I’ve found myself buying things directly from the manufacturer from time to time instead of going to a retail store for the purchase. Having heard this trend highlighted at the Store 2010 conference in Toronto, I reverse engineered my own purchase process to understand how technology has changed the shopping process in favour of smaller players with niche products.
Before I received my pre-ordered iPad, I knew that I needed a case. After a quick browse online, I had found that there were approximately a kazillion cases. So how to decide? I have gone through at least 3 cases on my iPhone, and it took experience to find one that worked in that case, and I’m still not blown away with what I have.
I tried hunting through Twitter – overwhelming amounts of data and nothing I want. A few days later I came across a potential in one of my favourite blogs – uncrate. It showed a case that looked like a moleskine notebook – the DODOcase.
I clicked through the link indicating where the trusty uncrate team found it. On that page was a video review by San Francisco based blogger Kevin Rose who highlighted the benefits of the case (which is handcrafted in San Francisco) and why he liked it. I searched twitter and googled the DODOcase to see what others were saying, and I didn’t see any red flags. I checked out the DODOcase website – all looked good there. They use Paypal – not unusual for a small enterprise like this, and they will ship to Canada. It indicated a 4-6 week timeline which is a bit long – but it is handcrafted and since it’s precisely what I was looking for, I’m willing to wait. So I placed an order on May 30.
Over the following weeks, I regularly visited the DODOcase Facebook page, which has all sorts of information, including videos of how they make the product. They also constantly updated the dates for shipments on the page. They regularly indicate what days’ orders were being shipped that week. It’s also possible to peruse the page and see where customers have made complaints. I’m happy to say that the DODOcase team appear to make every effort to respond and make suggestions on resolutions to customer issues.
On June 27, DODOcase cashed my Paypal payment, and I recieved an email notification of shipment on Thursday July 8. I expect the shipment in a few days, and am looking forward to having the case I wanted.
So what does this all mean? It has become possible to build a company from the ground up, have access to an international market who can find you purely through word of mouth, and maintain a relationship with many current and prospective customers via tools that are freely available online at no cost. If someone has a great idea, the time to market is greatly reduced and intermediaries between the producer and the customers are removed. You can even get micro-celebrities to give a no cost shout out.
Who knows where this goes in the larger scheme of things, but it certainly means that retailers will need to think out their value to consumers and manufacturers very carefully as there are more and more options for manufacturers to go to market. DODOcase only started their business on April 1, 2010 and have built a viable business with back orders. They kept it simple, and seem to be doing well without many bells and whistles.