campaign, but many—and I’d wager most—e-commerce product launches do not include a video as part of the launch campaign, and certainly not front and center as the primary asset on their product page.
Why not?… is an easy question to answer. It costs money. It takes time. It may not be part of “the way you have done product launches.” You might even need to go out-of-house to get it done. These are all valid points, but consider the hundreds of millions of dollars generated by crowdfunding campaigns, and that millions of people are comfortable spending money on products that will be delivered MONTHS or even a year later… because a video convinced them.
Video can be a game-changer for product launches and it is worth considering as a tool for your next e-commerce product launch, too. A quick Google search for “best Kickstarter videos” will yield some fine examples of how creators use video to communicate their value proposition in a dynamic way.
More is More
Video may be at the top of the food chain for product launch media, but don’t underestimate the value of many, many photographs showing your product in multiple contexts. Building mystique around a product works best in teasers and pre-building your audience, but successful Kickstarter campaigns are effusive with photos and copy. Mystery during a live crowdfunding campaign sows doubt, not confidence.
Sometimes less is more, but in crowdfunding campaigns more is more… and sometimes you need more just to make sure you have enough. Since crowdfunding campaigns need to convince their audience that their product is indeed real, they tend to go overboard with showing photos and descriptions, which goes against what most e-commerce brands aim for in their well-measured product details.
But don’t we all want our products to look vibrant, alive and embraced by the customer? Try “more is more” on for size at your next launch.
A person or team of people designed your product. Someone crafted it by hand or used their years of experience to work the machines to create it. Phone calls were made to source the materials, meetings were had to discuss the details, and someone somewhere is quality checking each piece before it is placed in a box to be shipped.
In crowdfunding, that may all be undertaken by one person. In your e-commerce business, the human element runs even deeper… because there are more humans involved.
While a single product launch shouldn’t try to transform your company into a personality-driven brand, one of the most important parts of a successful crowdfunding campaign is allowing the customer to feel a personal, human connection to the creators.
Tell the story of how this product started on a napkin sketch (and show the napkin all the way up to digitized concept.
Explain your commitment to quality through the 8 prototypes it took to get it right.
Share the inspiration and the spark like this musical Kickstarter did. This approach connects dots that visitors don’t typically see on e-commerce sites, and that point of positive differentiation can equal conversions.
Anyone in this business can follow a checklist and launch a product through e-commerce, but to hit that next level of success, it is worth taking a look at the platform that has launched more products more successfully than any other business in the world.
Even if crowdfunding is not—and will never be—part of your brand’s overall strategy, you can adopt some of the most impactful tactics from crowdfunding to make your next e-commerce product launch the one that becomes your case-study for a launch well done.
Fixer Group is a growth-focused consulting firm working with luxury brands as an extension of their e-commerce and digital marketing teams.