June 2013 Trend Briefing:
Why consumers now love to SHOP for products and services at concept stage.

In our Trend Briefing on PRESUMERS, we highlighted how many consumers are clamoring to support, be involved with, and fund products and services pre-launch, fueling a burgeoning crowdfunding movement.

Now make way for a little less consumer involvement, and more straightforward shopping in the pre-launch arena, i.e. PRETAIL*.

PRETAIL: A mode of consumption that sees consumers treat crowdfunding platforms as the new shopping malls. Why? Because that's where current consumer demand for the most innovative, exciting and unique products and being served better than anywhere else, by an army of entrepreneurs and start-ups.

* PRE-TAIL is a registered trademark of The Integer Group. Used with kind permission.


In 2012, donations & reward-based crowdfunding (of which PRETAIL is a part), grew 85% to USD 1.4 billion (Massolution, April 2013).

Data from market-leader Kickstarter shows the incredible growth and global scale of crowdfunding:

Here’s what is fueling PRETAIL, in more detail:


Crowdfunding has unleashed the GLOBAL BRAIN (the collective creativity, entrepreneurialism and intelligence of thousands of individuals and start-ups around the world) on consumerism.

And via the mechanism of funding pre-realization, those platforms mean that anyone with an idea can present that idea to consumers, who can then PREchase it.

For the first time ever, then, the diversity, inventiveness, and sheer number of innovations on offer in the consumer arena can actually match the imaginings of consumers. That’s a crucial new equality of supply and demand: one that did not exist when consumption happened in traditional offline/online stores.

Next? That would of course be consumers pro-actively suggesting to the GLOBAL BRAIN what it is they would like to see introduced/built. And then some of them may try to do it themselves, resulting in the ultimate convergence of by and for. Just look at MakeThatThing.com below. And if that reminds you of co-creation, or CUSTOMER-MADE, you’re right, but keep in mind co-creation was always more about brands seeking ideas/help from consumers, while this time it will truly be about consumers demanding what they want from entrepreneurs/ the GLOBAL BRAIN.


Pictured: Magic Cooking Gloves, successfully funded in January 2013.

Consumers indulging in PRETAIL are driven by the thrill of being early, mixed with the thrill of finding a truly exciting or useful or relevant product, especially if it’s something quirky or so niche that it would have never made it down a traditional brand’s production line.

And because the aforementioned GLOBAL BRAIN can present an endless array of innovations to consumers, at near zero cost and zero risk, the PRETAIL market is near infinite.

Furthermore, as consumers will only PREchase the innovations they want – and so ensure those ideas are realized* – and ignore those they don’t want, it’s as close to a perfect market as economists can imagine.

* Also, the instant feedback from eager PRESUMERS helps innovators see very rapidly whether or not their product idea is serving the desires of consumers. This feedback helps them tweak their product idea, and can help ensure that even initially-wide-of-the-mark products are a perfect fit when they are realized.


Pictured: France-based Overade's folding bicycle helmet, successfully funded in February 2013 on Ulule.

The trust barriers that would once have stopped consumers from embracing PRETAIL are fast being eroded to nothing.

In a consumer arena made transparent by online connectivity, there is no hiding place for creators who fail to meet their promises. Consumers know this, and they know that creators know.

That means consumers can have FUTURE FAITH* that most creators will deliver the products/services they are promising. Yes, that leaves room for some risk. But consumers will accept the tiny risk of all-out loss as a part of PRETAIL. Even if an innovator does disappear with their money, the abandoned PRETAILERS find themselves part of a ready-made community committed to the funding of a particular product: they can simply find another entrepreneur to serve their pre-built demand. (And the community is bound to go after the original (non)-creator, too ;-)

* See our Trend Briefing on CLEAN SLATE BRANDS for more on FUTURE FAITH.


The next (and final) step for successful PRETAIL products: becoming absorbed by traditional, mainstream retail.

In fact, the new breed of PRETAIL sites (such as Christie Street and Crowd Supply featured below) are already blurring the boundaries between PRETAIL and retail by making it easy for customers to buy successful projects, even long after they’ve reached their funding targets (by comparison Kickstarter doesn’t offer any e-commerce facilities, requiring customers to track the products down elsewhere).

And we’re already seeing products make the leap from crowdfunding platforms all the way to physical retail, on a global scale too: witness the Dim Sum Warriors comic book below, launched on Kickstarter, now available in Singaporean book stores.

So watch out for the first true PRETAIL smash hit, bought (instantly) by millions of consumers, from ‘normal’ stores, with most not knowing, or indeed even caring about its backstory.

Pictured: The tsaiclip, which following a successful Kickstarter campaign in 2011, is now stocked by retailers in the US, France and Hong Kong.

PRETAIL in South & Central America (SCA)

While there are PRETAIL products succeeding in SCA (witness the Motriz bike shelf example below), this remains a niche trend in the region for two main reasons. First, many (less-experienced) consumers still find thrills in buying new products the traditional way, as they haven’t been deeply immersed in years of hyperconsumption. Second, thanks to SCA’s strong collective social culture, the crowdfunding arena is more focused on projects that benefit society, rather than being a significant PRETAIL destination. Yet ;-)

PRETAIL in Asia Pacific

Many Asian consumers, especially in China, don’t have high levels of confidence in e-commerce transactions. Which is why one of leading Chinese payment provider Alipay’s key innovations was the practice of holding funds in escrow until both parties are satisfied. Overcoming these fears, and convincing often-skeptical customers to PREchase products – that haven’t even perhaps been manufactured yet – will be key for any aspiring Asian PRETAILER.



When in September 2012 Kickstarter tried to move away from becoming a PRETAIL destination with its ‘Kickstarter is not a store’ blog post (which announced tightening listing rules to protect buyers from unfinished and unrealistic projects), other sites quickly stepped in and positioned themselves as PRETAIL facilitators and shopping destinations:

Christie Street: Crowdfunded hardware platform that aims to help inventors

Launched in December 2012, Christie Street is a product-focused crowdfunding platform which aims to make PREchasing near risk-free. Creators who submit an idea to the site are audited to ensure they are legitimate, and their idea feasible. Meanwhile, funds are released to creators in stages, ensuring project supporters can receive a partial refund if a funded product fails to materialize. As of April 2013 the DoorBot, a wifi-enabled doorbell that streams video to a smartphone or tablet, had received funding of USD 395,660 (against a target of USD 250,000), and is due for delivery in July 2013.

Crowd Supply: A PRETAIL platform and an etail store

Launched in March 2013, Crowd Supply partners with product creators, offering advice on a suitable funding target and production logistics, and allowing site users to PREchase ideas. Meanwhile, creators who have already crowdfunded their products – on Crowd Supply or elsewhere – can make their product available for pre-order or conventional purchase. In April 2013, Pakems Foldable Boots, a lightweight boot designed to be easy to carry while skiing, were available to buy from USD 60.

Outgrow.me, Wrappled & Tiny Light Bulbs: One-stop shops for successfully crowdfunded products

Wrappled (launched February 2013), Outgrow.me, and Tiny Light Bulbs are online storefronts for products that have reached their funding target on crowdfunding sites such as Kickstarter, Indiegogo and others. By aggregating successfully funded products, these sites inhabit the space where PRETAIL merges with conventional etail. The NanoLeaf LED lightbulb – which makers claim is the most energy efficient lightbulb in the world – had raised over USD 270,000 on Kickstarter by March 2013 (against a target of USD 20,000), and is now available to pre-order via Outgrow.me.

Quirky: Store for “socially developed products”

Founded in 2009, but worth revisiting for this briefing, Quirky was a pioneer of what it terms ‘socially developed products’. Product creators submit their idea to the Quirky user community, who can suggest changes. Next, users vote on the best product ideas, and – based on these votes and other factors – Quirky staff choose a number of products to go into production. Stem, a device that allows the user to spay juice straight out of a citrus fruit, retails on Quirky for USD 4.99.

Make That Thing: Production agency for crowdfunded projects

Make That Thing, launched in February 2013 by TopatoCo, a web comic merchandise etailer, aims to help creatives handle the fulfillment side of successful crowdfunding initiatives. One of the first service’s projects was a print version of The Tomorrow Girl: Dresden Codak (a popular web comic) that raised over USD 530,000 from 7,565 backers.


Now, clearly there are many thousands of PRETAIL products currently (or soon to be) available to buy online if not in stores. So here’s just a small selection of some that have been delighting customers:

WakaWaka Power: Solar powered charger and LED light

During December 2012, a total of 5,622 Kickstarter backers pledged USD 419,472 – far surpassing the initial goal of USD 50,000 – for a WakaWaka Power, a pocket-sized solar powered station capable of charging smart phones and tablet devices after one day of sunlight. WakaWaka plan to manufacture the charger parts in earthquake-hit Haiti, donating one WakaWaka solar powered lamp to the local community for every power station purchased.

Dim Sum Warriors: Kickstarter project available in Singapore bookstores

In November 2012, Singapore-based digital comic book Dim Sum Warriors successfully raised over USD 18,600 on Kickstarter, allowing the team to publish its first print graphic novel. The books are now available in both US and Singaporean bookstores and comic shops.

Breathometer: A smartphone breathalyzer

Developed to promote responsible drink driving in the US, the Breathometer transforms smartphones into breathalyzers. The portable plug-in device fits into any smartphone’s headphone socket and, when blown into, alerts the user to their blood alcohol concentration through the app. To the end of March 2013 over 3,000 consumers had pre-ordered the Breathometer on Indiegogo, with shipping due to begin in July 2013.

Good Night Lamp: Wifi-connected lamp turns on and off companion lamps in unison, no matter where they are located

The Good Night Lamp is a family of wifi-connected lamps where, when the larger model is turned on and off, the companion lights also turn on and off in unison, wherever in the world they are located. Despite the Good Night Lamp failing to reach its financial target on Kickstarter in January 2013, the product attracted enough attention to proceed to production. Orders are scheduled to ship in September 2013.

A New Word Every Day: Calendar celebrates Russian language

January 2013 saw Календарь «Новое слово каждый день» (Calendar: A New Word Every Day) successfully achieve its funding goal on Boomstarter, a Russian version of Kickstarter. Created to help preserve the Russian language, the calendar aims to educate buyers on the etymology and meaning of Russian words.

SOCCKET: Soccer ball generates power as it’s played with

SOCCKET, a portable generator that doubles up as a soccer ball, attracted over 1,094 backers and exceeded its USD 75,000 funding goal on Kickstarter during March 2013. During play, the ball captures and stores kinetic energy, that can be used to power the included single-bulb LED lamp. SOCCKET is currently available for pre-order through the brand’s website.

IG guitars: Customizable designer guitars

During March 2013, customizable electronic guitar brand IG Guitars was successfully crowdfunded via Kickstarter. 40 backers pledged more than USD 350 each to create personalized instruments with interchangeable magnetic panels (saving a third on the retail price) and receive official certificates and bonus merchandise. The guitars are scheduled to ship in July 2013.

Karma Chakhs: Ethical 'alternative' to Converse produced by Laotian-German furniture designer

Karma Chakhs were successfully funded on German crowdfunding platform StartNext in January 2013. Le Van Bo-Mentzel, a Laotian-German furniture designer, started the project as a result of his disappointment at Nike's purchase of Converse, as now the brand's iconic Chuck Tailor sneakers are produced by a large multinational with 'bad karma'. Instead, Karma Chakhs will be produced by Fair Trade-certified manufacturers. Nearly 400 people PREchased the shoes (at cost price only), enabling production to start. The shoes are due for delivery in July 2013.

Project X Squared: Project X designs lab coats for everyday wear

Fashion designer and Project Runway finalist Alicia Hardesty collaborated with a quantum physicist and a neuroscientist on Project X Squared, a versatile capsule clothing collection that includes a lightweight lab coat designed to be worn outside the laboratory. As of mid April 2013 the project had attracted over 285 backers, with shipping estimated for July 2013.

Motriz: Design-inspired shelf that doubles as a bike display

Two Brazilian cycling enthusiasts created Motriz, a shelf that doubles as a wall-mounted bike rack, that successfully reached its funding goal on Brazilian crowdfunding site Catarse.me in January 2013.

Family Rituals: a traditional funeral ritual manual, updated for modern Taiwanese families

In Taiwan, many families own a traditional funeral ritual book, which documents and records the highly ritualistic practice of mourning the deceased. Many current versions do not follow the traditions accurately, which inspired Taiwanese professor Xu Fu Quan to create a correct version. In June 2012, his project – an updated edition of Taiwanese customary funeral rites, written for modern audiences – was successfully funded on ZecZec (a Taiwanese crowdfunding site).

Anything that delights (jaded, saturated, blasé) consumers needs to be on your radar. And PRETAIL definitely touches a few buttons. So how can any (your?) brand become a PRETAILER?

  • Give up on secrecy. No, you don’t want to share everything with the world and thus your competitors, but why not open up your R&D, and let consumers PREchase ideas that are in the pipeline. Worried about competitors running with your inventions? Then just make sure you have so many of them that they will never be able to keep up.
  • And yes, get consumers to present you with the ideas they want to be able to PREchase. PRETAIL initiatives will also support your traditional sales channels. Building a community of enthusiastic supporters will only help whip up excitement among other, more mainstream consumers too.
  • Partner with an existing creator/inventor/start-up to co-present a concept for PREchase. Or set up your own branded platform, where creators can post their own ideas in a particular niche (read: you and your customers’ niche).
  • Look at the traditional retail landscape, and think how this will be mimicked in the PRETAIL arena: there’s likely to be a Walmart or Amazon-style mega-mall (that aggregates all the ideas being peddled on the hundreds of crowdfunding platforms worldwide), as well as destination stores (who’s going to create the first luxury PRETAILER, the first curated homeware PRETAILER, and on and on?).

Oh, and while you dive into PRETAIL and embrace the GLOBAL BRAIN and concepting and more, we’ll be hard at work PREparing our next Trend Briefing. If you’re not subscribed yet, please do so here » trendwatching.com logo