Contrary to what we think or would like to believe, having an original product isn’t always a sure sell to buyers. Having no competition can be worse than the alternative. It could be much harder to get retail shops to buy your stuff if there is no competition in your niche. Before we jump to conclusions, let’s clarify a few things:
Are you sure your product idea is original and has no competition? It is more likely that you’re not looking in the right places. If the item doesn’t exist where you shop, you need to look farther afield to conduct competitive analysis. If the product doesn’t exist where you shop, it is probably because there’s no market for it there. That doesn’t mean to throw in the towel, it means you must reconsider where you thought to sell it because your product idea may be a mismatch due to price, styling, need or whatever.
So let’s say it truly doesn’t exist, having no competition can be the kiss of death rather than an advantage. Behavioral economics is based on reasons people buy stuff. People don’t buy because of presumed risks some of which are:
- Maybe it doesn’t perform as promised so they will lose money.
- People worry about appearing foolish for their purchases -especially when it comes to clothes!
- Safety in numbers; it is too new, they don’t know anyone else with one.
- People don’t understand what it is or why they need it.
- Whatever you may consider to be your value proposition is not valued by others.
Because everything in apparel has already been done, your product may not exist in the marketplace now because it didn’t sell or no longer sells. It boils down to this for consumers and retail buyers: buyers won’t be comfortable about your product unless it is comparable to something else they are familiar with. In a nutshell, this is why the lack of competition should be a red flag.
A better idea is to consider retail buyer behavior. It’s a mistake to deprecate the intelligence of retailers because they won’t buy our stuff and while there are always exceptions, they’re practically geniuses. If a retailer is successful by any measure, they know their market and their customers. Retailers are driven by sell through. No successful retailer can stock what they like personally or what they think is the best quality because that is not what their customers buy. Customers buy value. And isn’t that what you’re looking for? What consumers will buy?
Speaking of, don’t think of retail stores as middlemen; the retailer is your customer. Since you hope this will become a long term relationship, you need to be predictable and fit in with the vibe of their existing merchandise. You want the buyer to become so comfortable with you that they plan a given portion of their OTB to go toward buying your products before they’ve even seen your latest collection. Think about that. Compare that to a consumer. A consumer doesn’t plan their clothing purchases by thinking “I need to set aside X dollars of my budget to buy Suzy Q styles for my summer wardrobe”. Or maybe some do (I buy socks this way) but these customers are few and far between.
The solution is find products you aspire to compete with so you can figure out their competitive advantage because if your product truly does not exist in the marketplace, there is little potential for it. Rather, find out who has done it and if they failed, you can free-ride on their failure to avoid the same mistakes. Look at it this way, if you are the first mover, there is no one to learn from which means you’ll make more mistakes and spend more money than you would have. Even worse, if you’re out there blazing a trail, you’ve opened the path for others who will follow your lead but they’ll have the hindsight of avoiding the mistakes you made. It almost doesn’t seem fair does it?
You can’t assume consumers understand the benefit so it’s up to you to market it appropriately so they do -and that may not be by saying it is wholly new in the marketplace; it must be comparable to something else they are familiar with so they have comparisons of likely performance and how it will fit in their lives. Nobody buys anything just because it is new. Which is not to say you shouldn’t do new versions. Sure, trumpet new and improved once you get a foot hold so you can sell some more to existing customers.