For three-year-old start-up Adore Me, an online boutique that offers women's lingerie at affordable prices, the sexiest way to fuel growth—and profits—is to find out what consumers want before introducing their product line.
In an industry that has seen depressed sales ever since 2007, this intimate-apparel start-up has managed to lure 3 million women into its network, bring in revenue of about $6 million, attract $11.5 million in funding and seal a spot on Inc.'s 500 list as the third fastest-growing company in New York City.
What's the secret "underneath" all this success? Crowdsourcing, said Sharon Klapka, Adore Me's director of business and brand development.
"Crowdsourcing allows you to get a glimpse into the future. See what shoppers are [going to] be interested in and then planning your inventory, planning your production and planning your designs accordingly."
To gain this insight through crowdsourcing, Adore Me hosts a vote on its website and promotes the vote on social media. (The company advertises on Facebook, Pandora and Spotify and is currently testing Instagram and Twitter.) To encourage participation and increase traffic to their site, Adore Me—which claims to have more than 800,000 followers on Facebook—also offers a promo code as a reward for voting. Klapka said that traffic to their site increases about 200 percent when Adore Me promotes one of their polls.
The first poll, which brought in 34,056 votes, asked consumers to choose between two corsets. Their latest was a vote for the favorite beach cover-up; it brought in 52,116 votes. "I don't think it's coincidental that the items they have voted for later became best sellers," Klapka said.
"When you're launching 30 to 40 designs every month and you're a start-up and you're fueling your growth, you want to know that the products you're choosing are really gonna sell strong," said Klapka. "Otherwise," she said, "it's a waste of your time, it's a waste of your energy, it's a waste of money."
—By Barbara Booth, CNBC.com