What if you could help a consumer electronics manufacturer determine which features of an upcoming new product are most important? What if you and other early adopters could collectively bargain with manufacturers for lower prices, or just get your hands on products before everyone else does? Prelaunch aims to make all of that and more happen.
The new website, a preview of which is currently online with a full launch due during CES 2014, is essentially a mashup of crowdfunding sites and the preorder culture that surrounds big mainstream brands like Apple, Sony and others. Prelaunch seeks to bring small and medium-sized electronics companies that don’t have multimillion-dollar marketing and advertising budgets together with enthusiasts and early adopters who have a lot to say about the products they’ll embrace.
The idea is that the brands gain a new way to take product to market, with unprecedented direct access to early adopters and enthusiasts. And consumers gain a new way to interact with the companies that make the products they care about.
Donald Brewer, president and founder of the site, says it’s a matter of simple economics. Physical retail space is shrinking, and the remaining space is consolidating around big brands that generate a lot of store traffic. As a result, many smaller electronics brands have moved to places like Amazon to sell their product, but they can’t build a relationship with the customer above the raw sales transaction.
Brewer says many brands have tried to use social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter to interact with current and potential customers, but the problem is that they get caught up in a lot of “irrelevant conversations.”
“The ability for brands to actually engage consumers about product and learn information from them simply doesn’t exist yet,” says Brewer. That’s why he’s bringing Prelaunch to the marketplace “to identify customers and speak to them the right way. We want to create a platform for established brands that gives them the tools to learn critical launch information, make early sales and create early buzz around upcoming products.”
Marketing focus groups and other consumer surveys cost serious money — more than many small brands can afford. Brewer positions Prelaunch as the ultimate focus group of early adopters and other rabid enthusiasts.
So they want you to sign up to be a guinea pig. But what’s in it for you?
For one, you’ll be able to get in on “crowd discounting,” where you and your fellow users band together to boost your buying power and collectively get better prices than retail. Brewer adds, “Unlike Kickstarter, the brand can’t charge your card until the product ships.” If the price drops further in the interim of pre-order to product launch, Prelaunch users will get the even-lower price.
Another reason? As they say on the comments threads, “First!” Says Brewer, “People still want to be that first person to know about a new product.”