Entrepreneurs share their insights after using the customers as product experts
Conscious hosiery brand Swedish Stockings and Astrid Wild, an outdoor wear brand designed for female shapes, on how to engage their communities to become even more relevant for the end-consumers.
By JOHAN MAGNUSSON
September 19, 2022
Merging style and functionality, such as offering the largest size range in the Nordics with 42 pants sizes and 3 leg lengths, Astrid Wild wants to get more women out in nature.
— We’ve learned from our customers and community how difficult it is to find outdoor pants that fit well, due to us women looking very different around the bum and waist area. Besides this, our tummies can grow bigger during the day due to IBS or digestion problems, but also during the menstruation cycle. Therefore, a looser fit and the possibility to adjust the waist were requested. We then started crafting what became the Elsa Cargo Pants, a pair of multifunctional pants developed for hiking and outdoor activity, but with a sleek design that enables seamless transitions from city to nature, says co-founder Maria Paulsson Rönnbäck.
Swedish Stockings’ founder Linn Frisinger has been working with tights for about 8-10 years and is used to hearing customers complaining about the lack of comfort.
— I’ve heard it countless times. Women say that they roll down, dig in the waist and itch. The fact that a product made for women is not comfortable according to many of them, is of course a big problem that we’ve felt a need to address. We realized that this was a problem not only we at the office could solve, and that’s why we asked for help from 422 women.
And how did you do it?
— We created an Advisory Board by reaching out to our community. The response was truly great and we managed to collect more than 400 women with different body types from all over the world. The Advisory Board then tested and tried similar tights from different brands and samples that we had developed. Almost all 422 of them declared our style Olivia as the winner, but with some feedback that we have been working with for the last year. Our tights Olivia has a high wide waistband that stays in place, doesn’t roll down, and doesn’t dig in. They are soft and super comfortable and knitted using a 3D technique that increases both the quality and durability of the product and makes them form after your body shape. Earlier this year, it was even rated top 5 black tights in the world by the NY Times.
And Maria Paulsson Rönnbäck, how was your process?
— We listened to existing customers who we regularly survey both also to our community on Instagram and Facebook. We actually also get a lot of feedback and ideas on our Facebook ads. During the development process, we do polls on Instagram using their poll and questionnaire so that our community can input on features, colour choice, and design.
What have you learned throughout the way when using your consumers as product experts?
Maria Paulsson Rönnbäck: One thing is that people really want to buy timeless clothing and colours. A few people complain that our colour scheme is boring, but that’s what the majority of our community wants — black, green, blue, and such.
Linn Frisinger: We are used to asking our customers for feedback when creating new styles, but we’ve never done it on this scale. We realized that we got very honest feedback on the products, and even though all body types were different, we still got very similar feedback from all of them. This shows that women agree with each other and know what they are looking for in a pair of tights — that they are supposed to stay in place, not dig in the waist, and be comfortable. In a time with a lot of fast fashion and where nylon tights are one of the primary wear-and-tear garments, we’ve also realized the importance of working with our bestsellers. We want to make sure we have the best quality wardrobe staples to offer, which is more of a Japanese way of working with products. It is easy to continue developing new styles when the majority of the revenue actually comes from a handful of them. Even though we do and show fashion styles, basic is our top category and it’s really important that this category is constantly being improved.
Can you share any ’do’s and dont’s’ when initiating such a project?
Linn Frisinger: To not have preconceptions about what the result will be, but instead a blanc mindset before a project. We thought everyone in the test panel would choose a new product that we developed with our producers as the most comfortable tights in the test, but it turned out that a style we had in our collection became the test panel’s favourite.
Maria Paulsson Rönnbäck: Do’s: Use free text answers as much as possible in the beginning — even if it takes longer time to analyze the answers, you get a lot more details than having pre-specified answers. When you have a better idea about what to ask for, then you can let people choose between alternatives. And, there are no don’ts, just try it out and learn what works for your brand.
And, more generally speaking, how do you work to maintain a good and close relationship with your consumers?
Maria Paulsson Rönnbäck: We try to always communicate that people can reach out to us if they have feedback or ideas, so they get a feel of us being open to discussions. A lot of people email us nowadays saying: ’I’ve understood that you’re open to input so here’s my idea…’. We also show our faces pretty regularly on social media and in newsletters, which helps create a personal relationship.
Linn Frisinger: We try to keep a close relationship with our customers by including and involving them in our processes. Except for the product development of the Olivia tights, we held a plant dye workshop around the launch of a limited edition plant-dyed socks earlier this year. I would also say it is important to be open-minded toward their feedback and to be true to ourselves in our communication with them. We know who we are as a brand, but we also know who we not are and we never want to compromise on this. We will for example never produce tights as thin as 10 deniers since they are too fragile, our sustainability principles include us creating products that last longer on top of a sustainable production process with recycled materials. This honest and uncompromising communication towards the customers is what builds trust towards us as a brand. I mean, who would want to buy something from a brand you can’t trust?
And, lastly, the two products have barely reached the market but have you received any feedback?
Linn Frisinger: Even though the new and improved Olivia launched yesterday, it is a style that has been in our collection since the beginning, and the five-star rating on our website — as well as on several e-tailers — is great feedback that the tights are loved by many. The feedback from everyone that has yet to try the new version has been nothing but very good, with comments mostly about how the tights fit around the waist.
Maria Paulsson Rönnbäck: We got quite a lot of attention when we launched it, both because of the fact that it’s clearly a product that is designed with the female body in mind, but also because we showed women with different shapes and sizes wearing it. There were quite a few influencers who shared one of our launch videos pointing that out. Our customers love it, one review included that it’s the ’perfect pants for a Nordic Summer’.