Mar 31, 2010

Crowdsourcing turns 10

Threadless is one of many online retail success stories.  While there's stacks of Tshirt etailers, these guys have distinguished themselves by being the best example of community sourcing or 'crowdsourcing' when it comes to ideas for a new designs.

The idea is simple, ask customers to submit a design idea, put the design to a vote and make the best ones.  You kill two birds with one stone - the users do all your design work and, cause they all voted for the best one, they'll then buy it from you. Brilliant.

They've done a fantastic job of building a community around their product.  You can recommend or advertise your new purchases to your friends via Facebook Connect, go Threadspotting where you can submit photos of designs spotted 'in the wild', speak to the designers, watch Threadless TV or simply interact in the forum.

These guys started up 10 years ago this year and have been going strong ever since.  They are now a multi-million dollar business and have started to spread their wings into other areas including thongs (flip-flops for your northern hemispherians) and even wall decals.

Aside from the business model, one of the main things about Threadless that I've always admired is their clean and powerful user interface.  This is no wonder considering that they were originally a web design company that started to make the odd in-joke and industry related Tshirt.  They make great use of the latest web technologies to give a really tidy experience.

My favourite is not only being told how many items of a specific size are still available, but also getting email alerts when something in my shopping basket is about to run out of stock.  Why don't more retailers do this??

Good work Threadless.  May you keep me clothed for many years to come :)

Oh, btw, check out the book if you want to read more about the Threadless story: Threadless: Ten Years of T-shirts from the World's Most Inspiring Online Design Community