Friday, December 30, 2011

Zazzle Mass Customisation Challenge

Zazzle, one of the leaders in the customisation space are running a competition to develop a new mass customisation concept. Details on the competition follow:

Million Dollar Zazzle Open Innovation Challenge
Calling all innovators and entrepreneurs! Do you have the next great customizable product idea bubbling up and ready to explode on the scene of today’s revolutionary global customization market? Well, we’re ready to put a million dollars in technology, marketing, and distribution on Zazzle to work to launch the innovative concept that resonates most with our panel of industry leaders, academics, and investors as the next big thing!

That means we’ll invest in building the online design tools and 3-D product visualization, develop a marketing plan, and launch it on the Zazzle platform to a global audience of tens of millions of potential consumers! And, as an additional bonus, we’ll put you in front of the right investors, who may even finance your idea and help you turn it into a fast-growing company.

One Minute Could Win You The Opportunity of a Lifetime
Entering is simple. (1) Brainstorm an innovative concept for a new customizable product, (2) create a one minute video explaining it in a compelling way, and (3) complete the application below. You may become part of the growing customization movement...

Mass customization is all about better serving customers and building shorter, more sustainable supply chains. It’s about building a business the right way, by avoiding the typical guessing game of inventory and perceived demand. Most importantly, with customization you have an opportunity to offer a product and service that enables your customers to get exactly what they want!

Entries will be accepted through February 17, 2012. Five semi-finalists will be announced by Zazzle on Feb 23, 2012, judged on innovation and economic viability. During the following month, select finalists will be mentored by the team of Professors Frank Piller, Henry Chesbrough, and Solomon Darwin, to refine their concepts and plans for final evaluation. The presentations will be judged by academic experts, industry executives, and active investors.

Bing Gordon, Investment Partner, Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers
Jeff Beaver, Co-Founder and Chief Product Officer, Zazzle
Professor Frank Piller, Co-Director of MIT's Smart Customization Group
Professor Henry Chesbrough, Faculty Director of the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation
Professor Solomon Darwin, Associate Director of UC Berkeley's Center for Open Innovation
Elizabeth Litten Miller, Head of Creative, Global Licensing and Publishing, Hasbro

More details at:

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Social Shopping - Live Feed

This article was cross posted to Power Retail. is a New York based e-commerce site offering design inspired products in a flash sale site format. At only 6 months old they're on track to shortly reach $100m revenue. More than half their 1.4m members have joined the site via social media platforms.

Last week launched their 'Fab Live Feed' which is essentially a Facebook style news feed showing what other members are buying, liking, tweeting and sharing, live. CEO Jason Goldberg says, "We envision that Fab users will be able to easily and quickly discover what other people are buying, what’s popular, what’s being most discussed — all in realtime as it happens."

For me the feed achieves two things:

1. Social Proof - increasing conversion rate
The live feed highlights, in a magazine style format, new products I may not have otherwise found browsing the site by categories. In addition, when I see a products with hundreds of comments, likes and purchases, it tells me that other people have judged this product to be a good one and I'm more interested to purchase it.

2. Awareness - introducing new people to
I've liked, +1'd and commented on a number of items I've seen in the feed and these interactions then spread to Facebook and Google Plus introducing my friends to and they're products. just closed a $40m round of funding at a ~$200m valuation and the biggest area they'll be investing that money into is social commerce. CEO Jason Goldberg says, "We’re going to take social shopping to the extreme. This is just the start."

How are you approaching social commerce in your online retail business?

Thursday, December 22, 2011

Amazon, Ethics and the Changing Retail Landscape recently launched a promotion where customers were encouraged to visit bricks and mortar bookstores, use Amazon's price check app to scan the bar code on books, then enter the price the book store was charging for the book. For doing this the customer was rewarded with a 5 percent credit on purchases. The promotion was designed to point out to consumers that books are cheaper to buy on, and provide with valuable price comparison data.

There has been some interesting discussion online about the ethics of this practice. Bricks and mortar bookstores provide a great service, they allow people to browse books in a comfortable physical environment, their staff are knowledgable and can help customers find new books in more natural ways than sites like Amazon can, and they often run in-store activities such as having authors present and discuss their new books. But they can't compete with Amazon on price, and Amazon are doing everything they can to point this out to consumers, and actively encouraging consumers to browse in physical bookstores then order online from Amazon.

There's no doubt this is pushing the boundaries of what's ethical, but the reality is that this is one of the directions retail is heading. For commoditised products like books, it's challenging for retailers to compete on anything but price. Most of the value from the purchase is tied up in the book itself, with only a small amount of additional value provided by the shopping environment, staff and customer service.

Retailers need to understand this shift. Consumers doing price comparisons and ordering via a mobile phone is only going to get easier. If you're selling a commoditised product and aren't aiming for a lowest cost strategy it's important to start thinking through how you can differentiate your offer to avoid suffering from this trend. An alternative is to look to switch to selling products under your own brand, rather than selling commoditised products. Harder to do for a bookstore, but potentially simpler for other retailers. At Shoes of Prey and Sneaking Duck we avoid the commoditised product issue by selling products that aren't easily replicated and offering them under our own brand.

Cross-posted to Power Retail.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Computer generated fashion models

H&M under fire for using computer generated fashion models on their website.

via Mashable.

Friday, December 16, 2011

Working from home

We've been discussing the pros and cons of working from home v working from the office and wanted to get people's thoughts on this.


  • It's a nice perk to sometimes be able to work from home in your PJs.
  • It can be more productive to occasionally work in an environment free from distractions.
  • If you have a long commute, working from home can save you the commute time.
  • If you feel yourself getting sick you might still be mentally able to work but physically not be up to traveling to the office and working in an office environment where you might make other people sick. Working from home might allow you to still get your work done in this instance - particularly important for a startup that may not have other people to cover your role while you're out. (Note: if you're sick, you should still take a sick day to recover!)


  • Communication - in a fast paced startup environment, with a team of ~17 communication is critical. While online text and video chat is great, it's harder to communicate with people working from home compared with being in an office environment. We see this in the communication challenges we have across our China and Sydney offices with things changing so rapidly. Lots of people working from home compounds this.
  • Office culture - we aim to create a fun, exciting office environment. Our office is open plan, we have regular drinks and we provide lunch to our team and eat together every day which has helped to build a strong sense of team. This is all harder to achieve if we work from home.
  • Some roles require software on our office desktop machines, being able to access our collection of shoes to take photos for customers or involve other tasks that require items only available physically in our office.

Overall we figure it's better to be in the office but some work from home flexibility is a good thing. We'd love to hear your thoughts on this. How have you approached working from home in your startup or in other work environments?

Image Credit

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Friends & Family Sale This Week

We're holding another friends and family sale this week. Come along to our Sydney headquarters to select from over 700 pairs of one-off, hand-made designs that we have on hand*, ranging from a size 2.5 to 15.

Ballet Flats: $220 $80
Heels: $275 $100
Ankle Boots: $375 $130

5:30pm - 8:00pm, Wednesday 14 December, 2011
10:am - 3:00pm, Saturday 17 December, 2011

Shoes of Prey Headquarters
Studio 12, Level 1
285A Crown Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(30m from The Winery)

*Please note that this sale is only of samples that we have ready-made in our headquarters. It does not extend to custom-made shoes.

Cash and EFTPOS available.

You're welcome to pass this invitation along to your friends and family.

Monday, December 12, 2011

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Experiential restaurants - Mike's Table

Following on from my recent post about experiential retailing, Jodie and I had an amazing dining experience recently which sits firmly in the consumer trend towards experiences.

The creation of Mike McEnearney, ex head chef of Rockpool, Mike's Table is a once a fortnight pop up restaurant run every second Sunday in the beautiful Surry Hills French antique store Ici et La.

We arrived at Ici et La promptly at 7pm to be greeted by one of Mike's friendly team serving Proseco to start the night off. Moving inside we were blown away by the setup. Mike and the team rearrange and use some of the amazing antiques to set up a ~70 seat restaurant inside the store.

Mike came around and served the Hors d'oeuvres, Anchovy + Stewed Spring Onions on toast. *Delicious*. We were seated at a shared table and the environment encouraged us all to chat - something I've never experienced at another Sydney restaurant. We sat next to one of Mike's ex-colleagues from Rockpool and her partner, the owner of Ici et La, who's seat Marcel the French bulldog (who lives in Ici et La) would promptly take over whenever he got up and another couple who work in the advertising space who we got on so well with we've invited around for dinner to try my Australian/Indian fushion Kangaroo Korma!

We shared fresh garden peas on the table, ate Duck Liver Parfait with Rhubarb + Ginger Relish for entree matched with some beautiful Rose. For mains we were served Whole Blue Mackerel Tagine with the most delicious Malbec I've ever had a Manos Negras '07 from Mendoza Argentina. To clear our palettes we were served Spiced Tamarillo + Port Granita. The desert was the outstanding dish of the night - Mont Blanc in a jar matched with a glass of Mascato. And finally we were served Mint Tea and Chuao Chocolate from Argentina. At the end of the meal Mike came out and took us through each dish including how it was cooked and why he included the ingredients he did (eg. green peas are in season), the perfect way for any food lover to take away some inspiration and ideas at the end the night.

The menu and wine list are set and everyone pays a flat $150 for the night. I can rattle off the menu because it was listed on a beautiful board in front of us (photo above - note the antique shoe lasts hanging from the board, we felt right at home!) and Mike emailed a thank you along with the menu to everyone the day after we dined.

All in all it was an amazing experience, one of the best dining experiences I've ever had, both for the food, and the step up in the experience stakes from dining at a normal restaurant.

Mike's fully booked out through to the new year and isn't taking new bookings as he's planning to open his own restaurant. Email him at for details. Thanks to Zac for the recommendation!

How can you turn your product into more of an experience?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

1. Fascinating interview with Shel Khaplan, employee no. 1 at Via @nativedigital.

2. Some fascinating thoughts on innovation from founder Jeff Bezos.

3. And a brilliant Princeton University commencement speeach from Jeff Bezos:

Sunday, December 4, 2011

"What I learned building the Apple store"

Great post on the Harvard Business Review website by Ron Johnson, former Senior VP for Retail at Apple and now CEO of J.C. Penney. I particularly like this quote:

So the challenge for retailers isn't "how do we mimic the Apple Store" or any other store that seems like a good model. It's a very different problem, one that's conceptually similar to what Steve Jobs faced with the iPhone. He didn't ask, "How do we build a phone that can achieve a two percent market share?" He asked, "How do we reinvent the telephone?" In the same way, retailers shouldn't be asking, "How do we create a store that's going to do $15 million a year?" They should be asking, "How do we reinvent the store to enrich our customers' lives?"

and this one:

People come to the Apple Store for the experience — and they're willing to pay a premium for that. There are lots of components to that experience, but maybe the most important — and this is something that can translate to any retailer — is that the staff isn't focused on selling stuff, it's focused on building relationships and trying to make people's lives better. That may sound hokey, but it's true. The staff is exceptionally well trained, and they're not on commission, so it makes no difference to them if they sell you an expensive new computer or help you make your old one run better so you're happy with it. Their job is to figure out what you need and help you get it, even if it's a product Apple doesn't carry. Compare that with other retailers where the emphasis is on cross-selling and upselling and, basically, encouraging customers to buy more, even if they don't want or need it. That doesn't enrich their lives, and it doesn't deepen the retailer's relationship with them. It just makes their wallets lighter.

via @nativedigital

Image credit