How Innovation Led to Higher Sales and National Underwear Day

Last week I opened a blog with this quote, and I’ll do it again. “The best thing about eCommerce is that you can do anything; the worst is that you can do anything.”

Image via internetretailer.com

At the 2012 IRWD, President of Freshpair.com, Matt Butlein summed up the entire conference — and maybe even the entire industry of eCommerce  with that one statement. It reminded us that while we can use innovation to push the boundaries of online marketing, it can be a complex and tricky task to master.

“If done wrong it can lead to disaster – if not done at all is can lead to disintegration.”

During his presentation “Using Innovation to Take Your Site to the Next Level,” Butlein explained how Freshpair strategically used innovation to gain industry achievement, elevate brand awareness, and start a brand new holiday.

A Fresh Perspective

Image: Flickr by landlandlocal

Freshpair.com is a forward-thinking online retailer for men and woman’s underwear. Underwear, you say? Hardly a breakthrough idea. Freshpair knew that too.

In a market saturated with undergarment retailers, Freshpair couldn’t rise above the pack on their products alone; they needed to find a new, unique way to sell their basic product. So how did they do it? Innovation.

Freshpair decided that they wouldn’t just sell underwear the product; they’d sell underwear the culture. They started an underwear subscription and at-home bra-fitting program and of course, National Underwear Day.

Through these unique selling points and programs, Freshpair was able to separate themselves from the competition and use innovation to stand out from their competitors.

The Questions of Innovation

Image: Flickr by Horia Varlan

Take some tips from Freshpair on coming up with your own big idea.

Ask Yourself Why

Before you even start thinking about brainstorming a new idea for your business or brand, first ask yourself, “Why should we do it?”  And don’t go for the obvious answer which is to make a sale.

People don’t buy what you do, they buy how you do it. So don’t think about the product you are selling. Think about the idea you are selling.

When Freshpair asked themselves this question, they didn’t reply with the evident answer, “to sell underwear.” They steered away from selling their product and instead tried to sell their mission. Why should Freshpair do this?  “To help women look and feel their best.”

Ask Yourself How

With your mission statement in hand, you can go on to the next question, “How should we do it?”

For Freshpair, “How should they make woman look and feel better?”

Take your question and do some cheap and easy research to find answers. Get quantitative data through surveys and review your user’s purchasing and post-purchasing behavior. Put yourselves in your prospect’s shoes and think about what problems cause them the most frustration. Make a list of problems without considering solutions.

Then decide on the biggest problem. Freshpair found their biggest problem for woman shoppers was that they couldn’t try on bras when they purchased them online – which was preventing them from looking and feeling their best.

Ask Yourself What

Now that you have a mission statement and problem at hand, it is time to start thinking about solutions. “What should we do?”

Remember not to jump to conclusions. Do tests before investing too much time and money into an idea. Failing is okay, just as long as you do it quickly, convincingly and cheaply. “More effort doesn’t always mean better results.” So don’t over think or over work your ideas.

Freshpair’s new idea came as a pretty obvious solution to their problem – offer woman an at-home bra-fitting  program.

I repeat don’t jump to conclusions. Just because the stars align and you come up a superstar idea, take it slow. Test the idea, implement a preliminary program, and conduct more research before attaching yourself to the new idea.

Image: Flickr by Jan Leenders

Freshpair knew better than to jump right into their idea.  They ran a preliminary program and found that while the at-home bra-fitting program provided high-satisfaction, it lacked a high-initial response rate. By paying close attention to the results, Freshpair now knows their idea isn’t perfect, but that they are moving in the right direction.

Sometimes ideas need room to grow. So give innovation time, perspective, and research to grow before you jump the gun.  Don’t put all of your idea eggs in one basket and good ideas will grow.

National Underwear Day

National Underwear Day

Image: Flickr by • Eliane •

Freshpair’s biggest innovative success came from creating a brand new holiday centered around their product. Freshpair started National Underwear Day in 2003 with a modest celebration of underwear models on the street wishing New Yorker’s a “Happy National Underwear Day.”

By 2008, the August 5th event had transformed into a major fashion and celebrity event and in 2011, Freshpair celebrated the 8th Annual National Underwear Day by giving away 5,000 pairs of underwear.

Their new idea gave Freshpair national notoriety, a new audience, and better business.

What can a new idea do for your company or brand? The choice is yours.

About the author

Raubi Marie Perilli

Raubi Marie Perilli is the founder of Simply Stated Media. She regularly writes about freelancing, writing, and marketing on her blog and around the internet. Learn more by following her on Twitter or signing up for her free training, How to Get Your Freelance Business Off the Ground Without Wasting Time.