Amazon launched a new crowdsourcing program, “Build It,” that lets consumers to vote on which Alexa-enabled products will be developed.
“Amazon’s Build It program is a clever way to test market products,” wrote David Naumann, CEO of Cogent Creative Consulting, in an online discussion about the development on RetailWire last week. “It offers a good base of interested customers to test and evaluate new product concepts before rollout to identify the market viability. I don’t see any drawbacks to this approach.”
Other experts on the RetailWire BrainTrust were likewise impressed with the move.
“The Build It program reminds me of Kickstarter crowd-funding for new products,” wrote Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData. “This has worked really well for many niche companies looking to launch new products and I see it working well for Amazon. Of course Amazon’s intention isn’t to raise money, it’s to gauge demand and to create a buzz around new ideas. All part of boosting engagement with the brand, and gathering more data and insight.”
Build It represents the extension of Day 1 Editions, an invitation-only program that offers a select group of consumers the chance to purchase an in-development product at a special price. In exchange for the discount, the buyers provide early feedback to Amazon so the team can review any flaws while gauging potential demand for a rollout. Day 1 Editions led to the 2019 launch of Echo Frames smart eyeglasses and Echo Loop smart ring.
Build It, which is open to anyone, is more geared toward accessing potential demand and apparently creating buzz around a product’s launch.
Consumers participating in the program are offered a chance to pre-order in-development products at a special price as long as enough others pre-order, mimicking a Kickstarter campaign. If the concept reaches its pre-order goal in 30 days, Amazon will build it and those pre-ordering over the 30-day period receive the item at the discount price. The price increases when fully rolled out.
If the pre-order goal is not met, Amazon cancels the rollout and does not charge the consumer. A progress bar shows how far along a product is towards its pre-order goal. Amazon wrote in the blog entry, “It’s low risk, high reward, and a whole lot of fun.”
“More data,” wrote Jeff Sward, founding partner of Merchandising Metrics. “Less guessing. Faster, smarter to market. What’s not to like?”
The Build It program launched with three Alexa-enabled items on Feb. 17. A Smart Sticky Note Printer reached its 30-day pre-order goal within three days. The item will ship between July and September.
By Sunday, a Smart Nutrition Scale was 42 percent toward its pre-order goal and a Smart Cuckoo Clock, 37 percent. The special promo price is available for 30 days regardless of whether the goal is reached. Amazon doesn’t indicate how many pre-orders are necessary for launch.
Amazon has long been a believer that embracing failure can drive innovation. Its clunkers have included the Fire Phone and Dash button. In recent years, the company has rolled out a stream of Alexa-enabled devices and new capabilities to support its Echo platform.
One RetailWire BrainTrust member noted that the service stood to give a boost to technology Amazon has long been championing.
“What pops out most: Build It reinvigorates voice commerce,” wrote content marketing strategist Lisa Goller. “Each innovation is a cute, smart home device as Amazon eases us into digitizing more of our homes and embedding Alexa into our daily habits. Overall, Build It will likely appeal to more than early adopters and consumers who seek early bird rates.”
Trevor Sumner, CEO of Perch Interactive, pointed out another potential angle for Amazon.
“It would be especially cool to launch something like this for its marketplace SMBs as a way to better leverage its network to compete against Shopify and others,” he wrote on RetailWire. “Sharing product data between retailers and brands is a huge open opportunity.”