Right now is perhaps one of the best times in history to launch a new startup. The internet is the great equalizer as ever, and has ensured that every company is on an equal playing field when it comes to marketing and reach. Today, anyone can come up with an idea and then ensure that it’s heard by millions of people.
But that’s not all the web has been helping startups with; it has also been opening up new opportunities for distribution and new channels for launching. And even offline, we’re seeing a market that is generally better geared up for helping new companies make a splash. This is good news because for most companies, scaling a hardware startup solely through online sales via their own websites still isn’t going to be a viable business model. If you hope to make a real impact, then you need to find more ways onto the shelves and into people’s homes. Let’s look at some of the new retail channels for hardware startups….
One example of an exciting new channel that has helped many startups already is ‘Amazon Launchpad’. This is a place for startups to show off their wares, and for customers to discover interesting new products. The service helps companies with custom product pages to tell their story, and gives them full access to all of the reach and tools that are available through Amazon– being the largest online retailer, Amazon can give you access to millions of potential customers. The company is also working with 25+ venture capital firms, startup accelerators, and crowdfunding platforms to help get more products and companies on the site. You can sign up here, the only downside is that not everyone will get accepted onto the program.
Brookstone Launch is a platform that will get your products into stores! Simply head over to http://brookstonelaunch.com/ and you’ll be able to apply. From there, you can get help with designing and engineering thanks to the company’s partnership with developers, incubators and accelerators, and from there your products have the potential to be available in their stores. The company also has options for those already with inventory. Brookstone’s reach isn’t quite up there with Amazon but it is a well-known retailer with 300 national retail stores. They also have an online presence that currently has over 2 million unique visitors a month.
B8ta is a store designed to help people discover new exciting ideas, specifically relating to IoT. As you might imagine then, it’s a great place to try and get your small, inventive idea noticed. The company promises ‘no buyers, bureaucracy, or rep groups’. Simply head over to the site at https://b8ta.com/ and fill out the form to inquire about partnerships. You’ll be able to remotely control your digital ‘in-store display’ just as you might do a page on Amazon if you’re successful! Of course the exposure you can gain from this is significantly smaller however. They currently have one store and plan to expand into SF and Seattle.
Target has made many leaps and strides when it comes to featuring new tech gadgets in the wearable and smart home segment. They recently opened up Target Open House which showcases innovative IoT technologies for the home. Target Open House is a great way for way you to get your product seen by consumers and potentially up on the Target online ecommerce store plus maybe into there1,793 U.S retail stores. Head over to http://openhouse.target.com/#/.
Summary and Conclusions
While all of these options are worth checking out, these latter few are more about exposure and making a few extra sales. If you are looking for bigger volume, then Amazon Launchpad is the top place to try out, while Brookstone is a great option for those who have an idea but need a bit of help making it a reality.
We’re just scratching the surface of the different distribution and marketing platforms available for new startups. Many of these are designed especially to help small companies bring their innovative ideas to a wider audience and so will have no problem working with a small audience and even helping you to get started. Note for now that online retail only accounts for 7% of products sold, so you need to think about getting your products into stores as well and finding the right vendors for your specific target audience.
The barriers to entry are getting lower and lower, and we’re moving slowly toward a time when anyone will be able to create and release a physical product as quickly as they do a smartphone app. And 3D printing techniques and POD are only going to make this even easier going forward!
Now is a fantastic time to be an entrepreneur and an innovator, and things are only going to get better!
Let us know your thoughts in the comments. And as always, be sure to subscribe to the mailing list for more tips, strategies and advice for making your product idea a success!